Software helps Telecom pull gold from legacy systems

A multimillion-dollar application integration project is helping New Zealand's Telecom link its legacy systems together to extract locked-up functionality and ease program changes.

The telco began implementing IBM's CrossWorlds product last year on its CDMA mobile network, giving it a web-based front end to coordinate legacy systems covering provisioning, billing, credit risks and service assurance, and now plans to use it to bring "a whole new tranche of capability online".

Like many corporates, IS planning and architecture strategy manager Greg Patchell says Telecom built up a wide range of legacy systems over the 1980s and 1990s. But today's business requirements means those independent systems must be brought together in an integrated and consistent form.

CrossWorlds sits at the back end, putting an XML wrapper around a particular business application and creating a messaging hub that allows the legacy systems to talk to each other. This means business processes can be reused in an online format. Change of addresses, for example, often need re-keying wherever a customer's address appears, but the use of XML means the change of address takes place wherever it is listed.

Wellington-based Patchell says Telecom is now using enterprise application integration (EAI) to build a library of reusable business functions and speed the delivery of these functions.

Patchell says CrossWorlds, along with other "third generation" EAI products such as Tibco and SeeBeyond, allows the telco to introduce new capability in a fairly seamless manner and let the old and new co-exist "in a way that does not annoy the customer".

Telecom says the system will cost "many" millions, including the cost of servers from EDS, who also trained a dozen people to handle CrossWorlds.

Patchell describes the spend on Crossworlds as a strategic investment that is "absolutely critical" to the success of the business. The ongoing project has no specific timeframe or closure date, and it should lead to new and streamlined processes, he says.

"These are lumpy infrastructure improvements that bear fruit over time," he says.

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