British American Tobacco (BAT) is the second largest quoted tobacco group in the world, operating in 180 countries and producing brands including Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall.
To support this sizeable operation, the company currently has 64 enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms worldwide, some of the largest of which have over 2,000 applications. Integration has typically been achieved using EAI (enterprise application integration) technology and Microsoft Operation Manager (MOM).
However, in 2002 BAT began searching for ways to increase the integration both within and between the company’s different business units, and between its applications processes and people. To this end, the IT team at BAT in the UK decided to look at implementing a new infrastructure based around service-oriented architecture (SOA).
“The existing infrastructure was costly and slow to implement,” says Kevin Poulter, BAT’s application technology manager. “Our business was demanding further integration and we could only achieve this with significant additional investment. We needed a vision to act as a focus for our future integration strategy, and with web technologies moving to the top of most vendors agendas, SOA presented itself as the emerging marketplace technology.”
Having decided that SOA was the right technology to invest in, Poulter and his team embarked on a step-by-step development. The first task was to devise the architectural vision that would underpin SOA. This broke down into three layers: Business Systems built around Java, XML and EAI; Business Services, which grouped together process management, SOA and activity monitoring; and finally Business Interaction, which housed BAT’s portals, its B2B services and its managed business networks.
Having settled on the structure, Poulter and his team selected a proof-of-concept project. “We developed a supply chain dashboard for our businesses in the UK and Ireland,” says Poulter. “Both wanted to improve the way they tracked and managed sales, forecasts, stock levels and lead time, and SOA allowed us to integrate these applications and prove the technology.” The dashboard, which uses Microsoft .Net and J2EE, contains 25 separate screens and was implemented in 10 weeks by a team of just two people.
The next step was to take the pilot to various IT leaders throughout the organisation and find an advocate for SOA’s use on a wider scale. By late 2003 the integration technology had been endorsed as the company’s core architecture vision by BAT’s Global Technology Governance Council, and by mid 2004 it had begun to mobilise for company-wide SOA implementation.
The first fruit of this effort is the Enterprise Service Registry in Hamburg, which is due to go live in early November 2004; a registry or brokerage that is visible to users worldwide. “Users can request items such as policy updates from anywhere around the globe,” says Polter, “and the documents, once received, can be cached locally.”
Following the successful implementation of the Hamburg system, BAT is now looking to move more developments towards SOA, rather than having old ones retrofitted. “This will apply to local applications in addition to those at enterprise level,” says Poulter. “The true benefits of SOA will only emerge when we shift focus away from technology architecture to business architecture. Once we have, new business processes will evolve and will be supported in a more agile way.”