British Sky Broadcasting operates Sky Digital, the UK’s largest subscription TV service, and is intent on positioning itself as the leading triple play provider, supplying customers with broadcast TV, home telephony and broadband services.

But because the business environment is becoming increasingly competitive, customer expectations are rising and the technology budget is being cut for the first time, the company is focusing its efforts on two key areas – improving customer service and boosting efficiency in order to do more with less.

In the customer service arena, BSkyB is currently integrating its disparate CRM applications by using a business process management engine at the back-end and a portal at the front end. The project will be based on a service-oriented architecture approach.

Didier Lebrat, the organisation’s CTO explains: “Rather than cut and paste or manually navigate through different systems, call centre agents will get everything on a single screen and processes will be automated based on rules to provide a better customer experience.”

Currently the CRM system is at the centre of a £709 million lawsuit, filed by BSkyB against IT outsourcing provider EDS, which, it claims, failed to deliver on its contractual obligations.

In order to reduce the number of expensive call centre queries, meanwhile, the organisation is also concentrating on improving the usability of the e-commerce and e-services capabilities on its web site – something that is considered increasingly necessary as its product range continues to expand.

Work is likewise taking place at the back-end system level to make it easier to support new offerings. For example, in a couple of month’s time, BSkyB will launch a new set-top box that supports high-definition content.

But another focus is on improving quality of service. As a result, the organisation is deploying a range of network management systems to enhance the monitoring and automatic tuning of customer lines in order to boost both speed and reliability.

On the cost-cutting side of the equation, it is about half-way through a two-year programme to consolidate its 20 data centres down to two, one in Amsterdam and the other in the south of England. It is also starting to replace existing Unix systems with cheaper Linux ones running on commodity hardware where possible.

But the firm has also brought its IT and broadcast TV technology teams together and created a new internet team. The aim is to ensure that they “operate very efficiently and deliver at the speed required in that environment” and to this end, BSkyB is progressively rolling out Agile application development methods to replace existing waterfall ones where feasible.