Scottish Power achieves 400% ROI on middleware

Scottish Power has achieved 400% return on investment (ROI) on a £7m enterprise application integration (EAI) project to link its...

Scottish Power has achieved 400% return on investment (ROI) on a £7m enterprise application integration (EAI) project to link its diverse IT systems.

External auditors have confirmed that the middleware project has reaped a £30m ROI over five years, as Scottish Power announced a two-year extension of a contract with its middleware supplier Tibco.

The middleware system links previously separate IT components, such as the company's power generation network, customer call centres and Internet-based weather forecasting.

If foul weather brings down powerlines, the power generation system can now tell the customer-facing operation to post a recorded message for customers calling about a power outage.

Scottish Power has been working to integrate its systems since 1995, when deregulation of the electricity industry put pressure on power providers to be more responsive and competitive. David Jones, the company's chief information officer, said, "The middleware is essential to our trading capacity as the need to talk to external systems is a critical competitive factor.

"The major challenges are getting the right architecture in place, getting processes and data modelled efficiently and maintaining a good relationship with the supplier."

Graham Fisher, an analyst at Bloor Research, said, "The obvious benefits of integration are the improvement of information flow and quality through the business.

The challenge involved is proportionate to the number of systems and ensuring data quality - so avoiding a garbage-in/garbage-out result.

"There is more data about than ever these days and more and more businesses have carried out, or are looking at, this type of project."

Benefits for Scottish Power resulting from application integration across the enterprise included the automation of processes across the business and not having to re-work orders on different systems.

The particular challenge of EAI lies in getting different data models in multiple applications to talk to each other. Middleware does this by using "brokers" and "adapters" which sit between applications and translate different data types.

Jones said that despite the received wisdom that a single-supplier approach is appropriate for large applications, the company had opted for best-of-breed solutions from multiple suppliers.

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