Exercises help future planning

By Meridith Levinson, CIO |  Software


Bank Abandons Regional Structure to Focus on One-to-One Customer Service.

Was that really the newspaper headline National City IS chief Jon Gorney wanted to
see? He wasn't sure. Gorney's no soothsayer, but during the summer of 1996, the
executive vice president in charge of operations and IS at the Cleveland-based Bank
found himself wishing for a crystal ball as he contemplated deploying a $40 million
investment in a customer information system. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only
uncertainty he was anticipating.

National City was confronting three challenges common to any business in tough
times: It needed new ways to generate earnings, it faced increasing competition for
market share, and the Internet was threatening to turn the world upside down. National
City saw the customer information system the Bank was developing with IBM Corp. as a
solution to these problems. The Bank hoped to develop new, high-revenue products,
tailor programs for customers and cross-sell products to appropriate customers. But to
design it, Gorney had to know what kind of information the system would be aggregating.
Would it track information about the products the Bank offered or the people who bought
them? If it was product-focused, it would have to include detailed descriptions of each
financial service, whether credit cards or mortgages. If the system was customer-
focused, it would track whether they used ATMs, branch offices or call centers, and
indicate demographics in order to build profiles. Furthermore, Gorney would need to set
up business rules to determine customer profitability.

Gorney quickly realized that he simply could not answer these questions because the
answers were linked to a larger issue: He didn't have a clear sense of the Bank's
strategic direction. The company's newly installed chairman and CEO, David A. Daberko,
had ddetermined that National City and its competitors like Wells Fargo & Co. and
Bank One Corp. couldn't rely on mergers and acquisitions as their sole growth strategy.
But if not that, then what?

Even though strategy had never been information technology's bailiwick, Gorney felt
compelled to step forward. The alternative was to waste $40 million on a system that
wasn't aligned with the company's goals. He brought his questions about the Bank's long-
term survival to Daberko. "I told him that we had significant choices to make in terms
of technology investments, and that we couldn't afford to be wrong," he says. Because
Daberko understood what technology could do for a business, he sent Gorney off to find
a solution.

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