CATEGORY: Enterprise Intelligence Portals

REVIEWER: Mike Mallon, senior director of sales for Penwest Pharmaceuticals Co.

BACKGROUND: Penwest is engaged in the research, development and commercialization of novel drug delivery technologies, including its proprietary TIMERx controlled release delivery technology, which can be applied to a broad range of drugs.

PLATFORMS: Penwest implemented the Eoscene Intelligence Portal in October 2000 on a Linux platform using a PostgreSQL database as the relational data store.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Like many large and midsize companies, Penwest has spent considerable resources during the past several years putting an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in place to collect valuable operating data. The problem from the sales perspective is that this treasure trove of information about products and customers is trapped in a back-end bottleneck ­ available only by requesting an ad hoc report from IT. Having up-to-date access to this information can mean the difference between making a sale or not. Penwest was being squeezed from both ends. The sales force needed quicker access to up-to- date business operating data such as when an order is scheduled for delivery or whether a customer has deviated from his or her ordering habits. The company also needed to maintain IT resources at an optimum level. Eoscene's Intelligence Portal provided a flexible, cost-effective means of disseminating sales-related data that would immediately ease the data delivery responsibilities of IT as well.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The sales force previously relied on batch reports that were as much as a month old. Now each account executive has the capability to view up-to-date operating data on the Web in a spreadsheet-style format. The data is automatically updated nightly and can be programmed to update as often as every five minutes. Specific data views can be saved and accessed anytime from anywhere by hitting an icon on the Intelligence Portal home page. For example, a sales rep might have an "order history" view for each customer, showing the history of product orders to gauge if current orders are on target. These personalized views can be customized for administrative and management functions as well.

STRENGTHS: The Eoscene Intelligence Portal 2001 helped on both the front end and back end by giving the sales force direct access to data, thereby eliminating IT time spent generating and distributing reports. Strengths include the ease of use and administration as well as its quick deployment. Initial installation time was less than two hours from start to finish, and user access is achieved through an existing Web browser. Initial end-user training consisted of one two-hour session conducted at a quarterly sales meeting. As with any technology, it should be noted that additional training is required as new capabilities are added to the program.

WEAKNESSES: The primary weaknesses of the product are the inability to search a result set for a specific element or the ability to have the end users save their personalized views. Both of these features have been addressed in the latest version of the product released earlier this year. Plans to upgrade to the latest release are currently under evaluation by Penwest. The requirement to access the portal over the Web through a browser does provide some challenges. The major drawback experienced is that the 56K modem that typically comes with a laptop creates a noticeably slower download time than when accessing data in the office where the server provides real-time access to data.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Penwest had several expectations when selecting a portal product including low cost of implementation, quick and easy installation, and ease of use.

DELIVERABLES: Eoscene Intelligence Portal enables delivery of up-to-date operating data via the Web in a spreadsheet-style format.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Eoscene has been extremely responsive when working with Penwest to configure views of information. The amount of expertise they brought, both about our business and their software, contributed significantly to the success of our project.

DOCUMENTATION: Eoscene provided documentation on both the product functionality and the implementation configuration. The documentation is complete and easy to understand.

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