Safeguarding Information

Qualcomm CIO Norm Fjeldheim calls Agile software critical for tracking and securing intellectual property.

by Molly Rose Teuke, February 2008
Qualcomm depends on Oracle's Agile Product Lifecycle Management software to effectively manage and protect its critical patents on technologies that facilitate wireless communications. Currently, 13,000 employees benefit from the Agile-based system, which acts as the key repository for hundreds of thousands of engineering documents.

Although document security was the most significant factor in Qualcomm's decision to choose Agile Product Lifecycle Management in 2002, it hasn't been the only payoff. Revision control gives users the ability to look back in history to see how documents, and therefore products, progress. A product resource center portal functions as a centralized user interface for real-time product information, providing a foundation for greater configurability and personalization by users. Finally, Qualcomm has developed an efficient change management protocol within the process. Currently, Qualcomm runs its Agile software on IBM WebSphere while maintaining Oracle Fusion Middleware in the Oracle Fusion environment.

Read how Norm Fjeldheim, CIO and senior vice president at Qualcomm, believes that Oracle's acquisition of Agile will increase the software's value to his company. He contends there will be fewer infrastructure maintenance issues, as well as improvements in data integration between the Agile Product Lifecycle Management environment and Oracle's manufacturing environment.

Holding patents on technologies that facilitate wireless communications makes protecting and managing intellectual property a challenge. For Norm Fjeldheim, CIO and senior vice president at Qualcomm, security was the underlying driver in the company's 2001 decision to implement Agile Product Lifecycle Management software. It was also why, in 2002, the company completed an implementation across its six business units, affecting 7,000 employees on six continents. Today, 13,000 employees benefit from that implementation.

"Before the Agile software, we had a homegrown system that was meeting our needs, except that it had a wide-open structure. You had access to everything or access to nothing," says Fjeldheim. "We needed a secure way to track engineering documents, product-related documents, anything to do with what we call configuration management. The Agile software is critical for us, because it's our key repository for all engineering documents and we're an engineering company. We have hundreds of thousands of documents within the Agile system."

Those documents span content on Qualcomm's patent portfolio of groundbreaking advances in wireless communication, which it licenses to more than 140 companies globally, to development standards for 3G and other next-generation wireless technologies. Qualcomm's more than 30,000 patents and patent applications reflect the company's position at the leading edge of wireless technology and underscore its need for secure data management. Qualcomm is one of the wireless industry's pioneers of code division multiple access (CDMA), a technology used by some of the world's largest wireless operators to deliver mobile voice and data services to hundreds of millions of subscribers worldwide. For Fjeldheim, maintaining a secure environment that protects Qualcomm's technology innovations is paramount.

Although document security was the key factor in Qualcomm's decision to choose Agile Product Lifecycle Management, it wasn't the only benefit. Revision control gives stakeholders the ability to look back in history to see how documents, and therefore products, progress. A product resource center portal acts as a centralized user interface for real-time product information, providing a foundation for greater configurability and personalization by users. That makes life easier for everyone involved in initial development stages, and it helps manage and track steps in Qualcomm's formal release process, from engineering prototype to production. It has also enabled Qualcomm to develop an efficient change management protocol within that process. The ensuing transparency in the change process is a huge benefit. As Fjeldheim points out, "We now have the ability to cut in changes at the right time, taking scheduling and workflow into account so key people involved in the process are able to see changes easily and approve them in a timely manner."

One Less Infrastructure

Fjeldheim anticipates that Oracle's acquisition of Agile will increase the software's value to his company. Qualcomm runs its Agile software on IBM WebSphere while maintaining Oracle Fusion Middleware in the Oracle Fusion environment. "If we could put that all on one infrastructure, that's one less infrastructure I would have to maintain," he says. "From an IT perspective, that reduces my development and maintenance costs and cuts out my WebSphere licensing fees. Intuitively, I would guess that we would see approximately a 25 percent reduction in our cost structure." Plus, a single infrastructure means a single user interface, and that translates to even greater savings in the form of reduced training costs.

Another benefit will be improvements in data integration between the Agile Product Lifecycle Management environment and Oracle's manufacturing environment. Too often, says Fjeldheim, differences in formatting result in failed integration, necessitating detective work and manual corrections before a new product gets into production. That process can take one week or more, depending on the problem's complexity. Given the implications of time to market for profitability, failures in data integration can be quite costly.

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