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Commerce Bank Employs an Enterprisewide Solution to Track Application Changes


Craig Danielson — Photography by Austin Walsh Studio

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Tracking all of its back-end changes can be a challenge, Danielson admits. “Since 2005, we’ve processed more than 47,000 changes in our production environment, but it wasn’t too many years ago that we were looking at implementing maybe only five, six, seven changes a day. Now it’s more like 500 to 600 a month. This might not seem like a lot to larger companies, but it is to us, which is why it’s important that we have a process by which we can keep track of everything. We don’t want to be disrupting our production systems and therefore our customers,” he says.

The bank has diversified its IT infrastructure in the past 10 years, expanding to non-mainframe platforms and adding many open-system applications. While this is good for overall operations, it has created a disconnect between various IT departments, each of which has experts related to those disparate systems and software.

“What we’re trying to do with our change management is be to the business in a controlled fashion.”
Craig Danielson

The issue becomes particularly acute when considering the various changes that must happen on the back end, including alterations to databases, core operational applications, customer-facing software and even desktop OSs. Not to mention the hardware that may be introduced to the data center, such as additional server racks, new cabling and upgrades to cooling systems.

To get a better handle on its disparate systems, Commerce Bank established a rigorous change-management regimen that includes tracking software and a people-based change-management escalation model. For example, every morning all of the company’s IT department managers review changes that were created the previous day.

This information is based on change requests submitted by developers and technicians, which are reviewed first by application managers and then department managers. If the change requests make it through those first two rounds of approvals, any related issues will be discussed during that morning meeting. “By that point, the change requests have largely been blessed, so it’s then a matter of bundling them to see how they might impact each other. We’ll further assess and approve some of them, question some and put others on hold,” Danielson explains.

The goal is to enable change while managing inherent risk, so changes don’t get lost or, depending on their relevance, delayed for too long. This is also part of Commerce Bank’s fast-following ethos, with the company wanting to promote agile project management. This agility, Danielson says, helps it push out critical services to remain competitive.

“What we’re trying to do with our change management is be responsive to the business in a controlled fashion. And with our processes, change system and reports, we’re creating accountability and visibility for change,” Danielson says. “This results in an environment where everyone—no matter which IT department/function they’re in—can see what’s going on, which in turn, establishes a climate in which we’re able to deliver new products and services in a timely manner.”

 

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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