How Web Services Pays Off at H & R Block
Leading the Charge
H&r Block Financial Advisors
Kansas City, Mo.
Manager's Profile: Oversees systems architecture for the tax services giant's broker-dealer arm, with more than $28 billion under management.
His Project: In 2004, H&R Block began identifying tax clients seeking financial advice and routing them to one of the firm's 900 advisors. Instead of spending up to $2 million to extend a customer relationship management suite from Clarify (now owned by Amdocs) to link the two units, Thompson's team built a service-oriented architecture—with Web services to transfer customer data—for about $500,000.
Portfolio Manager: Of the vendors he tested to manage service-level agreements, Thompson thought AmberPoint's suite needed the least out-of-the-box configuration. "I just wanted to plug in a tool and make it work," he says.
Sound Investment?: During testing, Thompson and his team kicked up the number of customer lead transfers from 500 to 100,000. At that point, he says, AmberPoint generated extra HyperText Transfer Protocol traffic while applying policy to the message request, which caused their Web server to crash. So, Thompson had to switch to a different setting that didn't generate extra traffic. An AmberPoint spokesman says new versions have more built-in agents that improve efficiency.
Paying Dividends: Thompson says tough testing helped the firm build the best system. After two years in production, H&R Block started cashing in: Revenue in 2005 for the advisory unit shot up 46% compared with the year before. The new architecture also allowed Thompson to trim his support staff from 10 full-time workers to two part-timers.