The Bottom Line Per... Richard Jones

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

Countrywide Financial's CIO on Improving Processes

The CIO of the $12 billion financial services company says information technology gives his company a competitive advantage. For example, Countrywide Financial reduced the time to process a home mortgage—from application to approval—to 10 days by electronically analyzing and processing applications and supporting documents.

Q. What metrics do you use to evaluate bottom-line results?

A. We have a [company] initiative to improve business processes modeled after Six Sigma [an approach to improve business processes]. We call our program F.A.S.T.E.R.—Flow, Analyze, Solve, Target, Execute, Review.

Q. How does this apply to information technology?

A. In software development, for example, we look at the development process, measure key elements, identify how the process can be improved, execute and measure those improvements, and continuously improve the process of building new software.

Q. What have been the results of this effort?

A. We have a common language between the I.T. groups and the business groups to talk about process improvement. This has increased the level of confidence that the [software] development process was efficient, and was being made more efficient over time.

Q. What other metrics do you use?

A. We have a tool called the Project ProForma. It's a template we fill out for every project that explains the project, outlines alternatives that have been investigated, including a cost-benefit analysis and a net present value and return-on-investment for the project. The project manager, the business sponsor and different parts of I.T. involved in the project have to get together the costs of a project—the costs of a network, server, PCs, software, developers. From there, we also look at the benefits expected from the project.

Q. Have you been able to avoid scope-creep?

A. Basically, we're on a 90-day development schedule—and identify what can be done in the next 90 days. We call it a 'train-release' schedule. The train is leaving the platform on July 1 and will arrive at its destination on Oct 1. The only question is, how many cars will the train hold and what will be put in those cars? This forces I.T. and the business user to prioritize what are the most important things to deliver. E-business forced us to become much more aggressive about release schedules and more disciplined about not letting things become too big. When a project becomes too big, it becomes too unwieldy.

This article was originally published on 2003-07-01
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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