Beyond the Pinnacle | Article

Most Visionary Relationship

1998 Editor’s Choice Award
PRT/J.P. Morgan

programmer's pageFrom the editor – The Most Visionary Award is given to relationships that cut new ground in the supplier/buyer structure. In the case of J.P. Morgan and PRT, we were impressed by the close cooperation the two parties displayed in building PRT’s Near Shore outsourcing facility. Equally impressive is the mutual commitment by both parties in making the relationship work and growing it in a constructive manner. This close communication and commitment is the basis for their selection as Most Visionary Relationship.

Mention J.P. Morgan and outsourcing these days, and the first image that comes to mind is the much-publicized Pinnacle Alliance. The alliance, however, is only part of the financial services firm’s outsourcing activities. One of their most successful relationships is with the PRT Group, Inc., a U.S. based firm with a major operation in Barbados that has supplied applications development and support services to Morgan since 1995.

“It’s an open-ended contract whereby we’ve agreed for PRT to provide us resources at pre-negotiated rates, and those rates are reviewed periodically,” says Scott Epstein, vice president. “They provide us with technical resources to supplement our projects. Periodically they manage projects on their own for us.”

J.P. Morgan views the relationship as that of a strategic supplier, rather than a traditional outsourcing contract.

“It’s not just that we’re looking to give them an application, and we have a deal that is time-boxed around that application,” says Bob Rosetta, vice president, who, with Epstein, manages vendor relationships with various applications delivery suppliers for J.P. Morgan. “When we have initiatives that we think fit the criteria to be successful within PRT, we source that work to them. That can be a development project, enhancements to an existing application or production support activities to an existing application.”

From the Beginning…

The nature of the relationship is reflected in its growth pattern. The first involvement came several years ago when Morgan, facing a ‘resource crunch’ around Y2K issues, turned to PRT as a solution for staff shortages. Today the supplier is providing resources on 12 projects with five or six of Morgan’s businesses.

Although PRT is used as an off-shore delivery mechanism, when compared with suppliers based in such places as India and Ireland, it really is what Morgan terms ‘a near shore option.’ The closeness and proximity to Morgan, as well as the similar time zones and cultures, make management an easier proposition.

Hands-On Involvement

One primary factor in the success of the relationship was PRT’s willingness to allow Morgan to work with them in developing their Barbados facility. Epstein actually spent seven months in Barbados, working with the PRT team to establish the center as a secured remote applications delivery center.

“A lot or all of the requirements that Morgan has in our own branches have been introduced into PRT Barbados,” says Rosetta. “So to us, it looks like any other branch. I think that certainly is a big selling point when you’re as concerned as we are about the security of our information.”

“Basically what we did,” adds Epstein, “was build an information risk management program leveraging Morgan’s best practices when we built the technology infrastructure and management processes for the facility. The primary objective was to safeguard Morgan’s assets and make our clients feel comfortable that any work we’re doing in Barbados with PRT is like doing it in any other Morgan facility.”

Management Commitments

Another factor, says Rosetta, has been PRT’s commitment to achieving SEI Level Three certification. The supplier has an account manager in New York who focuses on the Morgan account, spending half time in an office within J.P. Morgan and half time in PRT offices. Another delivery manager is located with the team in Barbados. The two parties have jointly created an ‘interface document’ which really is a set of procedures that governs the whole relationship.

“One of the last things that we did was a benchmarking study around productivity that we did together,” says Rosetta. The object of that study was to determine if any productivity was lost by not having people co-located with Morgan.

The ‘Hot Buttons’ of Delivery

In evaluating the relationship, Rosetta says his ‘hot buttons’ center on delivery. “That’s it at the end of the day — do they deliver? Is it on time, on budget, in scope and with the quality I’m expecting? When I look at account management, the number one thing would be responsiveness,” he says. “I want to know that when Scott calls them with an issue, that they take this as a priority and try to work with us to resolve the issue right away, not just put it in a drawer and close it.”

The answer to that question is a resounding yes, according to Epstein. “At the operational level, it’s been very, very good,” he says. “They have a pretty mature organizational structure. At the project level, and also at the account management level, they’ve been very responsive.”

Rosetta says one of his goals is to try, wherever possible, to increase the utilization of PRT and other strategic suppliers. “I think the point to remember is that we didn’t give PRT a plain vanilla application outsourcing,” he says. “We are constantly moving products in. As the work is done, the products get moved out. So it’s really a flowing relationship.”

Delivering Staff

A major source of value has been PRT’s ability to staff up in a fast time frame to meet the needs of those initiatives. “Their ability to provide us with the skills and resources in the timely manner that they have has been invaluable,” says Rosetta. PRT’s ability to accomplish that has been “a lot faster than we’ve been able to do internally, in terms of bringing in employees or other consultants,” he adds.

Some discussions with PRT have included the possibility of expanding Morgan’s work into other PRT facilities as they become available in other parts of the world. That idea, says Rosetta, fits Morgan’s global landscape. It also reflects the strategic nature of the partnership.

“I think partnership is the right word,” says Rosetta. “I hate to use that word because people throw it around very loosely…There are investments on both parts; there’s been give and take from both companies to try and make this thing work. We are both hoping that this relationship stays strong and grows in the future.”

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