Flexibility key for ZIIC

Zamil Industrial Investment Company wanted flexibility in its IT infrastructure to service growing demand both at home and abroad.

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By  Sherief Younis Published  January 3, 2007

|~|AbdulRahman-Thehaiban-200.jpg|~|Al Theiban: "ZIIC realised it needed to integrate diverse apps and improve business process monitoring.|~|The Zamil Industrial Investment Company (ZIIC) has implemented Oracle’s service-oriented architecture (SOA) suite as part of a strategic business plan addressing the company’s aspirations for global expansion. These plans, plus increasing service demand from abroad and the rapid development of the Saudi Arabian market, means, investing in Oracle Fusion middleware, a SOA based infrastructure, is in line with the firm's plans to streamline its business processes and provide enhanced communication between sites. “ZIIC management looked at their current business model as they mapped their growth plans for the coming years, and realised that they needed to integrate diverse applications and improve business process monitoring,” says Abdul Rahman Al Theiban, vice president at Oracle Saudi Arabia. Already an Oracle end user, ZIIC decided to re-write its existing in-house systems to take advantage of a SOA, enabling each module to be linked with any ERP. Utilising a plug and play concept, the SOA enabled the company to automatically transport information between locations and this principle has been important to the immediate success of the solution. “We are converting our application layer to an XP-based concept in a way that we can transport information from one place to another and it will automatically plug and play. Otherwise we need to write a driver for each XP system we have to make it work. SOA is the plug and play concept that was being used at a hardware level and is now being used at a software level,” explains Zaki Sabbagh, chief information officer at ZIIC. Additionally, the implementation of the Oracle Fusion middleware at a host location means a single engine can manage any of the company’s sites using a ‘master and slave’ concept, thus centralising the business process. “As a business initiative, we wanted the factory that we have in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the UAE to be managed, and report to our facility in Saudi Arabia,” Sabbagh explains. “So the facility running RAK will be running as a slave to the master we have in Saudi Arabia. The planning will be done here in KSA and the execution will be done in the UAE.” Driven by an aggressive strategic plan that has seen ZIIC export to more than 80 markets, the company implemented Oracle’s Fusion middleware, integrating it with its existing in-house systems. IT benefits such as reduced development time, fewer complexities and reduced risk were additional incentives, but lower maintenance and integration costs also prompted the SOA implementation. “The business case has driven the SOA project. We could not go with the portal we had without having SOA. We could not go for that business model without having the SOA otherwise it would have become too complex. “Now ZIIC uses a shared service model that’s supporting 13 business units with most of them in KSA. We are one IT organisation, supporting multiple sites through one data centre. We have a completely integrated infrastructure and for the applications we have one hosting location running Oracle ERP on 11i,” Sabbagh adds. With a clear business objective, the ease of integration with existing systems and a fundamental ideology behind its SOA, ZIIC was able to directly address its geographical growth through streamlining communication and improving the transportation of information between the company’s multiple sites. “The SOA will go to our multiple sites and pick up the information and then the system will automatically take the information and transport it to whatever site it needs to go to. The SOA will facilitate the geographical integration we need,” Sabbagh says. Employing more than 6,500 people in 55 countries, ZIIC is responsible for a number of construction industry companies and nine strategic business units. ZIIC’s implementation of Oracle’s SOA suite ensured the provision of up-to-date business information and real time interaction across the group. “With the geographical spread of our offices, we required a flexible solution that leveraged a SOA-based infrastructure to remain modular but remove the barriers between information flow around the company. This has vastly improved the ability of our regional and international offices to act quickly on business opportunities, which will drive our expansion plans and commitment to the overall growth of the company,” says Sabbagh. In addition to its existing sites, there are plans to open four additional factories over the next two years while continuing production expansion in KSA. Streamlining processes between sites is key for the company in both the long and short term and the selection of Oracle’s SOA is expected to fulfil both immediate objectives and be flexible enough for future requirements. A result of improved communication between sites has been an increase in on-site capability. Real time information has enabled different sites to enhance decision-making, and as a result of centralisation the company is now able to provide a number of functions at any given site. Oracle’s presence in the Kingdom was a pivotal reason underpinning ZIIC’s selection of the vendor’s SOA solution. With a working experience of Oracle and its applications, the company knew it could rely on localised support and integrating the new SOA into the existing system would be relatively seamless. “We chose Oracle because part of our IT strategy is to standardise. All our enterprises we have here are Oracle-based so it becomes one environment and is easy to administrate, integrate and is fully compatible. The integration was done internally; we didn’t bring in a third party company. We worked together with Oracle and they brought in consultancy for proof of concept first and then we learned it internally and continued the implementation,” Sabbagh explains. “Leveraging the full consultancy, support and training options from the local Oracle Saudi team gave ZIIC the opportunity to ensure that its entire team was conversant with the solutions. Closely integrated with the existing systems the Oracle solution delivered minimal disruption, with maximum results,” Al Theiban adds. Having established an improved, flexible IT structure, the company also expects that the programme will provide a return on investment (ROI) in the long term. The initial investment in the SOA produced an immediate ROI, but the company highlights three stages of ROI accumulation: the lowered cost of integration, the re-usable nature of the application and the agility of the business strategy. The implementation of a SOA also removes the need for advanced integration skills within the company, while the adaptability of the programme also safeguards the IT infrastructure from unnecessary and potentially expensive updates in the future. The re-usable nature of the application also allows the company to measure prospective ROI against the existing costs of implementing the system. In contrast, the agility of the business can only be gauged once the system is fully implemented. “It’s not a direct or straightforward mathematical formula for us, because it’s an ongoing project and it’s process based. We have for each factory ten to 18 processes to be implemented. "There is no need to develop integration because of the SOA. The cost of integration was extremely high but because of SOA, there is no cost of integration – it is just plug and play and with that concept we are now re-using the application,” Sabbagh says. The Oracle solution is still a work in progress with only two processes currently running between ZIIC’s Indian and UAE offices. But the intention is to have between ten and 15 processes running by the end of 2007. Having delivered ROI so early in the project’s development ZIIC remains confident that the SOA solution will deliver on the company’s objectives. “We haven’t seen the full potential yet. SOA is still brand new and hasn’t reached its full maturity and is being developed. Very few companies have their packages SOA enabled, but for us SOA is essential,” says Sabbagh.||**||

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