CATEGORY: Enterprise Information Portals

REVIEWER: Kent Barth, senior director of e-business development and customer value systems for ArvinMeritor, Inc.

BACKGROUND: As a global supplier of a broad range of integrated systems, modules and components to the motor vehicle industry, ArvinMeritor serves light vehicle, commercial truck, trailer and specialty original equipment manufacturers and related aftermarkets.

PLATFORMS: IBM System 390 platform supporting CICS and COBOL applications with IMS and VSAM databases. IBM AS/400 systems supporting packaged applications such as J.D. Edwards Financials. Windows NT and UNIX systems scattered throughout the enterprise.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our objective in creating an enterprise information portal was to provide business users with a single interface to many types of information. Due to our corporate strategy of growth through acquisition, we needed to be able to accommodate a lot of flexibility in our e-business systems. For example, the Light Vehicle aftermarket (LVA) division resulted from the merger of three independent companies: Maremont for mufflers, Purolator for filters and Gabriel for shock absorbers. Each company had its own IT infrastructure and legacy systems. As part of our overall e-business strategy, we searched for a cross- platform business intelligence and reporting environment that we could use to build a centralized portal for accessing and analyzing information from many back-end systems. We purchased Information Builders' WebFOCUS ETL to move data from one platform to another and to create interfaces. Then we used the WebFOCUS Business Intelligence Environment to create a managed reporting environment and various types of B2B applications. We also used iWay Enterprise Integrator to access various types of data through a common report server.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We used the WebFOCUS Managed Reporting Environment (MRE) to create a centralized report server ­ or portal ­ that supports users throughout the company. The reporting environment points to many types of platforms and data structures, yet users only need to learn one Web- based reporting environment. We also used Web-FOCUS to create B2B e-commerce applications for our suppliers and customers. Data access and conversion of the various back-end databases is performed using enterprise integration technology from iWay Software, a division of Information Builders. The iWay software works behind the scenes to integrate the data and present one interface to users.

STRENGTHS: It took only three months to get the back-end infrastructure in place, develop working reports and train users. We estimate that WebFOCUS ETL cut the time and effort involved with data migration activities by 50 percent. The learning curve for WebFOCUS is very low ­ it's an extremely intuitive product. A query governor ensures that users don't submit large queries against production databases.

WEAKNESSES: The WebFOCUS ETL data migration software is fairly complex to learn and use. We opted to build that competency in house, which involved about three weeks of training for one of our employees.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed a solid back-end infrastructure that would streamline many types of reporting, e-business and decision support activities. Information Builders had the most comprehensive data access and reporting environment available.

DELIVERABLES: There are now 170 employees with WebFOCUS development experience, most of whom are self-taught and have minimal technical training. We use it for accounting and financial reports, task forecasting, customer service, end-of-month billing, quality control, shipping, engineering and purchasing, and the potential is endless. Some people are authorized to create reports and access the database. Others simply read the reports through the intranet portal after they have been posted. We also used WebFOCUS to develop several production applications. For example, within the Exhaust Systems division, we created an e-commerce Web site that allows vendors to obtain payment information, check the status of receipts and receive advanced shipment notifications. We are now creating a wireless reporting architecture using the WebFOCUS Mini Browser enabling option with AvantGo Enterprise. These products allow users to download corporate information with drill-downs directly to their PDAs for viewing away from the office.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Builders has been very good to work with and very responsive to our needs. It is evident that they want us to succeed with these projects.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation, help and training materials are very complete. The information is available in hard copy and electronically and is well integrated into the products.

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