Allied Domecq, the parent company of Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins and Togo's, is one of the largest franchisers in the world. The Allied Domecq Quick Service Restaurant (ADQSR) had to serve more than 5,000 franchisees with only 350 field executives. The executives needed to periodically travel to each of the franchises to evaluate and plan their relationship with ADQSR. This included reviewing sales figures, contractual information, financial information, historical relationship documents and ongoing communications.

This information was spread across Allied in many different sources, including the sales system, the company's Oracle-based data and the company's numerous Lotus Notes databases. As a result, the field executives were spending between six and eight hours per week collecting this disparate information instead of serving their clients, the franchisees.

The company assigned a business line manager and an IT manager to solve this problem. Together, they turned to Unitas Corporation to help evaluate and construct a technical solution. Unitas helped to validate the business requirements and evaluate both the existing systems and possible technology solutions.

After evaluating several leading portal vendors, Allied and Unitas jointly made the decision that Lotus Notes/Domino from IBM would provide the easiest fit with the existing infrastructure and disconnected access to all key information on the executives' laptops.

The solution was developed using Lotus Notes/Domino and the portal interface was tailored to provide all of the key information about a franchisee.

The project team included business user representatives who understood the everyday challenges of the field executives. This representation was critical in making decisions quickly and in prioritizing features and functions, which helped to keep the project moving at a quick pace.

One of the key factors that slowed the project was the need for quick turnaround from other parts of the IT organization. In particular, the portal solution needed to tie into the organization's Oracle- based data. Many of the tables and fields from the back end had to be refined to pull the appropriate information into the front-end portal. The advice to organizations implementing portal solutions is: Recognize the value of back-end systems specialists for the application areas accessed by the portal.

Another key lesson in the project was the importance of "screen real estate." Because the solution pulled many different kinds of information together, it was necessary to design a model for how often end users would reference different data elements. This model was used to determine screen real estate, with the most commonly accessed information showing up on the front page and the information being color-coded based upon certain business rules to draw attention to exceptions.

Even with this usage model, each page had its own sets of challenges such as presenting historical and current information on the screen without requiring the end users to do too much scrolling.

The use of the Lotus Notes/Domino environment presented its own set of challenges such as pulling information from different back-end systems and mapping them into a set of nonrelational database structures.

Field executives are now able to rapidly understand the entire history of a franchise. This results in significant time savings, allowing them to be more productive at their meetings with franchisees. This also increases the speed at which executives can resolve open issues, resulting in a better relationship with the franchisees.

Lotus Notes/Domino, a leading tool for developing knowledge sharing applications, was used as the key platform for the solution. The application was developed using a combination of LotusScript and Java.
Unitas is a thought leader within the enterprise information portal market. As a pure- play portal consulting and solutions company, Unitas has partnerships with the industry's leading portal and business intelligence software vendors. Our demonstration laboratory and interoperability testing facility provides our customers, partners and consulting staff with unparalleled access to the best technology and vendor products. We offer solution prototyping, needs analysis and full systems integration to businesses seeking to streamline their information value chains, increase revenues, reduce costs and secure customer loyalty.

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