Agribusiness reaps benefits of Novell tools

James Richardson International is about to add grain sourcing to the applications it is moving from a legacy “”green screen”” environment to a Web portal that will deliver business information more quickly to its decision-makers.


Winnipeg-based agribusiness, which operates in six Canadian provinces and in the northern U.S., has been successfully piloting the application since August and is planning to go live in April, in time for the harvest. James Richardson International (JRI) has based the portal on Novell’s eDirectory product and used Novell exteNd to build it.

Paul Beaudry, JRI’s director of technical services, said grain sourcing information was traditionally stored on Oracle databases running on an IBM AIX server at each of the firm’s sites.

“”It’s not a real time system,”” he said. “”We’d be cutting cheques for farmers, pulling data every 45 minutes back to Winnipeg, but we don’t have a dashboard view of the business.””

Getting the information in real time is important, Beaudry said, to help grain traders evaluate their inventory needs and delivery times. The Novell portal will provide a more centrally managed application that has already been rolled out to streamline crop requisitions, where staff at more than 80 sites had to contend with approximately 60,000 faxes a year.

Novell Canada CTO Ross Chevalier said JRI is an example of the kind of firm that is taking a closer look at its core needs and focusing on technology as a means for better service delivery.

“”They’re not hugely overstaffed in IT,”” he said. “”They’re focused on the business that JRI is, not being an IT company.””

Beaudry, who joined JRI about three years ago, said the company had let much of its existing infrastructure grow stale after having focused most of its attention on Y2K preparedness. As he examined the old architecture, his counterpart in development was trying to modernize JRI’s applications. It didn’t take long, he said, to realize the two projects went hand in hand.

JRI has since deployed NetWare 6.0 and ZENworks Desktop Manager. Perhaps more important, he said, was the implementation of Nsure Identity Manager to help consolidate what were sometimes 10 passwords for head office staff.

“”As in any legacy environment, there was one system for grain tracking, quality assurance . . . you’d have Lawson for financials. There were all kinds of log-ins,”” he said.

Chevalier said many Novell clients turn to a formalized process offered by Novell’s consulting services organization called the Discovery Workshop, where business process changes are discussed prior to launch.

“”I guess it sounds goofy, but what happens very often is that people in an organization talk about something they don’t talk about normally,”” he said. “”Sometimes — while not the case of JRI — the IT folks hadn’t been thinking about (those things) at all. They weren’t thinking about the impact on the end user.””

Beaudry said a week-long training session on the grain sourcing application would be critical for its success.

“”We haven’t just changed a screen. We’ve changed the business flow,”” he said. “”The railways have changed. The shipping has changed. The wheat board has changed.””

JRI has integrated an upgrade of its Citrix system within the Novell-based portal, Beaudry added, and the company can easily integrate other applications, such as Crystal Reports, with eDirectory using LDAP.


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