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SIDEBAR: Madness into Method

New tools are helping Toll to speed up the integration process

As Toll Holdings continues on its acquisition trail, there will be a host of challenges for IT and solutions development manager Andrew Rossington. He says the decision to purchase webMethods is designed to give Toll a platform enabling it to integrate new systems quickly.

"WebMethods is a piece of middleware and a bit more," Rossington says. "There's two components to the product set: the EAI [enterprise application integration] component and the B2B component, and essentially they are there to allow you to integrate various disparate systems easily at a data level and a transaction and functionality level.

"Bringing that platform in-house means we look at the IT part of acquisitions in a different way now." Previously, when acquiring a new company, there were two choices: either run concurrent systems until Toll was ready to migrate users into the Toll system or turn off the acquired system immediately. Now Toll can integrate an existing system into its production system and then slowly migrate off it or, where the system provides unique functionality, maintain the system and use webMethods to provide integration at transaction layer and a data layer between the two systems.

That work is by no means complete, Rossington says, with three major systems currently having some cross-functionality.

"We'll bring that down to two, very shortly," he says. "Then the remaining two, we will integrate between them and keep the second one going for quite some time, because it offers some specific things that we really don't want to put in our core freight management system. It's for internal and external customers, but mainly it's about joining the internal systems up in order then to give a better level of service to our external customers."

SIDEBAR: Little 'e' and the Holdings Company

Customers are the cornerstone of Toll's e-business strategy

Toll Holdings' e-business vision seeks to harness the potential of Internet-based trading to redefine the physical tasks of warehousing and distribution, especially in the food and beverages sector. By combining its logistics expertise with the most advanced systems, Toll says it is helping customers take advantage of these opportunities.

The company has embraced four key strategies in the drive to achieve its e-business vision. 1. A transport and logistics information network to enable information sharing among businesses in the logistics chain. 2. An integrated purchasing and fulfilment function to make it easier and more cost effective for customers to do business with Toll and with their own customer base. 3. Alliances with global partners to assist Toll to develop the necessary information networks, while partnerships with software providers are already giving Toll the means to develop industry and customer-specific solutions. 4. Investment in technology ventures to add value to Toll's service capabilities.

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