Code conversion saves BSkyB £12m

Television company BSkyB has completed an £8m IT conversion project to upgrade its core airtime sales system, in a move that the...

Television company BSkyB has completed an £8m IT conversion project to upgrade its core airtime sales system, in a move that the broadcaster estimates has saved it £12m and two years' development time compared to industry norms.

Using automated software conversion techniques, rather than rolling out new systems, could save companies across all sectors millions of pounds, according to consultants from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, which implemented the project in partnership with BSkyB.

"Many companies squander time and money on new systems when they would do better to revitalise their heritage IT," said Ian McWilliams, head of business development at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young subsidiary Telecom Media Networks.

The core airtime sales system, which manages the advertising revenues from more than 100 TV channels, would have taken three years and £20m to develop from scratch, said Dan Beckett, business relationship manager at BSkyB.

The conversion project, which has seen the company's entire multimodule system converted from a legacy programming language and database system to Oracle client/server technology - improving flexibility and scalability - has enabled BSkyB to maximise its current investments, he said.

"There is sometimes a tendency to think that new is better when this is not necessarily the case," Beckett said. "Conversion can help companies get a better strategic foothold, with a lower risk and lower budget."

Data migration from legacy systems - even with conversion projects - is often complex, and this was an issue BSkyB addressed early, Beckett said.

"A lot of data conversion for the new systems was conducted up-front as part of our six-month pilot," he said. "And to reduce training, the GUI [graphical user interface] has exactly the same layout, although the functionality is much better."

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