Waging Long Distance Wars From The Back Office

In 1986, the year their company lost $448 million, the senior executives of MCI Communications Corp. decided to go on a spending binge. That was daring in troubled times. Even more daring, the money went for mundane back-office computer systems. But that investment is really paying off. By spending an estimated $300 million to replace its creaky computer systems with some of the most advanced in the industry, MCI is able to offer services that other carriers can't easily match. Computers made it possible, for example, for MCI to offer big-company billing services to smaller businesses, as well as a consumer discount plan called Friends & Family, launched on Mar. 18. So extensive is the modernization that James L. Zucco Jr., senior vice-president for systems engineering, describes MCI's phone network as one big "computer with long wires."

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