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, with 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 ERP system and connect multiple data sources in a single browser ­ with a minimum of development effort and with real-time access to live data so that we could better gain performance from our suppliers. We developed a single portal for suppliers that facilitates fast, well-informed business decisions and eliminates multiple points of contact. Consequently, we reduced production cycle time, raised quality and strengthened business relationships by providing suppliers with direct access to receipt, quality, invoice and payment information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Herman Miller deployed TopTier Software's eBusiness Integration Portal (eBIP), for Baan, for a supplier self-service portal. TopTier's eBIP extends the unstructured hypertext abilities of the Internet with a structured data navigation experience through a single browser window that accesses multiple data sources. EBIP uses patented HyperRelational navigation, enabling users to find information very quickly and to make logical discoveries easily by dragging and dropping hyperlink information attributes onto desired views. The eBIP 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 eBusiness Integration Portal offers ease of use, ease of deployment and ERP-centric implementation. It quickly provides the views, analysis and information that Herman Miller suppliers need to provide faster, better and more accurate service.

WEAKNESSES: While the ability to build custom views and alerts is strong, if a user wants to build a sophisticated analysis query, it can require the involvement of a programmer. Version 3.0, just released, solves this issue and gives users extended power and control over all levels of queries.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Herman Miller needed a robust development environment that didn't require extensive programming experience, and we had to connect to our Baan database with tight integration. 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, 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.

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. TopTier's 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, 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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