Suncorp integration a year ahead of schedule

Trans-Tasman project has addressed 'foundation technologies'

Suncorp is entering the final phase of its mammoth technology integration project after acquiring Promina in 2007 and expects to have completed the initiative by the end of June, according to one of the executives responsible for the company's IT infrastructure.

Last year, Suncorp chief information officer Jeff Smith said the company's original A$225 million (NZ$270 million) efficiency savings target after three years following the Promina merger would now be achieved in two.

This followed Suncorp chief executive John Mulcahy's upward revision of the original three-year target to A$325 million.

Suncorp's executive general manager of business technology infrastructure, Paul Cameron, says the integration is complete from the perspective of "foundation technology", which means the desktop environment of the formerly separate companies has been unified.

Suncorp and Promina now have one system for email, calendaring, collaboration, video conferencing and one shared network. He says that in the first half of this year Suncorp would merge data centres into a new facility in Brisbane, migrate some data storage to a new system provided by Network Appliance and assess licencing and compliance obligations across the company. Following the merger, Suncorp has 21,000 desktop PCs with a workforce of 19,000.

"In 2008, we had some difficult milestones to meet in terms of reducing desktop applications, moving an enormous amount of storage, delivering a whole new software distribution platform and merging directories and email systems," Cameron says.

"If we had buggered any of that up it would have disrupted the business enormously, while it was trying to merge two very different, technology-reliant companies together."

In New Zealand, Suncorp ranks 60th in the MIS 100 list of the largest ICT user organisations, with a total of 2195 screens.

Former Promina New Zealand CIO Rob Flannagan departed after the merger to become CEO of Tower New Zealand. Aaron Barreto was appointed executive manager of Suncorp's New Zealand operations, reporting to Cameron.

Last April, Barreto told MIS 100 that Suncorp's key ICT projects for the coming year included integration of legacy Promina systems with Suncorp-Metway systems. Investigation and investment in VoIP technologies and IP telephony systems were also on the agenda.

Suncorp is one of a number of Australasian businesses affected by the billion-dollar scandal at Indian outsource service provider Satyam. It has provided expertise in customer analytics to the company since 2007.

Smith has met Satyam workers following news of the Indian company's financial crisis. He assured them he was happy with the work they had provided and that he was keen to maintain the relationship if the problems were resolved, a Suncorp spokeswoman says.

Another Indian service provider, Infosys, played a central role in the Promina desktop integration project. The chief operating officer of Infosys Australia, Vishnu Bhat, says the scale of the Promina integration had been enormous, but it was completed in 18 months. Initial analysts' reports estimated it would take two to three years.

Bhat says he expected the Suncorp contract to stand his company in good stead,when pitching for more work in the year ahead.

"In the current environment, we probably will see a lot more mergers here and globally.

"The fundamental of a good merger is being able to bring the technology together, because deployment of new products and services is now so much dependent on IT," Bhat says.

— Australian Financial Review

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