IW500: Merrill Lynch, KeyBank Execs Keen On 'Visualization' Software

Both banks use software from iRise, which reduced the average time it takes financial advisers to open a new client account from 32 minutes to six minutes.

Mary Hayes Weier, Contributor

September 16, 2008

3 Min Read

Cutting time and cost out of software development is an important goal of any business -- particularly during tough times.

At the InformationWeek 500 Conference on Tuesday, business technology executives from Merrill Lynch and KeyBank revealed how they're using prototyping software to deliver new software applications more quickly to business users.

Both banks are using software from iRise, which describes its product as "visualization" software. It's designed for business analysts to use to create prototypes of what business users want in a new application, and software developers use those prototypes to create the apps. At $7,000 per license, however, it's far pricier than using something like PowerPoint or Excel to create prototypes. The banking executives who spoke on the conference panel indicated that at least in their experiences, the return on investment was worth it.

Merrill Lynch used iRise in the development of software designed to help reduce the average time it takes financial advisers and their assistants to open a new client account from 32 minutes to six minutes, said Marvin Balliet, managing director and COO at Merrill Lynch Banks U.S. (Balliet has been with the bank 22 years and has held several executive positions, including those in technology strategy.) The company did face some cultural issues in iRise adoption: After business users created a prototype, internal developers rejected it because it didn't jibe with their standard methods of software development. So Balliet outsourced the project.

Balliet estimates Merrill Lynch saved $2.5 million in a $5 million development project. To get going with visualization, Balliet recommends that IT managers find business sponsors for the effort and be prepared to provide details on the potential return on investment.

At KeyBank, iRise played a role in a strategy to shift from using prepackaged software to internally developed software that would better fit the specific needs of business users and thus be easier to implement. "Three years ago we had four projects in flight that that were above $10 million; all four were packaged and over budget," said Alan Buffington, executive VP and director of development at KeyBank. Business users, he said, "had a pretty good reason to lack confidence in [IT]."

Simultaneously, KeyBank adopted the agile development process as part of an effort to deliver incremental applications to users that could bring immediate business results rather than delivering big applications less frequently. The iRise software helped in that transformation, Buffington said. It also helped IT show the business that even seemingly complex projects -- such as a software app that lets financial advisers help customers view a complete picture of financial resources for funding college educations -- were possible.

"It sounded like too big of a deal to [the] business [side]. Once we did the visualization, ... all of a sudden this is a project that has to go forward," Buffington said. "The whole notion that we can get people to believe things are possible, and describe them in context, is very powerful."

To learn more about other companies on the InformationWeek 500 list, download the InformationWeek 500 Analytics Report -- free for a limited time.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights