Wachovia Puts Its Money on Automated Software Development
Cline, Kenneth, American Banker
Wachovia Corp. makes it a rule to avoid what is often called "bleeding edge" technology.
But the North Carolina-based bank doesn't mind running a little bit ahead of the pack when it believes the potential gain is worth the investment.
That is certainly true of Wachovia's commitment to computer-aided software engineering, known as CASE, which promises huge gains in software development productivity.
Wachovia has spent more than $3 million on CASE technology since 1991, confident that it will provide a competitive edge in the design and maintenance of new banking products.
"If CASE delivers even a fraction of what we feel comfortable it will do, this is a very important thing for us over the long haul," said Walter E. Leonard Jr., president of Wachovia Operational Services Inc., the bank's technology subsidiary.
Most major banks, including First Chicago Corp., Norwest Corp., and Banc One Corp., have at least experimented with limited applications of CASE, which was introduced in the mid-1980s.
But Wachovia is one of the few to apply CASE as an across-the-board technical tool, intended to speed up software development and make that software easier to maintain.
The main aspect of CASE technology is the code generator, which automates the writing of computer code.
By simplifying the code-writing process, CASE allows a company to spend more time designing its software and figuring out appropriate business processes.
"You use the power of the personal computer to translate that vision into well-defined, executable code," Mr. Leonard said.
"Most of the effort put into systems development is maintaining old systems," he said. "So when a system is built under a CASE environment, that maintenance cycle is far easier because it is self-documented in terms of how it works. The work flows are visually apparent to a new person looking at that system, and it makes that system much easier to maintain."
Judy Martin-Mitchell, a vice president at First Chicago, said CASE delivers significant" productivity gains if the user understands its limitations.
"It's certainly not a silver bullet," Ms. Mitchell said. "It's a very difficult way to do systems work. It takes a real commitment to make it work."
First Chicago, which began experimenting with CASE in 1988, is using a version produced by Dallas-based Texas Instruments Inc.
Wachovia purchased its CASE technology from Knowledgeware Inc. of Atlanta and Bachman Information Systems Inc. …