The IT team knew some standards and commercial products wouldn't meet their needs. But they knew it was the right strategic direction.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek

September 8, 2006

3 Min Read

The Payoff

Whether International's SOA work really pays off will depend on what happens next. The promised power of SOAs is reusability, being able to use the same integration framework to share data with partners and customers, as well as among internal apps. The Common Vehicle Tracking system is up and running at one factory, with plans to continue implementing it across the company next year.

International Truck and Engine Corp.

Business: Automotive

HQ: Warrenville, IL

InformationWeek 500 (2006) ranking: 5

Fortune 500 (2006) Ranking: (Parent Co.: Navistar International) 201

BusinessWeek's Global 1200 (2005) Ranking:

Revenue in millions: $11,700

IT Leader: Art Data, VP of IT

Vertical Industry: Automotive

International also is working to make an SOA framework a bigger part of its information sharing with dealers, something that's time consuming and difficult today since they use different management software packages to run their businesses. International already has a centralized server used by 400 dealers, letting them access company apps such as its parts catalogs and sales tools through a Web connection and VPN. Yet dealers also run their own dealer management software systems. So International is working with vendors in the automotive industry to create Web services components for their systems, to standardize how they communicate information. If it works, that will let International give dealers more choices of systems they can use, since it won't require International to build complex custom interfaces for each vendor.

The SOA framework is likely to extend to the vehicles themselves, thanks to telematics and cellular vehicle tracking. The company launched what it calls International Aware last year, combining the vehicle's electronics system, GPS, and cellular technology to send truck owners information on where vehicles are and what they're doing. This allows for features like "geo-fencing," where a fleet manager can request alerts if a vehicle goes off course. If truck-specific data is easier to integrate and share, the possibilities open up quickly. What if Homeland Security or local police could be alerted when extremely hazardous materials wandered off their routes? International estimates a third of trucks will have this technology within six years. "I don't think we know all the doors we're going to open with this," Data says.

Data's a believer in SOA, having seen real results from the vehicle-tracking system. But it was his top managers and architects who pushed it early on as the right choice even though the standards and technology weren't fully mature. Data likens what they did to how International adds new capabilities to its trucks, often testing the limits of existing technology. "We go in with our eyes open," he says. So far, Data and International like what they see.

Return to the 2006 InformationWeek 500 homepage

About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights