Ben Moreland, assistant director of foundation services at The Hartford, isn’t too worried about the suddenly tumultuous IT industry, with mergers and acquisitions happening at every turn. That’s because at his company, strict compliance to industry standards is a prerequisite for any vendor that hopes to land a contract. With standards compliance at the core of The Hartford’s IT procurement strategy, Moreland says the potential loss of a product through acquisition is not a big concern. In fact, he says of his vendors, “The easier it is to replace you, the more we like you.”
The Hartford Financial Services Group is a 200-year-old, $2.1 billion investment and insurance giant with 30,000 employees, based in Hartford, Conn. Moreland says his standards-based strategy is inextricably linked with his company’s SOA initiative, which began to take shape in 2003. At that time, he says, it was inevitable that large enterprise IT vendors would soon be snapping up the Web services management innovators.
“We knew these vendors wouldn’t be around in three or four years. They’d get bought out, because they were niche players in emerging markets,” Moreland says.
By ensuring that all vendors comply with open standards, The Hartford is confident that in cases where an acquiring vendor makes unexpected changes to an acquired product, it can be easily swapped with a competing standards-compliant product.
“We look for companies that are not only supporting standards, but that have an actual role in standards committees. When we had discussions with vendors about Web services management and service-oriented management, we ended up selecting UDDI-compliant vendors,” Moreland explains.
That’s not to say The Hartford doesn’t take steps to minimize the disruption when acquisitions occur. For one thing, some commercial applications still fall outside the company’s SOA. And emerging technologies such as SOA and Web services management by nature include innovations that aren’t yet covered by standards.
“We work with all our vendors who are taking technology in a direction where it hasn’t matured yet. These companies are pushing their technology beyond existing standards, so you need to document any deviation from the standard -- any non-standard code,” Moreland says.
Like other companies, The Hartford also examines financial and technology strategies of a prospective vendor, evaluating the viability of the company in financial markets and how well the company can support a Fortune 100 customer.
Invariably, one of The Hartford’s vendors gets scooped up. If the company’s IT management is not happy with the way the acquiring vendor is handling the acquired product, Moreland says they are ready and willing to promptly switch to another standards-compliant product.
“We talk to the CFO and CTO, and we look at whether they can make the transition smoothly. When -- for whatever reason -- the acquiring company isn’t going in the direction it was going in when you originally chose a product from the company that gets acquired, you can find another standards-based product to take its place,” Moreland says.