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E in the City

E in the City

When Jim Delooze arrived at CSC (Australia) in April last year as the new CIO, the IT outsourcing and consulting company was not doing unto itself as it was doing unto others - its customers. At the same time, however, the company gave Delooze the opportunity to deliver an e-business strategy he had long dreamed of. With the recent acquisition of BHP IT (see "Demise of the User Vendors", page 39), CSC in Australia is now a $1 billion-plus operation employing more than 5700 people. The consequence of so many developers on staff was that they had all built their own little systems.

"There were 46 timesheet systems [alone] and all sorts of different systems that had to interface to an inadequate centralised system," Delooze explains.

"If I were selling a computer system or taking over an infrastructure of people, as we do as an outsourcing company, I'd be saying centralise, standardise and Web-enable so you can provide e-business solutions. And as far as George Bell, the CEO, was concerned it was time to eat our own cookie."Delooze's first task was to take an inventory of exactly what CSC did have in terms of internal IT in Australia. This took about two months. He then declared that the company need ed a new IT strategy that everybody could buy into. However, in order to sell it to technologists, Delooze felt it important to brand the strategy - principally he says, because IT strategy and planning in themselves are dull. As a result, "E-city" was born.

E-city is an e-business system that can be exported externally to customers as a knowledge system. Its purpose is to consolidate all of CSC's processes into a single shared, Web-enabled network that staff and customers can access. It consists of various financial, knowledge and project management, sales, reporting and office automation modules that have been delivered or are under development.

"E-city is the portal or the door to our information, but it needed buy-in at boardroom level and across all the different business units in our organisation," Delooze says. "We're now actually doing and delivering what we do and deliver for our customers, which is e-enabling our company." Delooze spent a month on roadshows around Australia selling E-city. He didn't meet much resistance; mainly, he thinks because people recognised that CSC's internal systems weren't performing.

To put together the E-city strategy, Delooze says, CSC first and foremost had to centralise both its physical infrastructure and its applications, information and knowledge across the organisation. The company chose a three-tier architecture built around an E10K Sun machine running centralised databases using Solaris. It also runs NT in outlying areas where, Delooze says, it is more cost-effective than extensive bandwidth at present.

On the application front, CSC has four main business functions: finance, knowledge, project management and people. The company centralised these around some of the base systems it had in place. CSC took advantage of the fact that it had installed Oracle financials, which Delooze says was already Web-enabled, just that nobody knew it. And while he claims that CSC is recognised worldwide for being a knowledge organisation, he admits that in Australia the company did not have a document management system to capture knowledge operationally.

CSC consequently chose Lotus Domino.Doc, which it is implementing to support, centralise and integrate its mail and knowledge base. The company was already a big Lotus Notes user, on which it based most of its stand-alone systems.

Domino.Doc fully integrates with the company's office automation tool set and its global, Web-enabled knowledge management system, Sources.

CSC has yet to implement a centralised human resources system, but Delooze says he will be looking at SAP running under Oracle. However, he knew he still needed a killer application that would affect everybody in order to ensure they all bought into E-city. Given that 50,000 people in CSC worldwide submit timesheets every day, timesheeting and project management was the logical choice of killer application and the company consequently developed E-time.

Delooze describes E-time as a Web-enabled time and material capture system that reports on all time by project and task and which fully integrates with Oracle's project accounting system.

"Once you brand something and build these e-business-based solutions, you must find the application that gets people to buy into it. Timesheeting was the one we were going to use every day, and that interfaced to all of the back-end systems," Delooze says.

Integrating an e-commerce platform with back end systems is an area posing problems to many organisations, which often underestimate the complexity, effort and cost involved. Delooze admits that getting the back end in order was not easy. Once there, he says, it made implementing the front-end or interface to the application layer far easier and more manageable.

"This is like being up to chapter four of an eight-chapter book," he says. "I can now go to a CSC office anywhere in the world and access my mail, calendar and office automation suite. Having Web-enabled reporting also means that anybody can look at all of their documents online at any time. The development's ongoing and we still have procurement and billing to Web-enable.

"A lot of people say they have e-business solutions, and they do. But I would suggest that maybe 70 per cent of the intranets you see carry forms, procedures and policies. The difference with E-city is that we're running live applications inside our portal. People find that extraordinarily difficult to do; in a technology company, I had resources I could draw on to actually do it.

This is something I've wanted to do for a long time and I had the opportunity to do it here."Although he declines to give figures, Delooze claims that E-city is now delivering significant cost savings and productivity enhancements, particularly in timesheeting and billing. Feedback is also excellent, he says, because people in the organisation can now practise what they want to deliver for customers.

According to Delooze, most of the investment in E-city went into the design and development because CSC had to write the applications in a completely different language (Java) so that they would be desktop-independent. However, he claims the payback period has been immediate because the system uses thin-client technology and rolled out easily to all CSC's people.

In fact, Delooze considers delivery to be the critical success factor in the project. When CSC acquired GE Capital Information Technology Solutions (GE Capital ITS) late last year, for example, within three months it had moved all the new people onto E-city. It now has to repeat the exercise on a larger scale with 1700 more people coming on board as a result of the BHP IT acquisition. In a technology company, Delooze says, you deliver or die.

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