Founded in 2000, ITC Infotech India Ltd is one of India’s fastest growing global IT and IT-enabled services companies. Based in Bangalore, the company provides outsourced IT services and solutions to customers in more than 140 countries and across a wide range of industries, including banking, consumer packaged goods, financial services, hospitality, insurance, manufacturing, media and entertainment, retail, transportation and logistics, and travel. ITC Infotech has dedicated development centers, offices, and delivery centers in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, and two delivery hubs in Bangalore and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).
As an Oracle Platinum Partner, ITC Infotech makes extensive use of Oracle technology and applications to deliver customer solutions. Most recently, the company used Oracle SOA Suite 11g to integrate the business systems of a major European airline. This provided the airline with a new business platform to push customized offers and services to its passengers, including offering seat upgrades to frequent flyers. As a result, the airline reported improved customer satisfaction and reduced financial liability. In addition, the composite applications developed around the platform helped the airline enhance customer loyalty and earn ancillary revenues.
The SOA platform developed for the European airline has the potential to be reused by other carriers.
“Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Service Bus 11g, and Oracle WebLogic Suite enable us to build Web services in record time for our clients,” said William Ebenezer, Java and SOA technology practice head, ITC Infotech India Ltd. “Furthermore, these services are reusable, helping clients reduce development costs for subsequent integrations and improving their time-to-market.”
One of ITC Infotech’s key markets is the travel industry, where the company has substantial business and technical expertise. In 2010, one of Europe’s leading airlines engaged ITC Infotech to help it create and roll out new value-added customer services.
“The airline industry is extremely competitive, with newer low-fare airlines chipping away at the market share of more established companies,” said Ebenezer. “One of the keys to improving competitiveness is to provide new or improved customer services, such as offering frequent-flyer seat upgrades via SMS or proactively informing passengers when and where they will receive their baggage if it becomes lost.
“Because our client had a complex IT infrastructure with point-to-point integration, it was very difficult for it to bring new services to market quickly, as it had to spend a lot of time and money building the service, developing workflows and processes, then integrating the service, workflows, and processes into the existing infrastructure.”
To enable rapid implementation and integration of new and existing systems, and reduce the complexity of application upgrades, the airline decided to migrate to a service-oriented architecture (SOA). This enables the rapid definition and reuse of services to significantly reduce integration costs and maximize integration efficiency. It also ensured compatibility with OpenTravel Alliance standards, a set of specifications that aim to promote the smooth flow of information through the interconnected travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.
ITC Infotech implemented a middleware layer based on Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Service Bus, and Oracle WebLogic Suite to integrate disparate systems.
The Oracle middleware layer was implemented in less than three months, enabling the airline to integrate its Web portal with its Siebel loyalty application, ticketing, reservations, and other business systems quickly and efficiently, and create new services that enhanced value for customers.
One example is the new Mobile Upgrade service. If a frequent flyer is travelling on a flight where there are unoccupied first- or business-class seats, the airline can send a text message to customers offering a seat upgrade for a certain number of loyalty points or vouchers.
This Mobile Upgrade service was an instant success: customers were delighted to receive proactive offers, with 22,721 frequent flyers accepting upgrades in the year since the service was introduced. This opened up 7,000 additional economy class seats, increasing the airline’s revenue from the sale of these seats. It also helped the airline address overloads in economy-class seats and underloading first- and business-class seats.
In addition, by encouraging customers to use their accrued loyalty points, the airline reduces its financial liability. It also ensures compliance with IFRIC 13 standards set by the IFRS Foundation, which address how companies should account for their obligation to provide free or discounted goods or services if and when the customers redeem their loyalty points. The IFRS Foundation is an independent organization that aims to develop a single set of high quality, understandable, enforceable, and globally accepted international financial reporting standards (IFRS) through its standard-setting body, the International Accounting Standards Board.
The Oracle middleware layer is highly sustainable, in that the airline can reuse processes and frameworks used in the development of the Mobile Upgrade product to create additional customer services. Reusing processes and frameworks cut the development time for new services from nine months to between three and four months.
The airline has also developed a new predeparture notification service that sends a text message to customers to tell them which lounge their flight is departing from; and an application that tracks lost or delayed luggage, then informs the customer via text message when and where they can expect their bags to be delivered.
The airline also sends predeparture e-mail notifications to customers. These contain online check-in and frequent flyer enrollment details, and information on services such as car rental, hotels, insurance, airline lounge areas, special airline partner and airport offers, and charges for excess baggage and sports equipment.
In addition, the airline created a new facility that allows frequent flyers to redeem their points for products on PlusShop, the airline’s online shopping site. In some instances, platinum-level frequent flyers can earn gifts based on their loyalty points. Customers can also access their profiles using the Web portal to update their personal details, request a seat with extra leg room, and ask for special in-flight meals.
ITC Infotech is currently working with the airline to integrate its systems with those of tour operators; and to introduce a low fare search function. Further composite applications are being developed around proactive compensation and customer feedback surveys.
“The ability to develop and implement new services gives the airline a distinct competitive edge, as it can introduce value-added products and services for customers, as well as respond quickly to business and regulatory changes in the industry,” said Ebenezer.
By implementing a shared integration middleware infrastructure, standardizing and simplifying application integrations, and reusing services, the airline cut development costs by an average of US$200,000 (€150,000) for each subsequent and new service integration, a 50% saving.
It also reduced the average number of development, test, and production hours to introduce or change a system feature by 60%. In addition, adopting an SOA platform enabled the airline to lower ongoing system and infrastructure maintenance costs by 30%, freeing funds for other IT projects. The airline also reduced the time needed to diagnose and fix transaction errors.
These cost savings and the introduction of new customer services helped the airline achieve a 20% return on investment (ROI) within a year, with ROI expected to continue to grow over a number of years.
“Our methodology, tools, and use of Oracle technology help clients achieve a rapid ROI by bringing new products and services to market faster,” said Ebenezer. “A quick ROI also makes it easier to justify future SOA projects.
“The shorter time-to-market, rapid return on investment, and reduced integration and maintenance costs made the airline highly aware of the benefits of SOA,” he added. “The business now recognizes the value of and supports reusable services development.”
The Oracle middleware layer is highly scalable. “Scalability is an often ignored dimension when developing SOA, but critical if airlines want to introduce new customer products and services,” said Ebenezer. “The Oracle middleware layer can scale to support thousands of services, and offers linear scalability on clustered deployments.”
The middleware layer can also scale horizontally in line with user numbers. This is important for airlines that must meet demand for surges in customer bookings or enquiries when airfare sales are announced, during peak holiday times, or when unexpected events (such as ash cloud from volcanic eruptions) interrupt flight schedules.
ITC Infotech initially used an open source solution to deploy SOA and build the middleware layer. However, the company found it was not scalable and required developers with extensive Java programming skills. As these developers were not easy to find, progress on the project slowed down considerably, at which point ITC Infotech decided to look for another middleware product.
After evaluating a number of solutions, ITC Infotech selected Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Service Bus, and Oracle WebLogic Suite. Oracle Service Bus was selected because it provides low-cost, standards-based integration for SOA environments where high performance and scalability are critical.
“Oracle Service Bus also allows configuration through a drag-and-drop process, so there is almost zero complex coding required,” said Ebenezer. “We don’t require developers with extensive Java programming skills, which makes resources easier to find and development faster.”
ITC Infotech followed its standard business impact assessment and gap analysis methodology when executing the middleware project.
The top-down approach involved outlining the overall enterprise integration roadmap and developing a phased release timetable; building common services like error handling, logging, auditing, transaction management, and exception handling; customizing the endpoint systems according to enterprise requirements, and creating the finalized specifications. In addition the project called for standardizing the enterprise message exchange requirement and resolution patterns as well as services and associated contracts.
ITC Infotech used proxy design patterns, such as common and generic proxies to achieve
re-usability of services and reduce development effort. A domain value mapping (DVM) process simplified error and exception handling, and an internally developed framework for session management was deployed to reduce the time needed to integrate the reservation and ticketing system.
“Our business impact analysis, risk assessment, and project planning recommendations helped us develop a secure foundation for developing a more profitable business continuity plan for our client,” said Ebenezer.
The first phase of the middleware integration project was completed in less than three months.