Oracle's 2005 acquisition of Siebel Systems is starting to yield its most powerful benefits, thanks to Oracle's growing list of integration offerings, which have helped Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC) increase operational efficiencies.
Less than a year ago, the maker of product lifecycle management software recognized that the mixture of point-to-point integrations it was using didn't provide its sales force with the kind of data access and consistency it needed. Product information and price lists were managed by the company's product marketing group in Oracle E-Business Suite, but that information was updated in the Siebel Customer Relationship Management (Siebel CRM) system only nightly. That meant that any updates that occurred during the day weren't available to the sales staff until the following day.
Meanwhile, salespeople entered leads and opportunities into the Siebel system, but the crucial contact information therein found its way into the customer records in Oracle E-Business Suite only once it had been manually rekeyed. Without strong integration between the two, the result was unreliable data and inefficient business processes. The answer? PTC decided to build itself an integration foundation by deploying the Oracle Fusion Middleware components needed to establish a robust SOA.
PTC, lacking in-house experience with SOA technologies, called on Oracle consultancy Zanett for help. With all the Oracle Fusion Middleware components now in place after a four-month effort, PTC is enjoying new efficiency in its handling of customer and product data. It has been able to block access to Oracle E-Business Suite and make Siebel CRM the system of record.
"By implementing SOA, we're able to say that Siebel CRM is the single source of truth for customer information, and all customer information is managed in Siebel CRM and then gets pushed out to Oracle E-Business Suite," says Erez Azaria, technology practice director for Zanett.
That, says PTC's vice president of enterprise applications, Michael Lillie, is yielding improved operational efficiencies, by eliminating the time that staff members were spending on rekeying data into Oracle E-Business Suite.
Perhaps even more important, says Ted Cannie, Zanett's sales director, is that the new architecture sets up PTC to handle future integrations and tweaks to its business processes in-house. "Managing change and making changes and updates to business processes are a lot easier in an SOA architecture than in a traditional point-to-point approach," he says. "This is a significant innovation that will provide PTC with a whole new level of efficiency and flexibility in managing their business."
That has Lillie thinking about the possibilities of what his team can accomplish in the coming years, replacing inefficient one-off integrations and creating new integrations where none currently exist. Long-term, he's dreaming about the concept of master data management—a comprehensive single version of the truth—once PTC is ready for that step.
"Now that we've got the glue that cements everything together in place," says Lillie, "we're positioned to do that."
That glue—Oracle Fusion Middleware—also will give PTC the ability to link third parties such as outsourced human resources provider Brass Ring into its business processes. "We've got the infrastructure in place to start talking to Brass Ring and doing an automated business flow to streamline the whole process of setting up employees," says Azaria.
In the meantime, Lillie is brainstorming about how he can take advantage of additional integrations in the short term. His plans include improving Web site functionality offered to PTC customers by eliminating the site's reliance on existing point-to-point integrations. He also says big ideas are brewing for customer-facing applications that he can't talk about yet.
And although Lillie is looking forward to evaluating future Oracle Fusion applications, which are being built on Oracle's SOA framework, he's relieved that the combination of Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle's current line of best-of-breed applications isn't forcing him to commit to them before his business is ready for them. "Using Oracle Fusion Middleware provides a foundation for future integrations and enables customers to transition to the Oracle Fusion applications at their own pace," he emphasizes.
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Oracle Fusion Middleware Oracle SOA Suite Tony Kontzer is a business and technology writer in Silicon Valley who has contributed to InformationWeek, Investor's Business Daily, CIO Insight, and Network World.