Shifting gears

".Net or Java?" was an ongoing debate in the early days of web services. But with the maturity of standards, integration of applications developed using these languages is no longer a key technical issue.

Yet development environments still play a critical role for integration at Cascade, a wholly owned PCCW subsidiary that provides technical services and systems for its parent company and regional telcos. The company shifted its programming language from J2EE/CORBA into Microsoft's .Net in 2004, aiming to enable the integration between its ERP and its core operation system, the Project Control System (PCS).

"[The] PCS is one of our mission-critical systems," said Hong Kwok Fai, Cascade's assistant VP, Information Systems. "It automates the process in managing suppliers and contractors, as well as project coordination. Its integration with the ERP is essential for our operations."

Since PCCW used to be a government-owned utility, the process in selecting suppliers was closely monitored to prevent corruption. Developed in the 1970s, the PCS automates the supplier-tendering process and manages payments to reduce human error and interventions, said Hong.

The push factor

Telcos are confronted with an ever-changing business environment. "Our ERP changes continuously," said Hong. "To cope with these changes, our PCS also needs to be adjusted to ensure smooth integration."