Charlie Billings faced a daunting task: Create an entire IT operation for a company already in full swing.
The company is Lincoln Trust, a provider of 401(k) services, where Billings is vice president of IT and CTO. The company had spent four years achieving high efficiency, with a business operations strategy that relied on enterprise-level workflow technology. The technology–off-the-shelf software that had been customized and run in a private cloud–was so successful that it was the main reason PENSCO Trust bought Lincoln Trust, Billings says.
The sale, completed in March of 2012, transferred about 75 percent of Lincoln Trust, along with the technology, to PENSCO. That left Lincoln Trust with the 401(k) business line, about half its 200 employees, and a pressing need for a new technology platform.
Given the circumstances, Billings says cloud was the way to go. He figured cloud-based offerings would let him set up a new platform quickly without costing the millions he’d need if he were to build it on-premises.
That was feasible, Billings says, because he already had good insight into Lincoln Trust’s processes. His enterprise-level workflow process is based on the idea that there are just four states of work: new work coming in, work being assigned, work being processed and sent to quality control, and, finally, work routed to history.
Gartner analyst Michele Cantara says Lincoln Trust could make cloud work, and work so quickly, because it already had insight into its workflow and business process management. “They were already using a BPM platform, so their processes were visible,” Cantara says.
One key to the new setup is cloud vendor SpringCM, which provides content-management services that workers can use anywhere via browser.
Billings estimates that the cloud solutions cut his IT budget by about 75 percent. (He includes reductions in upfront costs, labor and ongoing maintenance costs.)
In addition, Billings says the simpler infrastructure keeps headcount down. He now has two developers, a security expert, and an outside vendor for operations and tech support.
But Billings says cloud isn’t without challenges. For one, he has to live with limited control; vendors, not his own staff, must troubleshoot problems. And he says the cloud vendors’ use of standardized contracts was at times troublesome.
Still, Billings says cloud has delivered. “We had a sophisticated business, and it’s a pretty fast-moving business, and we’re able to do this with the cloud,” he says.
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