The Bottom Line Per... Louis T. ChmielewskiBy Anna Maria Virzi Print
At Subway, it's about dumping legacy systems.
As director of information systems at the global sandwich franchise, Louis Chmielewski supervises a staff of 40 that supports 650 corporate employees in Milford, Conn. With more than 16,000 sandwich shops, Subway has been pushing to expand internationally (it already has 1,200 shops outside North America) and uses its information systems as a tool in that effort. After completing a pilot project with Microsoft.NET in July, the company plans to convert all its legacy systems to that platform over the next three to four years.
Q. How is Subway using technology to expand?
A. The big thing for us is international development. That's where our growth is going to be. To bolster that, we need to put a lot of our business processes on the Web. We're working with the business-process team, which is mapping out what our company does.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish?
A. The opening of a Subway store starts with a lead and moves to a franchise sold. And the franchisees have to order equipment; they need to get promotional materials. We plan to "Web-ify" that whole process, and many others that we currently conduct over the phone at headquarters. Because we are not here at two o'clock in the morning to service Australia, for example, we are going to create portals that will allow them to basically do self-service.
Q. Why are you using Microsoft.NET for this project?
A. We needed to migrate off of our legacy systems. We have had VMS (an operating system) on Compaq Alpha machines, and Computer Associates' Ingres (relational database software) for about 16 years. That combination was expensive. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that VMS and Compaq Alpha machines have a lot of processing power. Microsoft has its pros and cons, but it was cheaper to go with Microsoft's per-processor licensing. Microsoft products are now becoming enterprise-enabledrobust and reliable. Now that they are more mature, we're going to make the jump to that platform.
Q. What did it cost to make the switch?
A. We had already invested in Microsoft with our back-end servers and we have PCs on the desktops. So our biggest costs are associated with training for our developers, and not so much changing the hardware. Developing in Microsoft.NET is a new discipline for our programmers. They were used to programming procedurally, using Visual Basic and C. Now they have to think in terms of objects, of reusable chunks of code.
Q. How much training is needed?
A. It takes three to four weeks to get developers to start playing with a tool set. Realistically, I wouldn't be surprised if it's three months or more before people are actually proficient in the development environment.
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