Sensis builds transformation on integration

Telstra subsidiary Sensis (formerly Pacific Access) is tackling an IT integration project to enable systems to "talk" to each other.

As well as producing its flagship products the Yellow Pages and White Pages, Sensis is undergoing a transformation to be a content business offering Internet, voice and interactive mapping services.

The company recently acquired the CitySearch brand and according to Object Consulting chief architect Peter Richardson, who is overseeing the project, Sensis collects a breadth of information about its users which is applied across a number of applications including traditional printed directories, online and voice and wireless.

To support the change in direction, Richardson said it was necessary to ensure that existing major systems could be moulded to fit the new services and business processes, which meant integrating those systems.

To integrate its mobile sales force, call centre and other customer interactions to provide a customer-centric view of the entire customer relationship, Sensis upgraded its core systems and capabilities for its print products -- the White Pages and Yellow Pages.

The company also started consolidating its customer interaction processes around Siebel's customer relationship management (CRM) product.

"To ensure that all parts of the business operate on consistent customer and product information, Sensis decided to integrate the systems one at a time, with a long-term view of total business integration using a mature platform and comprehensive infrastructure that minimises future integration effort," Richardson said.

Sensis has one large core system called New Gen, by Amdocs, which manages the Yellow Pages products. In future, Sensis wants to use all the information in the New Gen system to generate and improve its online presence.

"We've been addressing how to get the big Siebel package to interact with the very specific system, New Gen. We've been helping undertake the integration and getting Siebel to interoperate. It was a known issue when Sensis chose Siebel that it would need to be integrated with New Gen which had to be kept," Richardson said.

Using Tibco ActiveEnterprise software as the enterprise application integration (EAI) platform, Richardson said the project was not just "any old EAI project".

Of all the potential complicated aspects of a project, this one had them all, Richardson said.

"It's a thing of beauty -- all physical challenges bundled into one. The most fundamental of those challenges is the mismatching information models; there is quite a lot of overlapping information. Normally it is a matter of mapping, but in this case, the mismatches between the Siebel product and New Gen are so substantial."

To alleviate mismatching, Richardson said a "'CBOM" (Common Business Object Model) was established to define a common language for the systems' communication.

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