Stories by Alice Dragoon

Banks fight customer flight

FRAMINGHAM (04/05/2004) - With some 80 mergers already behind them, the I.T. executives at First Union Corp. knew that the CoreStates acquisition boded trouble long before it made headlines as a customer service disaster. Then-CEO Ed Crutchfield had paid a whopping US$17 billion (5.3 times the book value) to buy the Pennsylvania banking franchise in late 1997. And that meant First Union would have to deliver some spectacular cost savings in short order to prove to Wall Street that the deal made sense. For IT, that pressure to slash costs translated into not enough time to plan or execute the conversion of CoreStates' customer data onto First Union's systems. Some applications weren't even tested before they went live. To make matters worse, layoffs at the branches left the remaining tellers stretched too thin as they floundered to learn the new technology.

The business education of Jan Franklin

FRAMINGHAM (10/02/2003) - Jan Franklin was 17 when she landed her first job at Farmers Insurance as a keypunch operator on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift. Within two years, the driven college student got herself promoted to a programming job, launching her steady ascent up the IT ranks. Fast-forward to 2001, and Franklin had become vice president of IT applications and development, overseeing a US$300 million budget as IT chief operating officer. At that point, she knew pretty much everything there was to know about IT at Farmers, having done most of it herself.

Ready, aim, hire

After a year of IT budget cuts, hiring freezes and layoffs, the IT staffing crunch of the late '90s has likely retreated to a dusty corner of your long-term memory. If so, get ready for some major déjà vu.