REVIEWER: Chris Park, e-business project manager for Toshiba America Business Solutions.

BACKGROUND: Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) is an independent operating company of Toshiba Corp., the fifth largest electronics/electrical equipment company. TABS sells network printing products, copiers, facsimile products, toner products, software and network controllers through direct, dealer and distributor networks in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

PLATFORMS: Sun Enterprise 420R servers, running two CPUs of Solaris operating system, power the portal.

PROBLEM SOLVED: TABS had created a number of online applications designed to automate channel business transactions, such as accessing product collateral, placing an order, taking training courses or tracking order status. As these applications multiplied, channel customers soon found themselves logging into and accessing several online applications just to perform standard business transactions. This created a significant inconvenience for customers and increased administrative overhead for TABS. Managing the growing number of people that needed access to TABS' systems, along with the complex set of security entitlements to determine which customers had access to certain products and services, and continually updating content, all led to huge administrative demands. Another part of the system TABS managed was the hierarchy of entitlements that coordinated who was able to access and approve every step of the order process. The dealer network alone, which includes more than 600 dealers, requires support for more than 15,000 users. Not only did this system of entitlements incur high administrative overhead, but it also limited operational visibility into how each customer was interacting with TABS' systems. For example, when a dealer would add a new person to the procurement process, rather than creating a new user account for that individual, the dealer would just instruct the new user to share an existing account with another user or use the old account. Because dealers typically did not know who had permission within their organizations to use specific TABS applications, they opened only a handful of accounts and allowed employees to share them.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: TABS used BEA WebLogic Portal, in combination with Interwoven's TeamSite content management systems, to implement two business-to-business portals. FYI portal gives dealers single sign-on access to online procurement, online training, technical support, sales incentive programs and more. With the FYI portal, for the first time, dealers were empowered to administer their own users through delegated administration. GEM Connect portal provides government, education and major accounts a full complement of online services, including asset management, access to TABS' help desk application, access to the products catalog, order management, product information, personal home pages and much more.

STRENGTHS: WebLogic Portal gave TABS the foundation to rapidly build applications. This enabled TABS to get up and running quickly, while establishing application components that could be reused for future projects. BEA's portal was extensible, allowing TABS to leverage best-of-breed, third-party products such as Interwoven, Cognos and Ariba.

WEAKNESSES: At the time of purchase (August 2001), the product's functionality was extensible but somewhat limited; and the administration and management tools were immature.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Because BEA's portal provides a common platform for application development, application reuse allowed TABS to complete subsequent projects more quickly. FYI portal took approximately four months to develop and deploy. GEM Connect portal was completed in 60 percent less time and at 10 percent of the cost to develop the FYI portal.

DELIVERABLES: FYI portal generates more than $1 million a day in orders on average (94 percent of all wholesale orders) and serves more than 600 dealers with more than 15,000 users. FYI portal lowers marketing campaign costs by eliminating CD mailings. We enjoy $300,000 in savings annually with content management integrated to FYI portal. The adoption and savings from FYI portal allowed TABS to justify building GEM Connect, which is already impressing existing customers and helping TABS to win new business.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We encountered a problem using BEA WebLogic Portal because it could not support frame tags, which were needed to maintain a consistent top navigation bar. With BEA's help, we quickly resolved the problem and the project progressed without delay.

DOCUMENTATION:Documentation was thorough, easy to follow and instructional.

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