CATEGORY: Enterprise Portals

REVIEWER: Robert L. Stephens, business information manager for Equilon Enterprises.

BACKGROUND: Equilon Enterprises, a joint venture of Shell Oil Company and Texaco, provides all of the downstream refining, marketing and distribution services for petroleum products such as oil, gas and jet fuel across the Western United States. One out of six Americans stops every day to fill up with gas from one of more than 23,500 stations managed and supplied by Equilon. Equilon is estimated to be the fourth largest gasoline retail gasoline marketer in the U.S.

PLATFORMS: TopTier's eBusiness Integration Portal is installed on Microsoft's NT operating system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As part of a cross- enterprise business process reengineering and strategic analysis of Equilon's systems, we needed to create a frictionless flow of information between the numerous line-of- business applications that were in house. Equilon recognized that this application integration would increase employee's access to information they needed and also reduce the time to notification and resolution of tactical business problems.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Equilon deployed TopTier's eBusiness Integration Portal (eBIP) to function as an employee self- service portal. The eBIP will serve as the corporate desktop at Equilon and will act as a single browser window through which end users can seamlessly integrate and correlate information from multiple data sources. The portal effortlessly relates both structured and unstructured data, which was a critical issue for us. By using TopTier's powerful Drag-and-Relate technology, users can quickly and easily associate information from two different data sources to uncover the relationship of those data points. The ability to quickly and easily see the underlying relationship of data points that otherwise reside in different systems, gives eBIP users a personalized panoramic view of the entire enterprise. Increasing employees' access to information decreases the time needed to resolve their business issues.

STRENGTHS: Equilon found that the level of integration TopTier could offer among all of Equilon's applications (including SAP, ESRI, Siebel and dozens more) was unparalleled. We needed more than just the ability to launch applications from the portal ­ we needed them to be interrelated. The eBIP could be deployed quickly and easily, and was also scalable which was critical since Equilon has more than 2,500 users.

WEAKNESSES: When Equilon first began working with TopTier's eBIP, remote users were not able to access the portal. Self-service for mobile workers has since been enabled via the eBIP's ability to synchronize enterprise content which allows the solution to be used on a disconnected offline laptop. Additionally, field operations personnel in remote locations may use satellite or cellular uplinks to connect with the enterprise.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Equilon's primary concern when selecting a portal was the level of integration it could provide with our ERP system, SAP, as well as its ability to integrate with other enterprise applications. After doing a very detailed analysis of the portals on the market, we found that TopTier provided a high level of integration with SAP and our other applications. From what we found, other portals were either only good at document management or could only integrate multiple systems through custom coding. We also found that TopTier's eBIP offered rapid development, and its deployment tools enabled our already- constrained internal resources to work with an external system integrator to deliver the production system.

DELIVERABLES: The primary deliverable is the portal application which has become the corporate desktop that leverages all other internal digital assets. The application includes components that allow each user to create personalized alerts that notify them of missed benchmarks such as inventory or on-time shipments. TopTier's eBIP also supports corporate best practices by role (field support, distribution, maintenance, etc); and within these roles, a series of key performance indicators (alerts, queries, reports and visual business indicators) were identified and packaged for reuse and sharing across the enterprise.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Working with a system integrator, TopTier supported every aspect of the portal implementation through their sales engineering group. Their research and development team worked with us to create a solution that supports remote users. They offer training to both end users and developers which can be done on site or at TopTier's offices. TopTier also provides ongoing help desk support.

DOCUMENTATION: TopTier provided us with exceptionally well written and easy-to-understand technical deployment and user manuals which were available electronically and in print.

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