United Utilities avoids £4m hand-coding costs

United Utilities expects to avoid £4m on the cost of a major ITchange programme by using integration tools to knit together...

United Utilities expects to avoid £4m on the cost of a major IT change programme by using integration tools to knit together applications from a number of disparate systems.

The "Connect" project will take place over the next two years and will see the company - created from the merger of Norweb and North West Water - ditch numerous legacy systems and move to integrate its data across a number of best-of-breed applications.

These will be linked with Webmethods enterprise application integration tools and run on Solaris on Sunfire 15K datacentre servers. Field workers will be linked to work-scheduling and feedback systems via 2,000 mobile handsets.

Howard Stamp, United Utilities' manager of IS strategy, said, "The key driver for the project is to enable us to become a multi-utility company. Our legacy systems had come to the end of their life and so we decided to go ahead with a large change programme. By using EAI tools, we expect to avoid costs of about £4m that we would have incurred if we had stuck to hand-cutting code to link applications."

Because of the separate histories of the two sides of the company, data relating to water and electricity businesses is held on discrete systems, as is data for the customer-facing and infrastructure work-scheduling sides of the business.

The legacy systems largely depend on batch processing and this limits the availability of real-time information and hampers synchronisation between them. They will be replaced with best-of-breed applications for work scheduling, CRM and field work, which are currently out to tender.

Stamp said the company chose the Gartner "people, process, technology" model when designing its system. The development work will be shared between United Utilities in the UK and Tata in Calcutta, India.

The first proof-of-concept applications will go live later this year and the project is expected to be completed in two years.

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