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Speed-to-start-state may trump best-of-breed when prioritizing integration

We read about business mergers every day. We know that corporate mergers are both the most common and the most difficult challenge that enterprise and software architects face. No doubt, when seeking to create a merged platform, it can be tempting to try to cherry-pick the best technologies from each camp. But, in a recent project undertaken by the newly merged Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, leaders decided to forgo this type of 'best-of-breed' approach.

Instead of following a natural team tendency to pick the best and most creative applications for migration, said Theresa M.H. Wise, Delta CIO, the company chose to focus on an application's value to the end-user, and the speed with which the application could be ready to run across the merged airlines' systems. Wise discussed her tips for successful services integrations at HP Software Universe 2010 in Washington, D.C.

"We tried to capture the best technologies the two companies had to offer, until we compared it to how long [it would take]," she said.

"One of our most important scorecards measured 'business readiness,''' said Wise. "It became part of very deliberate ''go/no go'' decisions.'' By adhering to a practical formula that equated the value of the application with the ability to quickly rebuild it for use by newly integrated Delta and Northwest systems, the IT effort was able to make solid decisions. Wise cited the creation of a single combined frequent flyer program platform in less than

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a year as an example of a highly visible project in which the ''value/speed'' equation guided efforts.

"The most challenging thing was selecting the right starting state systems," she said.

There are a lot of measures one can use to prioritize projects, Wise said, citing revenue generation potential and efficiency potential among a host of possible deciders. For their part, Wise and her team chose "speed-to-a-starting-date" as a very key factor. Wise said she and her teamed rallied their overall project around the values of global access and seamless customer experience. This had to be accomplished, of course, without stopping everyday operations.

"It was critical to offer expanded services, but what we needed IT delivered in a way that didn't make base operations of either airline at risk,'' she said. Wise cited HP Radia Desktop Management software, HP Service Center services manager and a variety of HP testing tools as useful during the course of Delta-Northwest integration work, work that is continuing now as the combined airlines look at application modernization.

"Service Manager supports major components of our ITIL process and has given us a common language as we work through the integration," said Wise.

This was first published in June 2010

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