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Lehman's IT legacy

Lehman Brothers ran its operations through a worldwide network of 26,666 servers and employed an IT department comprising some 6000 staff.

This technological legacy has created some interesting operational challenges for the administrators charged with overseeing its affairs, as this SEC filing from restructuring experts Alvarez & Marsal makes clear.

The filing notes that Lehman ran a centralised IT shop, such that data from different departments and different products was co-mingled. This centralised structure was an asset to Lehman prior to its bankrupcty, says A&M, but post bankruptcy creates a signficant challenge with preservation and de-coupling of systems.

A majority of data was stored on relational databases, which are relatively easy to understand, but the accounting system, forex and futures oprations were processed on mainframes, which are proving rather more troublesome to extract and reconstruct.

The firm used approximately 2,700 home grown, third party and off-the-shelf software programs to run its business globally and, at its demise, had accumulated e-mails, files, voice mails, recorded calls and instant messages totalling more than two petabytes (2000 terabytes).

This equates to about 20,000 computers filled to the max with data!

Lehman Brothers invested a huge amount of time, money and effort in maintaining this complex IT infrastructure. It may be a cost of doing business, but it's also a major distraction, far removed from Lehman's primary function as an active player in the capital markets. Could a portion of the resources poured into IT have been put to better use in shoring up the firm's intellectual and human capital?

It may sound heretical, but it's a legitimate question: Did Lehman invest (in all senses of the word) too much in IT? I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts.


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 November, 2008, 10:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I disagree.

System is made for the company that will grow, not for the company that will go bankrupt and be sold in small pieces.

It is possible to argue that they spent too much, but I believe that for the kind of operation Lehman had, it was not sufficient enough (results of mismanaging the risk was a failure).

As any business organization, Lehman needed proper tools and sticking to pencils is probably not the answer.