Enterprise Architecture Supports Growth of Swiss Railways

23 May 2012

MEGA helps SBB consolidate vital business and IT information and reduce costs

Every year, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) transports 347 million passengers and 50 million tons of freight. As traffic grew, SBB’s biggest challenges were creating more capacity, maintaining the existing rail network sustainably, and decreasing expenses. The initiative reversed the trend of higher IT budgets, consolidated and improved IT resources to meet operations needs, and improved rail service via better business information. To reach these goals, the company focused on improving IT strategy through a company-wide enterprise architecture program, using the MEGA Suite to document and analyst the actual SBB IT landscape.

SBB, renowned for excellent service and punctuality, operates the most densely used rail network in the world; an average of 95 trains run over each kilometer of track every day. Before the EA program, SBB’s challenges were managing growth efficiently and cost-effectively. The system was dealing with capacity and peak-load issues, maintenance needs, and a desire to improve customer communications.
The lack of transparency and IT application portfolio management meant that there were many redundancies, as well as unknown or unmanaged application interfaces. This led to expensive IT maintenance costs, excessive downtime, and low data quality.
The EA program began one evening when much of the nation’s railway network stopped operating because of a power failure. During this incident, SBB managers realized that they understood much less of their IT systems than they thought. Information was kept in spreadsheets, less than adequate for the complexity of the operation. There was no meaningful way to avoid outdated information, duplicate applications, and inefficiencies.

SBB decided to initiate a formal EA program to drive IT improvements. The company wanted a sophisticated EA software solution to provide a complete understanding of operations and IT systems. SBB evaluated several options, and after careful analysis, selected the MEGA Suite.

"We needed a way to align business needs with IT resources and be certain that the IT systems were efficient and cost-effective. MEGA was the right tool to support this process," explained Bernhard Rytz, Chief Architect at SBB.

The MEGA Suitehas been the EA solution of choice for 20 years by organizations that, like SBB, are leaders in their industries. Companies and government agencies use it to improve business performance.

Using the MEGA Suite, the EA team created a central repository of information, as well as a Web portal that is accessible throughout the company for business users. SBB relies on the MEGA repository as the single point of truth for the organization. It contains documents, diagrams, reports, IT service descriptions, forms, templates, and all information on roles, people, and issues. Today, the Web portal has nearly 30,000 page hits each month.
Based on the as-is picture prepared using the MEGA Suite, SBB creates a five-year IT plan, using a to-be view of future needs and expectations. This shows applications that will be retired and those that will be acquired to meet evolving business needs. Annual budgets are then built from the IT plans.
The EA program has helped SBB in several ways.

IT budgets are no longer rising with service expansion, but decreasing
Before EA enabled company-wide IT information, the IT team would deliver all requests, creating redundancies. Now, it is possible to see whether a pre-existing application can fulfill that need. When one group requested a CRM application, the EA team identified an existing one. The net savings was 5 million Swiss francs on the project and 2 million Swiss francs for operating costs.
Because of labor laws in Switzerland, every regulatory change means adapting software. At one time, SBB had more than 20 time sheet applications. It is now consolidated to three, saving several million Swiss francs annually.

"The five-year EA program has helped SBB run a leaner and smarter IT operation and contributed to better customer services and a plan for the future," continued Rytz.

SBB wants to extend its success in IT cost reduction to operations. One of the largest SBB challenges is maintenance of tracks, tunnels, and bridges. Consolidating facilities information that is now kept separately can help the maintenance group better assess and control operations.

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