BACKGROUND: Herman Miller is a leading multinational provider of office furniture and services that support work environments. It is a publicly held company headquartered in Zeeland, Michigan, employing 8,000 employees in more than 40 countries. Herman Miller has long been recognized as a leader in innovation. Herman Miller has been cited in The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America and A Passion for Excellence. Fortune magazine has also listed it among the "Most Admired Companies" in the United States and among the "100 Best Companies to Work For." In 1998, Herman Miller was cited by IndustryWeek magazine as one of the "World's 100 Best-Managed Companies."

PLATFORMS: Microsoft NT operating system, Intel-based server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Herman Miller's objective was to enable online access to an in-house ERP system and connect other multiple data sources in a single browser ­ with a minimum of development effort. The need for real-time access to the live information contained in the ERP application was of paramount importance.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Herman Miller deployed TopTier Software's Enterprise Integration Portal (EIP), also known as Baan Data Navigator Plus, for a supplier self-service portal. TopTier's EIP extends the unstructured hypertext abilities of the Internet with a structured data navigation experience through a single browser window that accesses multiple data sources. The EIP uses patented point-of-view navigation, enabling users to find information very quickly and easily make logical discoveries by dragging and dropping hyperlink information attributes onto desired views. The EIP is tightly integrated with Herman Miller's established Baan ERP application, allowing consistent security and business process functionality between the two environments.

STRENGTHS: The TopTier Enterprise Integration Portal offers ease of use, ease of deployment and ERP-centric implementation. The TopTier EIP is ERP centric to quickly provide the views, analysis and information that Herman Miller required to get started.

WEAKNESSES: When we first started working with TopTier Soft-ware, the product did not support secure sockets (HTTPS) because it was originally intended for Internet use only. The company now fully supports HTTPS, and we are taking full advantage of the additional security.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Herman Miller needed tight integration and affinity with our Baan ERP application. The company also needed to provide simplified, secure supplier self-service lookup and ad hoc analysis. Herman Miller required a portal company that could minimize development effort, work closely with systems integrators such as Deloitte Consulting who were already in house, could move into production very quickly and scale to meet the needs of entire supplier base.

DELIVERABLES: The key deliverable was a new supplier self-service portal application specifically for Herman Miller. The application consists of a collection of secure and personalized components that can be interrelated to form ad hoc and dynamic views based on the navigation of the end users (suppliers). These components can be authored by Herman Miller professionals or by the supplier end-user community themselves. Views such as inventory position, order status and order financials are all securely accessible over the Web. The views are all HTML based and require no significant modifications of the supplier's browser or enterprise. We are also considering navigable reports and advanced portal functionality such as searching, collaboration and enhanced personalization.

VENDOR SUPPORT: TopTier Software support included sales engineering support for the TopTier implementation as well as some aspects of the Baan implementation related to the portal. The vendor's research and development team also supported Herman Miller's requirement for support of secure sockets (HTTPS), and their post-implementation training and support has included technical and end-user training. Additionally, TopTier Software extended technical support to Deloitte Consulting to assist in the Baan modifications and subsequent portal modifications that Herman Miller implemented.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation consists of technical deployment manuals for TopTier and Baan, training and education documentation as well as ongoing help-desk support. The documentation provided was useful for both the TopTier Software components and the Baan specific implementation details, but the nature of the project and time schedule drove us to bring in skills from TopTier Software and Deloitte Consulting to assist in the implementation.

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