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One Company, One Vision, One Truth

One Company, One Vision, One Truth

As Nationwide grew, its data became siloed and scattered, making it increasingly difficult for the company to get an accurate picture of its finances. Here’s how it brought all that data into focus

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  • The benefits of master data management
  • Rules for implementing an MDM solution
  • The tools Nationwide used

In a span of three short years, between 2000 and 2002, Nationwide Insurance got a new CEO, CIO and CFO. Jerry Jurgensen, elected by Nationwide's board in 2000 to replace the retiring CEO, was hired for his financial acumen and his ability to transform a business's culture.

Michael Keller was named the company's first enterprise-wide CIO the following year. He had 25 years of IT experience managing big infrastructure and systems integration projects. In 2002, Robert Rosholt replaced the retiring CFO and joined the others in Nationwide's Columbus headquarters, bringing along deep experience in all things financial.

The three were old buddies who had worked together at financial giant Bank One. Now they held the reins at Nationwide and their goal was to take its dozens of business units, selling a diverse set of insurance and financial products, to a higher level. In 2001, Nationwide was profitable to the tune of $US138 million and board members had billion-dollar aspirations for that line item.

But to get there, Jurgensen needed financial snapshots of how Nationwide was doing at any given moment. And getting them wasn't so easy.

In fact, it was almost impossible.

The Fog of Finance

"When you're dealing with 14 general ledger platforms and over 50 applications," Rosholt says, "it was enormous work to get the financials out."

The problem lay knotted in a tangle of systems and applications, and some 240 sources of financial data flowing in and around Nationwide's business units. The units had always run independently, and that's how financial reporting was handled. "There was a variety of [financial reporting] languages," Rosholt says, which affected Nationwide's ability to forecast, budget and report. "It was difficult," says Rosholt, to ask: "How are we doing?" Keller's situation was no better.

"One of the first questions I was asked when I joined was, How much money do we spend, total, on IT?" Keller recalls. "The answer was, we didn't know. It took weeks to put that answer together."

Jurgensen wanted to be able to run Nationwide as if it were one unified enterprise. He wanted, in Rosholt's words, "to do things that are common, and respect the things that are different. And that was a big change." Indeed, the transformation the company embarked upon in early 2004 was daunting - a master data management makeover that would alter how every Nationwide business reported its financials, how accounting personnel did their jobs, how data was governed and by whom, and how the company's information systems would pull all that together. The goal was simple: one platform; one version of the financial truth. Simple goal. But a difficult challenge.

Nationwide began its finance transformation program, which included its MDM initiative, called Focus, with its eyes wide open. The executive troika of Jurgensen, Rosholt and Keller had pulled off a similar project at Bank One and thought it knew how to avoid the big mistakes. That, in part, is why Rosholt, who had ultimate say on the project, would not budge on its 24-month time line. "The most important aspect was sticking to discipline and not wavering," he recalls. And that's why the technology piece was, from the outset, the last question to be addressed.

"It wasn't a technology project," insists Lynda Butler, whose VP of performance management position was created to oversee Focus (which stands for Faster, Online, Customer-driven, User-friendly, Streamlined). She says that Nationwide approached MDM first and foremost as a business and financial project.

Nationwide considers the project, which made its deadline, a success, although everyone interviewed for this article stresses that there's more work to be done. Says Keller: "There's a foundation to build on where there wasn't one before."

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