When it comes to CRM, or any enterprise application for that matter, the government doesn't get the same breadth of functionality from single vendors as the private sector, forcing it to develop best-of-breed applications.
That's why the city of Chicago turned to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to tie together its disparate systems, said chief information officer Chris O'Brien.
A service-oriented architecture is a development style that breaks applications into components that can be stored, accessed and reused via a registry on a network or the Internet. Those services can then be composed into a more complex business process. Enterprises adopt SOAs as a means of making their development more flexible.
"Governments are serving all kinds of customer groups." O'Brien said. "There are few packages that meet our needs in a complete way so we built with best-of-breed applications."
Two years ago, the city enlisted the help of BEA Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., to help with its integration concern. Today, BEA unveiled its initiative to deploy SOA to help customers with process and technical problems. Dubbed the Solution Framework Initiative, the program is based on the WebLogic Platform 8.1 and will focus on five trends: customer service, employee service, service delivery platforms, trade processing and radio frequency identification (RFID). Customer service is the first to launch.
"Typically, you don't think of BEA as a customer service, CRM kind of company," said Mark Atherton, vice president of the enterprise solutions group. "Customers are deploying packaged applications to automate processes. But where they finally touch customers, that tends to be built out through BEA."
BEA hopes to change the views of the elusive customer with a consistent message across channels, Atherton said. For example, BEA can help to build a customized self-service portal where a customer could manage service requests, view and pay bills, or complete transactions.
BEA has provided this service for two years but wanted some customer references before it unveiled the strategy, Atherton said. It will initially launch in four vertical markets -- telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing and government.
The city of Chicago underwent a five-year plan to reinvent its application infrastructure. Today, the city still seeks that one application that provides the functionality it craves, forcing it into working with best-of-breed applications and tying them together, O'Brien said. With BEA, Chicago has been able to vastly reduce coding work from months to a week.
"The results that are most important to me are the speed we can bring new payment functionality online and interface all our systems," O'Brien said. "Those activities are really point and click."