Effective IT in action

Double winner – Standard Life

• Most Effective IT Project 2006
• Most Effective Use of IT in Financial Services

Historically, group pension schemes have been opaque affairs, where details of performance are delivered in short annual meetings between scheme administrators and baffled employees. Financial services giant Standard Life has turned to cutting-edge development techniques and processes to create transparency, creating huge benefit for both the company and its customers.

An online scheme administration portal, GroupPensionzone, has been built to provide its 1 million members and administrators with an easy-to-use, information-rich resource. But that streamlined access only results from the bold application of state-of-the-art technologies and approaches that are largely hidden from users.

GroupPensionzone has been built as part of a service-oriented architecture, with the front-end website communicating with back-end systems, both at Standard Life and at end-user organisations. For the scheme administrator this has greatly simplified tasks such as new member applications. In the past these applications required the filling in of a handwritten form, but details can now be uploaded directly from the employer’s HR system. A group of 10 applications now takes just 20 minutes, compared to 10 hours previously.

Employees too, have reaped the benefits. Scheme members can use the portal to access clear, easy-to-understand information, ensuring they can track and make informed decisions about their pensions.

The key to improving the website was to change IT development practices at Standard Life’s e-commerce group. The seemingly radical act of embedding IT staff within pension servicing teams has dramatically improved the IT understanding of changing user requirements.

Agile development techniques – where projects are broken down into discrete priorities – also enabled the e-commerce group to demonstrate value to the business at much earlier stages. For example, Standard Life allows pension advisors to perform certain functions directly on the website. It also set a target of ensuring that 100% of these transactions would be automatically processed straight to its back-end systems.

Traditionally, the development team would have had to tackle that as a single project, covering the many different types of possible functions.

The approach has twin benefits: the highest priority projects are delivered first; and the quality of the code is improved continuously, ensuring that the best code is re-used.

The results have been impressive: within six months of deployment, levels of customer satisfaction reached Standard Life’s maximum ‘triple e’ rating. Less time resolving user issues also has a positive boon for the e-commerce team: it has freed up resources to concentrate on more complex issues – and to build more permanent links to the business.

Triple winner – eCourier

• Most Innovative Use of IT
• Most Effective Use of Communications Technology
• Most Effective Use of IT in Manufacturing and Logistics

Every year, the Effective IT Awards seek to recognise true innovation in technology. eCourier so impressed the judges with its use of global positioning system (GPS) communications technology and online commerce model that the two-year-old London start-up took home a record-breaking three trophies.

At traditional courier companies, mail managers typically spend three hours a day on the phone – first to clients at investment banks or legal firms, for example, who desperately need documents sent across London, placing the order with individual bikers, then to-ing and fro-ing between courier and sender to keep track of the delivery. With eCourier, they can place an order online.

The level of transparency is also unique. Each dispatched courier is tracked across the capital by GPS, which clients can watch themselves using a real-time online map. When the package is delivered, an electronic copy of the recipient’s signature is instantly sent to a client’s BlackBerry.

The start-up is using home-grown technology to increase the number of couriers its controllers can manage, bringing the sort of economies of scale that elicit requests from courier companies all over the world to license its system.

And there is good reason for that interest. The company processes 90% of its orders online (85% more than its nearest competitor). And once a booking hits the database, eCourier’s advanced information-based allocation system – AIBA – matches the order with a member of the fleet, sends the details over GPRS and optimises their delivery route.

Managing the technology in this demanding environment brought some initial challenges. Long shifts mean devices must have long battery life, as well as withstand varying road and weather conditions. The fleet department that manages the vehicles also trains the couriers, who are given a powerful incentive to use the gadgets – radio-dispatched couriers are locked out of the ordering circuit.

The result: each courier is more profitable; each package is delivered faster; therefore, each customer is happier. With monthly deliveries growing at 42%, eCourier looks on target to overrun the London market within the year. Watch out Edinburgh, Paris and Frankfurt!

Most Effective Use of Software


Hibernian wanted to improve the service of its insurance intermediaries and allow them to provide a full sales service via remote, real-time access to back office systems. The company developed a web-based system enabling intermediaries to execute full insurance services in near real time, cutting turnaround times and reducing paper printing and storage costs.

Most Effective Enterprise-Wide IT Infrastructure


The number of people gambling online has more than doubled since Betfair first opened its exchange and it wanted to capitalise on this with a transaction system robust enough to execute one billion bets a year. Betfair worked with Oracle to tune its database so that 99.9% of bets are processed in less than a second and chose Citrix’s Netscaler product to help cope with peaks in demand.

Most Effective Use of IT to Manage IT


Baclays wanted to create an IT infrastructure control centre. The Barclays Operational Control Centre melds innovative technologies with a proactive approach to incident management, helping tackle issues earlie. This has resulted in a savings of £300,000 and a rise in customer satisfaction to 83.7%.

Most Effective IT Services Partnership

Marks and Spencer Money

The UK’s move to the Chip & PIN identification system in 2005 posed a commercial threat to many card issuers. Marks & Spencer’s financial services unit, M&S Money, however, put its customer intelligence platform ‘Minerva’ into overdrive, coming up with detailed customer behaviour predictions and analysis. From this data the company was able to launch an intricate loyalty incentive campaign which resulted in almost 97% of its Chip & PIN cards being activated.

Most Effective Use of Information


Barclays wanted to develop an application to generate individually tailored services for customers, and increase sales for its retail staff, using existing customer information. It created ‘Choices’, a customer-centric application that generates a tailored service based on customers’ needs. The system has seen a 42% increase in sales compared to branches using existing systems, and the likelihood of a lead converting into a sale increases to 80% if Choices is used.

Most Effective Use of IT in Utilities, Energy & Telecoms

Sutton and East Surrey Water

Customer contact can be an expensive and resource-hungry business. To help reduce costs and enhance customer services, Sutton and East Surrey Water decided to use a speech recognition system to automate much of its customer interaction at peak periods and free up call centre agents to focus on emergencies or customer complaints. The system has cut the cost of an average payment from £1.60 to just 40p and has reduced waiting times for customers.

Most Effective Use of IT in Retail

Midcounties Co-operative Society

Biometric fingerprint recognition was first introduced in Midcounties Co-operative Society’s (MCS) Oxford stores to ensure those buying alcohol were over 18. However MCS found the biometric system had additional benefits for all customers, including reduced costs and increased customer convenience. The speed of payment has averaged 25% faster than equivalent Chip & PIN transactions and the only hassle comes in the initial web and in-store enrolement process.

Most Effective Use of IT in Construction

Skanska UK

Construction services group Skanska UK wanted to build a system for recording details of disposable waste, ensuring compliance with industry regulations and analysing data to minimise waste taken to landfill sites. Automating these paper-based processes resulted in the development of the Skanska Waste Management System and spectacular results – the amount of waste taken to landfill on a recent project was reduced by 80%.

Most Effective Use of IT in Business and Professional Services


Managing the incessant flow of invoices can be a major headache for staff and manual invoice handling process can be costly and highly inefficient. To resolve these problems IT services giant LogicaCMG adopted an e-invoicing package – OB10 – and built a workflow and management environment. As a result, per-invoice costs have reduced from £8 to £1 and the company has increased transparency and enhanced reporting capabilities.

Most Effective Use of IT in Public Services

Hampshire County Council

Hampshire County Council wanted to create a single, easily administered and cost-effective desktop environment. It replaced its legacy, green-screen technology and a hotchpotch of departmental deployments with a single, centralised server environment and moved a large proportion of the council’s 11,000 users from PCs to thin-client technology. The move represents an annual saving of around

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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