NEW ORLEANS — Bombardier Aerospace and the Canadian Standards Association Thursday endorsed SAP’s NetWeaver software as a tool for business process improvement to fellow Canadian

organizations at SAPPHIRE 2004.

SAP Canada invited the two firms to demonstrate how they are using NetWeaver on portal projects at an invitation-only event during the two-day user conference. SAP is using the event to heavily promote NetWeaver, a middleware offering it launched last year.

Montreal-based Bombardier recently completed a pilot project where it allowed selected suppliers in Montreal, Toronto and Germany access to a portal that uses SAP’s business intelligence technology to track information on spare parts, commodity sourcing and some key performance indicators. The next phase will be to roll the portal out to the more than 2,500 vendors Bombardier deals with for procurement activities.

Bombardier manager of emerging technology Khalil Nasrallah said the portal will herald the end of a process whereby a purchase order is faxed in to a supplier and acknowledged with a return fax. Instead, suppliers will log on to see all the Bombardier purchase orders and can acknowledge them electronically.

“”When you’re faxing it, maybe their system doesn’t accept more than six faxes at a time, or you don’t know whether it was accepted,”” Nasrallah said. “”This way you’ll actually be able to check any revisions (to the POs) and have a history of any changes that have been made.””

Other business processes implemented through the Bombardier portal include “”request for supplier action,”” which will both automate interaction between the aerospace firm and its vendors as well as track the history of the requests.

While Bombardier has only begun to give suppliers access to its portal, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) will soon have about 5,000 manufacturers using Version 6.0 of its site, which was completed this month. The CSA installed SAP R/3 as part of a Y2K project but has since implemented mySAP CRM and SAP’s BI product as well. Like Bombardier, the CSA had to integrate its SAP Enterprise Portal with a knowledge management system from Documentum, which was acquired earlier this year by EMC.

John Harrickey, the CSA’s director of IT applications, said the first phase of the organization’s project involved an employee portal used to help track the testing and certification of manufacturers across Canada. A customer portal, meanwhile, sends out e-mail alerts to users to look at a report on their testing or certification status. These portals have helped the CSA standardize the way information is presented across its enterprise, Harrickey said.

“”If I publish something on the Web, I don’t want to be telling you something different if you call our customer service line,”” he said. “”Getting a consistent message out there is really kind of tricky.”” Although NetWeaver has turned out to be a competitive threat to IBM’s WebSphere or BEA’s WebLogic, it also represents a great partnering opportunity, said IDC Canada analyst Warren Shiau in Toronto.

“”It’s funny how it’s worked out. Within the SAP installed base it certainly works to keep people with SAP when there’s a strong middle-tier solution,”” he said. “”Within IBM in the (IBM Global Services) world, they don’t necessarily cling to the, ‘It has to be WebSphere’ philosophy.””

Both Nasrallah and Harrickey said they are continuing to cope with user acceptance issues but are confident they will gain more support for the portals in the long term. During its pilot phase, for example, Nasrallah said he allowed some users to continue to fax POs as well as using the portal to provide some reassurance.

“”It’s really the nuts and bolts kind of stuff,”” Harrickey added. “”You get people involved, let them design the workflows and give them lots of training and support.””

SAPPHIRE wraps up Thursday.

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