Web-enabled integration: The future of enterprise application solutions

Peter Manos
Market Development Manager
Mincom Inc.

As the marketplace gears up for the brave new world of e-business, there are many business model options emerging. It is difficult to choose which will effectively position your company as an e-business leader. The need for rapid response and instantaneous data synchronization is requiring a Web-enabled integration system. Therefore, a move toward seamless integration, using a flexible framework that rapidly assimilates new enterprises, is essential.

Many utility CIOs are beginning to switch from the widely employed point-to-point integration systems to more flexible Web-enabled, scalable solutions that will expand as the needs of the company expand. Point-to-point integration is not only complex to use and costly to maintain, but is not scalable. A leading industry analyst group states: “Only enterprises that can rapidly assimilate packaged applications and reuse their older applications in new ways will thrive during the next five years. Ninety percent of all point-to-point integration must be re-written when an upgrade is added.”

Staying competitive

Of course, the primary objective in achieving Web-enabled integration is to remain competitive in the marketplace. Crucial

to meeting this objective is improving the customer’s perception of your company’s operations and service. Web-enabled integration of front- and back-office functions improves the customer’s experience in several ways:

  • Customers will experience enhanced efficiency when ordering new products and services.
  • Through access to real-time information, customers enjoy greater ease in initiating, updating or canceling service orders, either through the utility’s web site or telephone contact with well-informed customer service representatives.
  • Customers can use the Internet to get real-time updates on the status of their ‘new service’ or ‘restoration-of-service’ requests.

Utility benefits

Utilities benefit from this integration even beyond improving customer relationships:

  • Linking mobile computing, work management and outage management systems with CIS systems creates a powerful capability to optimally dispatch work crews and to rapidly accommodate customer requests and service restoration.
  • Automating and linking the information derived from ongoing customer-related activities allows the utility to benefit through improved performance monitoring, and the development of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of its activities.
  • Implementing work management systems provides the capability for detailed, highly accurate cost tracking, analysis and budgeting.
  • Increasing the speed and ease of each transaction results in stronger customer relationships.
  • Integrating the CIS and work/materials management systems ensures better communication between the utility’s call centers and its district operations. Service crews, district/field personnel and technicians become more accessible and accountable.
  • Centralizing work across all business units enables cost savings and best practice implementation due to consistent data exchange among operating units or regional districts. Efficient cost tracking across the enterprise is yet another obvious benefit.

Web-based linking of CIS with work management

As reinforced by the workflow and business benefits listed above, there is great value in establishing flexible, Web-based linkages between a work management system and a CIS. An example of a current product offering that provides the comprehensive solution for Web-enabled enterprise application integration is the result of a recently formed partnership between Mincom Inc. and SCT Corp. The solution is comprised of the linking of SCT’s Banner Customer Management System (CMS) with Mincom’s Ellipse 5.0 enterprise application solutions and AReNA integration framework. The solution provided by Mincom and SCT delivers a flexible, Web-enabled framework that allows changes to be made to the system without re-writing the entire configuration. This solution is a leading example of integration delivering the potential to save an organization time and money now and in the future.

The integration of SCT’s CMS with the Mincom’s work management system exemplifies the workflow benefits of Web-based integration in the following process and business case areas: simple and complex works management; financial information; and inventory management. The components employed by each of these areas are shown below:

  • Simple Works Management: Customer request, scheduling/planning, materials requisitioning, work performance, job fulfilment and customer invoicing.
  • Complex Works Management: This scenario is for the more complex request by the customer, which could include the need for new construction where estimates and quotes are required. This integration process encompasses the following activities: customer request, job estimation (materials required, length of tasks, cost, etc.), tactical component prioritisation, materials and resources planning, materials requisition, job performance, job fulfilment and customer invoicing.
  • Financial Information: As financial information is gathered in Banner, such as revenue from customer accounts, the works management system will need to be updated. This will happen most likely at a consolidated level; such as, a consolidated revenue amount for a day. This consolidated amount will then be passed to the works management system via the implemented integration solution. At the time of translation from the CIS to the Works Management System, conversion tables may be set up so that valid accounting information is supplied before import into the works management system. Some examples of this could be an account code and type of transaction representing customer revenue.
  • Inventory Management: In this scenario, the inventory management will be carried out in the ELLIPSE 5.0 system. This will enable ELLIPSE 5.0 to record the meters as equipment so that the individual item can be traced through the life of the job. The process involves the following steps: item purchased; item serial number recorded; service request (item needed for new service or repair scenario); scheduling/planning of job; materials requisition (inventory needed to perform job); job performance; job fulfilment (serial number of item used recorded); and item disposal (used or broken item which was replaced by new item).

The portfolio of tools and technologies you choose to build the foundation will directly affect the future of e-business in your company. Web-enabled integration will fundamentally change the way you do business. It has the potential to create dynamic environments, in which companies can respond to change more quickly and evolve when necessary to remain ahead of the curve.

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