Yellow Pages NZ eyes social content, SOA

Social networks and collaboration for business, not just for show

New Zealand's incumbent business directory service, the Yellow Pages Group (YPG), is transforming its software infrastructure to enable its customers to personalize Web sites and leverage third-party content via SOA.

Since its sale by Telecom New Zealand in May, YPG inherited a suite of enterprise applications, from HR to billing systems, and began looking for global best practice to improve its operations.

According to CIO Karl Wright, YPG's transformation has been rapid with IT delivering a three-year roadmap in a nine-month timeframe.

High on Wright's agenda is customization of content for both staff and customers, and he is looking at a Facebook-style portal where enterprise content can be fed to landing pages, which is staff moderated.

YPG is using Vignette to allowed customers to publish content, which now goes live within 20 minutes. Real-time changes are possible but that is not desired.

"Users can manage the content we allow them to manage," Wright said, adding a lot of the content changes at between two and three in the morning.

"Good plumbers are hard to find so it allows users to rate plumbers. This tends to be self-moderating in the end."

Visiting Sydney for the Vignette Village user conference, Wright said more self-service content management does translate into cost savings, but the primary reason is to get people working in a more collaborative way.

With some 650 staff and 40 to 60 in IT, including contractors, the YPGroup is not new to Vignette having used the software for five years but only recently upgraded to 7.4 in September.

One of its legacy systems, an Enterprise Plus Adobe Ilustrator pagination machine, has been in use since 1988, but it is being moved to an Oracle database as part of the transformation.

"For legacy systems we have to write connectors, and while Vignette doesn't have the exact connectors, it has similar connectors that can be customized," Wright said.

Wright is confident Vignette and Oracle "play well together".

YPG has also moved to a SOA for integration with third parties, using XML and Web services.

"SOA is not a nirvana but we have looked at the concepts and applied them to the business," Wright said.

YPG has also adopted videoconferencing for its sales staff and a separate address book application that is replicated with exchange.

On business and IT relationships, Wright said CEOs and CFOs are becoming more technology literate, and CIOs are becoming more business literate.

"A CIO that can talk markets is more useful to an organization than one that has their head buried in some Windows 2000 server," Wright said.

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