Collins Aviation goes off-site to build CRM solution

By Christie Vincent, ITworld.com |  Software

IT managers at Collins Aviation Services, a seller of aviation equipment and a division of Rockwell Collins, wanted to make their e-commerce site more competitive by offering a full time e-store. To quickly accomplish this goal, the company enlisted Hewlett-Packard and its E-services Institute.

HP founded the institute, located in Ontario, Calif., as a consulting facility where experts work with customers to build and test Internet and e-commerce applications. IT departments concerned with long on-site consultant engagements may find merit in the approach.

Collins Aviation had an SAP back-end ordering system for its customers, but the link to the back end was not automated. Customer orders were taken over the phone, by mail, or by fax. That caused a great variation in response times to orders. For example, telephone calls might be responded to more quickly than letters or faxes.

Rockwell Collins had been a longtime customer of Hewlett-Packard. Dave Fastenow, director of "lean electronics" and e-business at Collins Aviation Services, said that the company consulted different vendors about the project. However, he said HP's E-services Institute was the only group that assured Collins Aviation that it could accomplish the task in the required amount of time. The project was completed in 3 months.

According to Wil Snyder, general manager at the institute, the job was completed so quickly because the system was not developed at the Collins Aviation facility, but at the institute.

Snyder said it can be distracting for clients to learn and develop a new system while pursuing their everyday job. By gathering users and HP consultants together in one location with a single goal, he said, it was completed more rapidly.

"It gives you that focus," Snyder said. "On average, we can take what could be a 6-month project and make it a 5-month project. It varies, but that's what we're seeing in general,"

The institute has no permanent staff, only a baseline support group. HP brings in consultants from around the world on an as-needed basis, after initially scoping the overall project.

Snyder claimed that while other companies -- like IBM Global Services, application service provider (ASP) hosting organizations, and other specialized companies -- provide similar services, they don't assist with the entire project like HP does.

"We do everything from end to end: the networks, hardware, training," Snyder said.

The new system automates the integration between the back end of Collins Aviation's SAP ordering system. HP Consulting used BroadVision's One-to-One Enterprise platform and Business Commerce application to build the e-store. CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) was also used as a structure for defining the interface between naming, directory, transaction, and other components.

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