If you are in enterprise IT, what I am about to describe here should be one of those case histories where mistakes imply best practices to avoid them in the future.
In this case, the most relevant lesson is not to let your upgrade from a legacy to a new system get infused with optimistism driven by enthusiasm.
Last year, thousands of TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund) members found themselves unable to access online info about their retirement funds.
An article in this week’s eWeek magazine notes that fund officials traced these difficulties from the upgrade of its legacy IT platform to a new Open Plans Solutions architecture.
The problems were two-fold, TiAA-CREF Open Plan Solutions lead project managerDavid Dunn tells eWeek’s Renee Boucher Ferguson: systems integration and substandard training for TIAA-CREF’s customer service agents.
“Somewhere in that netherland, when you lace 70 systems together and try to get them all to function simultaneously,” Dunn says, “that’s always our biggest risk area and where we spend an enormous amount of resources.”
“Integrating that with our legacy environment for those customers that are still on that platform as well” is where the issues stem from, he adds. “If we’re moving clients one at a time, part of their holdings are on one platform, some are on the other, and we need to bridge that together.”
TIAA-CREF is working with technology solution partners IBM and SunGard to build Open Plans Solutions. The process may take a year or more.
And as for re-training, well, it isn’t going to be a picnic.
“Training itself is a complex issue,” Dunn tells eWeek.. “Our environment is highly regulated, [so agents] must be qualified and sometimes licensed in the states they operate in to talk about products. On top of that, there are new products, new services. And oh, yeah, the system has changed too. There’s a lot of training we need to pay attention to.”
Man, I’ll say…