Firstly, please can you explain the overall project that Excelian completed?
Ben North: The client uses a Vendor product (Openlink) as their Trade lifecycle (ETRM ) system front to back for all of their Commodities asset classes. These include Crude, LNG, Precious Metals, Base Metals, Exotics, US Power, US Gas, Aggregates and physical logistics. All of this business was housed on an Openlink Endur v8 instance which was 6+ years old and became increasingly difficult to support both in-house and from the vendor. The requirement of the project was to upgrade both the Openlink instance to v12 and the Oracle database to v11 including all of the associated hardware.
And can you describe the business problems which the client needed to address?
Ben North: There were a multitude of business problems; the most fundamental was the global project coordination of a mixed vendor and the client’s team operating across different time zones. Openlink v8 made many of the business methodologies obsolete and in some cases made analytical improvements that had to be tied out with the test heads to be able to accept the differences.
Were there any unusual technical problems the client needed to address?
Ben North: From a technical standpoint the biggest challenge was the big-bang nature of the delivery – it was all or nothing on the go-live weekend. There was a huge amount of remediation work to be done to ensure that the 50+ interfaces to external systems continued to work, as well as remediating thousands of scripts to run in v12 whilst retaining the like for like functionality that the business stipulated.
So what was the solution that excelian provided for the client?
Ben North: Essentially, the nature of Excelian’s engagement was to rescue the project to ensure that it went live in 2014 with no further loss to the vendor who was on a fixed-price project or indeed the client, who had to take key staff away from some important regulatory projects. The approach focussed on completely re-working the project plan from scratch, using a methodology where the key risks on the project were worked through first and in some cases, in parallel streams. For the client, this meant getting the SIMs (PV and risk valuations) tied out and signed off with all the desk heads in parallel with SIT whilst getting the EOD to run in a reasonable timeframe. The aim of the project was to provide a like for like solution between v8 and v12 (although some improvements were made to valuations where blended volatilities / skew lookups were being used).
What were the major project challenges that were faced during the implementation?
Ben North: In terms of challenges there was really only one. On the go-live week, despite having improved hardware and a newer version of the software, the EOD was running with significant latency. This was a surprise as the EOD had been run multiple times on pre-prod hardware for a recent COB date. The primary cause ended up being some portfolios (mostly Base and Precious) that had trades booked between August and November had some complex structures for which the run time had become exponentially slow. The solution was to add more grid engines in parallel with looking at the granularity of the curve structure.
Why was this such an important project for Excelian?
Ben North: The importance of this project for Excelian has been great. It is vital to strengthen our partnership with Openlink and prove we have delivery capability in being able to offer a high calibre solution that is able to turn around and save projects.
Describe the business benefits the client experienced as a result of the project
Ben North: The project was delivered on time and this has saved considerable costs to both Openlink and the client. With the client being on the latest version it makes it much easier for Openlink to troubleshoot and provide patches within a reasonable timeframe. It also enables the client to ensure some of the fixes/improvements that other clients have made and been incorporated back to a header code branch.
How would you describe the client’s experience of working with Excelian?
Ben North: Excelian was able to aid transparency between the client and the vendor to provide a clean and demonstrable framework in terms of a project strategy to get the project live in 2014. Excelian became the single point of contact for delivery and become accountable to the CTO for technology. He was provided with updates on a weekly basis, and as the project neared conclusion it was better to give daily updates. The project was roughly 3 months behind schedule when Excelian first engaged on the project, so with that in mind, delivering the project on time with an immovable go-live date was fantastic.