SAN DIEGO -- When Patrick Piccininno joined IHOP Corp. as the company's CIO, he quickly learned that the International House of Pancakes was about more than maple syrup. Demographic trends, spending patterns and customer preferences were all constant areas of research for IHOP executives.
But the company's complex and disparate systems couldn't tell upper management exactly which products were most favored by customers at IHOP's 1,300 franchises. The company had five different sales system, and the information contained in them wasn't being cleansed or synchronized.
That's when IHOP ordered Oracle's new Customer Data Hub.
"We wanted to find ways to try and pull information from the different sources, so we migrated to the Customer Data Hub strategy," Piccininno said.
Customer Data Hub is a Web services-based product, launched by Oracle to help make its business management applications more compatible with other business systems. The product is designed to help companies gather information from Oracle systems and other business systems and store it in one place.
The Customer Data Hub uses Web services to talk to incompatible applications and create a single recording system for customer data, such as customer orders and service history.
Over the course of 90 days, IHOP set up its data hub, consolidating its systems and connecting all of its restaurants to a central hub in Glendale, Calif.
"Only ... a few months ago we were having each of our restaurants dial up to the system," Piccininno said. "Now we've got better knowledge of our customers, and we know how to sell more pancakes to our customers."
Oracle lends database strength to new strategy
Ron Wohl, Oracle's executive vice president of applications development, said that using legacy systems is often unavoidable for many companies. Oftentimes, those companies lack the money necessary to update multiple outdated systems or to migrate to Oracle. Speaking at a presentation at this week's Oracle AppsWorld conference, Wohl explained Oracle's data integration strategy.
"The simplest way is indeed implementing a single database locally," Wohl said. "Our approach allows companies to go at their own pace, and in their own time they can migrate to our E-Business Suite."
Although Oracle is lagging behind some of its competitors in the business applications software business, the company is quickly catching up to SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc. when it comes to using Web services to integrate systems, said Uttam Narsu, vice president of research at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.
"Oracle had initial forays in Web services a couple of years back and [has] learned a lot since that time," Narsu said. "Since they put out their 10g products, their integration functionality has been surprising. They've accomplished more in a short amount of time."
Oracle said it is taking a different approach than competing enterprise application vendors by using its database and technology infrastructure as a foundation for the centralization tool.
"Oracle is one of the few vendors that has both an applications stack as well as the architecture to support it, and that's why they've caught up so quickly," Narsu said. "SAP, by contrast, came primarily from the applications world, and they are just building out the infrastructure."
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