Royal Dutch Shell has said hiring IT architects gave it “direction” and made sure its many technology teams collaborated around the world.

In recent years the oil firm has created several architecture teams, comprising of 100 architects. They have a goal to make sure the company’s IT interoperates effectively and is as standardised as possible.

Shell has one lead architect group and a range of working groups, which address 25 areas of Shell’s business, including retail, operation and production. An enterprise technology architect portfolio group sets and approves standards, and a separate group controls the functionality of systems.

The groups set three year plans for each system, outlining the scope, key milestones and rationale. Under one plan, Shell will roll out the next version of Microsoft Office around the globe in 2009, when Microsoft expects to release the software.

Asked by CIO sister title Computerworld UK what benefits Shell had gained from structuring its groups of architects, Johan Krebbers, group IT architect, said: “We’re now going in one direction as a group. It had been seen that we were missing some key architecture structure and decision making.”

Going in one direction globally is important, he said, because Shell standardises its IT across its 130 countries of operation and 25 areas of business.

“Shell makes huge investment in IT, and some of the projects are very complex. It’s important to have direction and interlinks so that we all go the same way,” he added. “You need an overall picture so that you’re not just meeting project deadlines and ignoring the business.”

Krebbers, who was speaking at the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit in London, said Shell has several main tools for architecture. “We use Metastorm ProVision for modelling our business requirements and processes, Microsoft Visio for our functional requirements, and IBM Telelogic System Architect for our information architecture and repository.” It uses TOGAF 8.1.1 and 9.0 open group framework to help design, plan, implement, and govern its IT architecture.

It is also vital that service providers to Shell work closely with its architecture teams, he said. In March, the company signed a multi-supplier infrastructure support deal with EDS, AT&T and T-Systems for £2 billion. An application support deal with IBM, Logica, Wipro and Accenture is also running.

“We need our service providers to be aligned with driving content, taking part in architecture decisions, standards and process improvement.”

With the infrastructure outsourcing deal, some 3,000 jobs are being transferred to the service providers. But at the time, Shell said it anticipated "minimal" redundancies.

Shell has 108,000 employees but runs 150,000 desktop computers and 165,000 Microsoft Exchange email accounts. It is mainly Microsoft Windows-based, moving to Vista from next year, but also runs Linux in exploration and production, and some Unix.

Its key applications are hosted out of Amsterdam, and it runs both SAP and Oracle software. It has four petabytes of storage.

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