What advantage does a SOA provide for Applebee’s? Why do you think SOA and web services have become so popular in new systems?

Service to Customers
US-based restaurant chain Applebee’s is the largest casual dining
chain in the world and currently has 89 locations in 17 countries
including Italy, Greece and Saudi Arabia. Like many of the large
restaurant chains, Applebee’s maintains specific performance
criteria for its restaurants. These include metrics for the speed
of getting customers in and out of a restaurant, quality of food,
and levels of customer satisfaction. Five hundred of the 1850
restaurants are company owned, and the rest are franchises.
Communication between all Applebee’s restaurants is critical for
maintaining consistent standards across all restaurants. To provide
the most current corporate information to each Applebee’s
restaurant, the company provides portal software from BEA Systems
Inc. The portal software provides a browser interface to different
enterprise applications. Restaurant managers have access to daily
performance records through dashboards in the portal. Upper-level
management at Applebee’s in Overland Park, Kansas, recently became
concerned over some restaurant manager’s complaints about
difficulties in keeping up with constantly evolving menus and
corporate policies. Managers felt that they were required to spend
too much time monitoring performance using the corporate portal
software. Applebee’s launched a systems investigation to learn more
about the complaints and to determine the feasibility of providing
a fix. Systems analysts found that the complexity of using the
dashboard systems was too much for most managers. To access
performance statistics and metrics, managers were faced with “a sea
of information these managers are supposed to weed through every
day”, explained Patty Cutter, Applebee’s IT project manager. What’s
more, when metrics for performance standards indicated that a
restaurant was substandard, the manager would have to phone
Applebee’s headquarters to learn strategies for improvement – a
process that was time-consuming for both manager and
supervisor.
With a full understanding of the problem, Patty Cutter and fellow
systems analysts set out to perform the analysis to define how the
problem could be addressed through the development of a new system.
They determined that an ideal system should:
• Provide managers with the latest menu specifications along with
instructions on how to execute any changes.
• Provide managers with alerts whenever the restaurant’s
performance in a specific area falls below the corporate threshold,
eliminating the need for managers to dig through a ‘sea of
information’.
• Provide suggested action plans with each alert that provides
steps the manager should take to rise to corporate standards,
eliminating the need to phone headquarters.
• Provide flexibility within the system so that software in all
restaurants can be changed and updated from headquarters to reflect
changes within the organization.
With a clear view of what the new system should do, Patty Cutter
consulted with BEA Systems to see if the company that provided the
original portal software could provide a solution that would meet
the new organizational needs and general corporate goals.
Developers at BEA Systems recommended their AquaLogic HiPer
Workspace for Retail software as an ideal solution. The AquaLogic
software uses a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) that would
provide the flexibility that Applebee’s wanted. The software is a
composite application that can use web services to quickly notify
store managers when a restaurant isn’t meeting certain performance
criteria, and provide possible solutions to the problem. An added
advantage is that the AquaLogic software is designed to work with
the portal software already installed in all Applebee’s. Applebee’s
is rolling out a production version of the new application for its
portal to its 500 company-owned restaurants. After being fully
tested in those restaurants, the software will be recommended to
each of the company’s 1350 franchise restaurants. The company views
the software as a big time-saver for its managers. “It is extremely
important to us that we minimize the amount of time our managers
are spending behind a computer”, said Frank Ybarra, associate
director of communications at Applebee’s. What makes this an ideal
solution is that it saves manager’s time, while actually improving
their ability to maintain Applebee’s high standards. 5
Questions
3. What advantage does a SOA provide for Applebee’s? Why
do you think SOA and web services have become so popular in new
systems?
4. What benefit(s) did Applebee’s gain by choosing BEA Systems to
design the new system?

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