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Norbert Schattner of ifb Group was significantly involved in the development of the reference architecture REFRAME for over ten years. REFRAME is based on the SPARX Enterprise Architect platform and enables corporate transformations in the financial sector. Ifb focuses its architecture entirely on standardisation and automation. Following a number of successes with insurance customers in Switzerland and Germany, ifb recently also convinced an Austrian insurance group of the benefits of its approach.

Norbert Schattner, Director of ifb International AG, spent more than ten years working intensively at the financial and risk management specialist ifb on the question of how successful transformations are possible, particularly in the financial and insurance sector, which is characterised by radical change. When developing a corresponding reference architecture, the company opted for the Enterprise Architect platform:

„A major advantage of Enterprise Architect is its openness for extensions and additional specialist content. Thanks to the diverse interfaces, users can continue to work with their familiar tools, but the content can be managed in the platform in a stable and compatible manner at all times.“

Enterprise Architect enabled ifb to develop, test and refine the REFRAME reference architecture over a long period of time. The development of the methods for the architecture was based on standardisation:

„Only if the raw data is recorded in a standardised way, automated processes can be set up on it. This is essential for competitiveness and for offering innovative products, even if it initially involves a certain amount of effort, of course.“

Norbert Schattner

Director ifb International Ltd

The data collected in this way is then transferred to the REFRAME processing procedure, in which the automatic processes just mentioned can also run. Via interfaces, the results finally flow into the Enterprise Architect, where they are available for all types of use.

Peter Lieber, founder of Sparx Services CE:

„I got to know Norbert Schattner in a joint project at an Austrian insurance company and was immediately impressed by the comprehensive content offered by REFRAME. As a provider of Enterprise Architect, we are very aware of the importance of partnerships such as with ifb Group and their special know-how in the field of digital transformation.”

Role models in many other industries

To make his vision clear, Schattner likes to use analogies. Of course, in every industry, the replacement of old systems are associated with great resistance. The
first step is therefore to use workarounds to create quick and apparently simple solutions. However, experience has shown that the real breakthrough can only
be achieved through innovative standardization with subsequent automation:

“To enable a solution to be expanded at any time, all processes must first be standardized accordingly.  This was demonstrated by Henry Ford, for example,
who even standardized the screws used in the development of assembly line car production, to realize the desired economies of scale.”

Another example, which can be compared well with IT, is fittings manufacturers. For  some time now, they have clearly separated the flush-mounted area and the visible fitting and connected them with each other by means of interfaces:

“This makes it possible, for example, to have different innovation cycles for the components and the visible part of the fitting can be changed according to preference and fashion. We are now realising this principle through the interaction of REFRAME and Enterprise Architect!”

Peter Lieber

Gründer und Inhaber Sparx Services CE

REFRAME Methodology: Holistic view from three elements

A business transformation is a complex undertaking that encompasses areas such as processes, capabilities, applications and the associated control mechanisms. It is important to develop a clear description of the actual state and the target state to be achieved.

“This process sounds quite simple in its basic features, but in practice it is very complex and requires a lot of experience. This is why we have created REFRAME, a comprehensive tool that provides support
in all phases of managing the complexity of a transformation”, says Schattner.

REFRAME follows a holistic approach and consists of three elements: The meta model, the 6-phase model of project management and the repository with the accumulated knowledge of the ifb group. The metamodel is a 6-layer construction plan of an organisation with an all-round view of the six essential architectural layers and their logical relationships to each other. In the next step, project control is placed over these six layers and an actual and a target state is defined for all layers.

“With our approach, all those involved know the result of a transformation even before the project starts. This provides assurance and makes it possible to approach the goal step by step in a very targeted manner.”

Behind all steps is the repository with the best practice solutions and the accumulated knowledge from over 30 years of project experience.

Enterprise Architect: A comprehensive platform

Enterprise Architect is a widely used and very comprehensively oriented modeling tool, but it is not specialized in the financial and insurance sector. For Schattner, however, it soon became clear that it would be an ideal platform for REFRAME.

“On the one hand, there are the great possibilities of the platform, on the other hand, there are our subject-specific contents. The combination of these two aspects offers an excellent basis for
an end-to-end solution to be successful with our target customers.”

The aim is therefore to make REFRAME available as a specific add-in for Enterprise Architect. Thanks to the combination solution, users can continue to use their familiar tools (e.g. Excel), and an interface will allow this data to be transferred to Enterprise Architect. On the other hand, people in management functions require clear graphical representations (dashboards) in order to be quickly informed about project progress or target/actual comparisons.

“This makes it very easy to visualize IT projects and the progress can be easily read. Thanks to our experience, we can also determine what progress can be expected in which periods even before the project begins. This increases the acceptance of such an offer considerably!”

Behind all steps is the repository with the best practice solutions and the accumulated knowledge from over 30 years of project experience.

“With our approach, all those involved know the result of a transformation even before the project starts. This provides assurance and makes it possible to approach the goal step by step in a very targeted manner.”

overview REFRAME


Elements of REFRAME

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about ifb International AG

For more than 30 years we have been responding to the challenges of financial and risk management with innovative services and state-of-the-art IT applications.

As an internationally operating management consultancy, we work successfully for banks and insurance companies as well as for industrial, trade and service companies worldwide. Our experts provide you with comprehensive advice on all specialist issues relating to accounting, controlling, regulation, risk management and compliance. They develop tailor-made change measures for your goals, including complex transformation projects.

Our consulting approach combines industry experience with specialized expertise and technically leading implementation strength. We provide you with comprehensive support from strategy development to implementation in the organization and IT.

With Managed Services, our global delivery and service units, we round off our range of services with highly specialized external application and process support, giving you the freedom to focus your capacities on your core business.