Barclays gambles on Web big bang

Barclays wants to double its profits in three years through a radical transformation of its business process, which involves a shake-up of IT strategy, significant outsourcing and big investments in customer relationship management

Barclays wants to double its profits in three years through a radical transformation of its business process.

The plan involves a shake-up of IT strategy, significant outsourcing and big investments in customer relationship management.

Bank chiefs believe the change is essential to beat off the threat of the new generation of e-banking outfits like Egg, Cahoot and Smile.

Documents from the e-enablement taskforce at Barclays retail financial services division, seen by Computer Weekly, described the "extraordinary challenges" faced by the bank and suggested a "credible dictatorship" style by top management may be required for success. It said bank leaders must develop "a high tolerance of uncertainty".

It will be a high-risk process where "scarce talent will be a bigger barrier to e-enablement than scarce capital", the taskforce warned.

Barclays group chief executive Matt Barrett said, "Our objective is to use technology to develop entirely new business models...while transforming our internal infrastructure to make us more efficient and effective. Any strategy that does not achieve both is fundamentally flawed."

Alexander Drobik, vice-president of e-business at analyst group Gartner, said Barclays was one of the early adopters of e-business, but has not kept up momentum.

"It faces a tough job. The new banks have not got the legacy of the traditional players," said Drobik.

The e-taskforce is drawn from bank high-fliers supported by consultants from Andersen Consulting, Computacenter and Oracle.

A major problem for the bank is its IT structure, which is complex, high cost and not aligned with the business, according to the document. The taskforce said the bank's IT is "contextually divorced from a business change agenda", with many semi-independent projects with varied sponsors and owners.

The taskforce admitted, "The standard Windows NT, MS Office product has been implemented across various business areas, but [they] are unable to inter-operate."

Chief information officer David Weymouth told Computer Weekly that Barclays aims to replace its infrastructure around a single, pervasive, robust IP network and thin-client user access devices, alongside centralised server provision and a single datacentre.

For employees, Barclays will build a platform of "internal e-enablement" to produce multi-million pound savings in administration and procurement.

Barclays is currently looking at outsourcing cash services, voucher processing, internal fulfilment and physical sort operations.

A raft of further outsourcing projects could kick in from mid 2002 - after the bank has laid the infrastructure that it hopes will transform the business.

Barclays' e-plans

Strategy document calls for:

  • "Fundamental shift" in business model;
  • End reliance on bespoke systems;
  • End piecemeal e-projects in favour of top-to-bottom transformation;
  • End need for 100% certainty in favour of "controlled gambling".

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