By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-05-23 Print this article Print

The goal: Squeeze more data out of existing systems, and do it faster and more efficiently:

But It Works Today'">

'But It Works Today'

Obviously, it's hard to move forward with an application integration project when business executives don't understand the value in it—and don't want to allocate the money for it.

Ben Wong, an application architect at insurance provider Aegon Canada, had been trying for more than a year to convince the company's managers that Microsoft's BizTalk application integration server would eventually reduce maintenance costs by eliminating many of the 30 connectors needed to link its eight core systems. But he had a hard time conveying those benefits in bottom-line terms.

"The problem has been that the integration tools can't show immediate business value," Wong says. "We'd say, 'We need integration,' and then the answer was, 'But it works today.'"

Wong recently found a way to jump-start the project. Aegon Canada needs its Cobol-based underwriting system to exchange data with MIB, a provider of medical information on individuals, via standard Web-based data formats. It would have been at least as expensive to write and maintain a one-off piece of connective software, according to Wong, so his team got the thumbs-up to use BizTalk to translate the data.

"That was a way to get our foot in the door," he says.

Others have found concrete ways application integration technology can pay off. In late 2003, Con-Way, a transportation and logistics services company with $2.6 billion in revenue last year, began rolling out Tibco's integration software to connect its accounts receivable software from GetPaid with Oracle Financials and its in-house application for shipment tracking.

Now, Con-Way doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time it wants to add a new application to the mix, says Praveen Sharabu, the company's director of enterprise architecture. In fact, he says, the development time needed to integrate new applications has dropped by as much as 75% with Tibco acting as the common translation layer.

That's because Con-Way already had gone through the process of defining a standard data format for certain activities (such as information associated with a shipment). Furthermore, the Tibco system provides functions, such as queuing messages sent between applications, that previously would have had to be programmed separately using a lower-level Java programming tool.

For example, last year Con-Way wanted to capture the weight of shipments recorded by new digital scales it had installed on its forklifts, and send that into the shipment-tracking application. Sharabu says the project took a month and a half with Tibco; he estimates it would have taken at least six months to write software in Java to connect the two applications.

"The idea was to reuse as much code as we could," Sharabu says. "And there's a tremendous amount of development time that's cut down."


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