Tobacco Group Finds New Face

Case Study: The Tobacco Merchants Association taps Cordiant to provide a new information portal that meets today's industry standards.

When the Tobacco Merchants Association wanted to redo its information portal, it turned to Cordiant Technologies Ltd. to transform a legacy system into a modern information portal based on industry standards and using standard development technologies.

Much under siege in recent years in the public and the press, no one would deny that the tobacco industry needs a good public relations or lobbying voice.

But that is not the role of TMA, according to Farrell Delman, president of the association. Delman described TMA as the content portal for the global tobacco industry. Formed in 1915, "Our thing is facts; were not a lobbying group," he said.

Unfortunately for TMA, those facts had become increasingly hard to manage in recent years, forcing the organization to rethink its systems and support, Delman said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about how UML integration reached an impressive degree .

For more than 14 years, the Princeton, N.J., organization had been collecting information and managing it via CD on Folio Corp.s Folio content management system, then porting its CD information—more than 3GBs worth—to the Web using Folio Site Director, said Delman.

In 1999 TMA moved the process to Vignette Corp.s namesake content management system, and for three years the organization rented Vignette support through a hosted environment.

ITC Infotech India Ltd., in Calcutta, India, delivered the original Web-based system for TMA, Delman said. ITC Infotech is a spinoff of the ITC Ltd., which Delman had ties with.

But TMA soon found the Vignette-based solution to be "top-heavy in terms of page deliveries," Delman said. So, instead of moving the solution, which was based on the Vignette V/5 eBusiness Platform, to Vignettes 6.0 version, Delman said the association "decided to get into the open-source world." He added, "I had looked at Jakarta and other things. But before that I had shifted from support under ITC to support under Cordiant."

"Vignette was a good base because it gave us something to build off of," Delman said.

Dennis Paul, founder and president of Cordiant, said the application "is a tobacco industry information portal, with information about whats happening in the tobacco industry, financial data, plus a lot of information on the industry and companies, including laws, regulation and legislation."

Cordiant of Kochi, India, began supporting the TMA solution about 18 months ago, said Paul. "The TMA members were not happy with the application," he said, adding that the system had become slow, lacked an intuitive user interface and was expensive to maintain.

"So we did a proposal to re-engineer the application," Paul said. "We planned to use conventional development methodologies, [but] we got to the development phase and we knew we needed something different."

What the company quickly realized, Paul said, was that it needed MDA (Model Driven Architecture) and rapid application development methodologies. "So we created UML [Unified Modeling Language ] diagrams for the application."

Both MDA and UML are Object Management Group standard technologies for helping developers build better applications through modeling. According to OMG officials, MDA separates business and application logic from underlying platform technology.

"Platform-independent models of an application or integrated systems business functionality and behavior, built using UML and other associated OMG modeling standards, can be realized through the MDA on virtually any platform, open or proprietary, including Web services, .Net, CORBA, J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] and others," according to a definition of the standard from the Needham, Mass., organization.

Cordiant used MDA and UML and "fine-tuned the diagrams to reflect the business requirements of TMA, and we only had to do about 5 to 8 percent hand coding," said Paul.

Indeed, using the MDA and UML specifications, Paul said Cordiant needed only "15 person months" to re-engineer the TMA system. In other words, it took three people five months to do the project.

Next Page: Open source feeds the need for speed.