Working as a Team

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2009-09-09 Print this article Print

The Avis Budget Group believes that customer satisfaction and business success are built on a foundation of technology innovation.

Working as a Team

At Avis Budget Group, technologies are integrated into the business—not just in terms of the functions they provide to the business, but also in the way the IT and line-of-business people work as a team. “We work cohesively,” Turato says. “If there’s a new problem to solve, we work on it together.

“We have a formal process whereby projects come from the business to us. My job is to take a look at technology and our business strategy and determine how technology can be brought to bear on our problems and opportunities.”

SOA is a prime example of using technology to deal with business challenges. Key drivers are the desire to have all the company’s customer data in one place, as well as the need for innovation and cost reduction. “This involves surfacing new opportunities for common services that get reused over and over again,” he explains.

Avis Budget Group has been involved with Web services for about 10 years. “We participate in the Open Travel Alliance [OTA], which was formed about 10 years ago to develop XML specifications for transacting travel business via e-commerce,” Turato says. “XML specs were developed and ready to use somewhere around 2001, and we began using a function called Direct Connect, which allows two B-to-B partners to connect directly using the public Internet.

“That saves a lot of money for our travel company, since there aren’t any booking fees. It’s the same concept as having somebody book a trip on a Website. We were one of the first companies to do that, and we’ve been leading and innovating in that area ever since.”

One example of Avis’ use of the OMEGA SOA is the insurance replacement application, which handles situations in which a customer’s car is in a crash. “Think of it as a direct connection between us and an insurance company, as well as working closely with car dealerships and collision shops,” Turato says. “That’s an area of expansion for us. We can leverage this service for other so-called checkout services as they come along.”

One of the reasons behind the success of SOA at the Avis Budget Group is the close collaboration between the technology and business groups. “The business worked hand in hand with us on this,” he says. “Everyone understood the mission, so there wasn’t a problem when it came time to get funding for this project.”

The projected ROI also helped sell the project to management. “In the old days, a partner connection was, say, a $50,000 project,” Turato recalls. “The first couple of Direct Connects were around $20,000, but now, if it’s a plain-vanilla Direct Connect, it could cost less than $1,000. So SOA is very cost-effective, and when you have a success like that, business folks tend to bring you other projects.”

To measure the cost of reusing services, the Avis Budget Group assigns a complexity rating of from 1 to 3 points for each service. “Each point of complexity is worth $5,000,” Turato explains. “Then we multiply the complexity rating by $5,000 and multiply that by the number of reuses. That gives us the dollar value we have saved by reusing a service. For example, on a complexity scale of 1 to 3, our location service is rated a 2 and has been reused six times. That works out to 2 x $5,000 x 6 = $60,000 saved.”

Eileen Feretic is the Editor of Baseline Magazine.

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