Bekins Moves to SOA

The van line gets a makeover of its enterprise application architecture

Bekinsmovestosoa 10269365
By William Atkinson

Recently Bekins Van Lines worked with Infosys Technologies Limited to transform its enterprise application architecture to support new business channels and growth opportunities. Bekins, based in Hillside, Ill., is one of North America's largest integrated networks, and provides services for the movement of household, trade show, high value and military goods. Infosys defines, designs and delivers IT-enabled business solutions.

Out With the Old - In With the New

The timing was right for the change, says Randy Valentino, chief technology officer and vice president of information for Bekins. "Bekins has gone through some changes in the last five to seven years because of market conditions, plus selling off a couple of businesses that weren't part of our core strategy," he explains. These changes led to an imbalance of IT cost structure compared to the revenue base. "As a result, we wanted to reduce the cost of IT, especially as it related to hardware, software, maintenance and personnel," he states. At the time, Bekins was operating in a mainframe environment, which ended up being relatively costly.

"Our goal was to migrate all of our business applications off of an IBM mainframe environment into a Web environment using an SOA [service-oriented architecture] to modernize the applications," continues Valentino.

Jason Richard, associate vice president with the logistics unit at Infosys, adds, "Bekins was facing a challenge that a lot of companies face — a lot of complex applications that were tied to a platform that the company didn't want to be on anymore."

Why did Bekins select Infosys for this change? "We were looking for someone that had experience doing this type of complete system migration off of a mainframe," replies Valentino. "A lot of solution partners have done some applications, but there aren't too many that can do a complete, large-scale migration that Infosys can."

Richard says Bekins demonstrated a compelling business case for making the move. "They came to us because we had a process for it, and it is something we had done before," he explains. In addition, he notes, a lot of companies look at a platform migration as something that costs a lot of money, but doesn't necessarily create business benefits. Infosys had a way to engage in the migration, while, at the same time, adding new benefits.

The Solution

Working with Infosys, Bekins was able to modernize all its critical operational quote-to-cash logistics systems from a 25-year-old legacy platform to an SOA workflow-based system in an aggressive timeframe of 18 months. During that time, it was able to maintain business continuity.

To make the change, Infosys implemented its Logistics Legacy Modernization framework, along with deep logistics and distribution industry domain expertise, allowing it to execute the project in the highly aggressive timeframe of 18 months.

According to Infosys, the Legacy Modernization framework enables modernization and achieves accelerated time-to-market at a reduced cost. Best practices of Legacy Modernization include:

  • Assessment of application portfolio through top-down business and technology maps and bottom-up code analysis.
  • Solution definition through tailored SOA and detailed asset analysis.
  • Reverse engineering followed by forward engineering.

The reverse and forward engineering elements were particularly useful. "Bekins' applications were quite old — about 20-plus years," notes Richard. In fact, some of the applications had been in place longer than a lot of the IT staff had been with the company. As such, one challenge was the ability to extract the business knowledge embedded in these systems to make sure that the new platform could continue to perform these functions appropriately. "We did some reverse engineering in order to capture the business rules out of the legacy applications," he continues. "Some of this involved going through mainframe code line by line."

An easy solution would have been to simply take the mainframe solution as it was, rewrite it, provide Bekins with the new version, but not offer any new improvements. Instead, Infosys took the information that it gleaned from the reverse engineering, presented it to Bekins, and asked: "This is what your current legacy system does. Is that what you want it to do?" It also turned out that there were opportunities to simplify things and remove pieces that were no longer necessary. "In sum, we worked to add value for them," notes Richard. "It wasn't just a platform switch."

Results and Benefits

As a result of the transformation, Bekins has eliminated significant system inefficiencies, leading to improved business processes and reduction in IT costs. "In addition, the application itself is more nimble and easier to understand," adds Richard. "From a risk perspective, Bekins is now on a platform that is more flexible and allows the company some options should they need to exercise these."

The flexible SOA platform facilitates easier integration with external service providers and channel partners, including Internet-based lead generation with core shipment and transportation execution systems, as well as management of the sales process from prospecting to order booking and rating.

"Now that the entire system is Web-based, we are able to start taking advantage of the SOA architecture by building in sales and marketing programs," adds Valentino. For example, through, the company is able to take prospects who are interested in quotes or estimates, use it as a front-end Web-based system to schedule appointments, etc., all the way through getting booked and final delivery.

Cost savings are another benefit. In fact, Bekins has already cut IT costs over 60 percent through reduced maintenance, license, system hardware and branch communication costs. "Our goal was to reduce IT cost by 52 percent," notes Valentino. "We actually ended up being able to reduce cost of IT by 63 percent, primarily because of the ability to eliminate a considerable amount of IT infrastructure and resulting cost." According to Valentino, Bekins is saving over $3 million of IT spend on an annual spend basis.

In sum: "The success of this project has not only delivered a highly flexible and efficient IT infrastructure, it has positioned our business for future growth opportunities," concludes Valentino.

About the Author: William Atkinson is a freelance writer based in Carterville, Ill.