Pulling It All Together

Smart businesses are squeezing every last drop of productivity out of their Internet applications.

Call it the principle of unintended consequences. The Internet boom wasnt just a party of paper profits, after all; it was also a period of intense programming productivity. After bingeing on technology in the 1990s, companies are now laden with bloated application portfolios—growing 50 percent in the last year alone. This has led to a big headache for enterprises, because the applications they bought dont necessarily speak to one another.

Take Cable & Wireless. The London-based telecom giant has $11 billion in annual revenues, customers in 70 countries, and a sprawling collection of Internet-based applications, which were absorbed during the companys aggressive acquisition campaign throughout the U.K., the U.S., and Asia. After buying 11 ISPs in Europe alone, Cable & Wireless was saddled with tying together all of their internal systems and applications, so it could offer business customers around the globe consistent service.

Cable & Wireless also needed to pull together 11 of its own internal applications, which were initially built as islands, unable to share or to exchange information easily. Its customer Web site runs on BroadVision, Siebel Systems takes care of CRM, a custom Oracle database handles order information, Kenan Arbor/BP 9.1 shepherds billing, Clarify (now Amdocs) manages trouble tickets, and a custom Java application does order provisioning. Headache city.

The most pressing problem, though, was the integration of the companys order and billing systems. It could take as long as six months to reflect billing and account changes throughout the IT nervous system, and employees often made changes manually.

Cable & Wirelesss global CTO, Trey Smith, also wanted to build an infrastructure to connect outside vendors, suppliers, and customers with minimal development struggle. Only four months after the start of the integration project, spearheaded by webMethods and Deloitte & Touche, the sales staff in New York could access the same customer and business data as their colleagues in the U.K.; order information flows automatically through the unified system, and costly mistakes are history.