Company structures are becoming more complex as technology advances and opens doors for globalization. One effect of globalization is an increase in collaboration, turning stand-alone companies into stronger business networks. Endress+Hauser, a Swiss company that specializes in process automation and measurement technology, is no exception. The business is serving its customers all over the world with local sales centers organized as different companies in 43 countries. In addition, product centers in 11 countries are responsible for research and development as well as production. Each of these companies needed a better way to share information throughout the network — quite a challenge considering the various types of industries and languages represented.
Without a global intranet, Endress+Hauser relied on the individual companies to build their own intranets with similar data. And some companies within the network didn’t have an internal intranet at all.
These decentralized intranets caused several inefficiencies for Endress+Hauser. For example, conducting a search for a specific person at a different company was time consuming and the information wasn’t always available or up to date. And with no simple or timely way to share information, users were forced to repeatedly key in the same data all over the business structure. After dealing with this decentralized system for long enough, marketing executives at Endress+Hauser decided that the business needed to implement a centralized intranet and content management system (CMS) across all of its 94 companies.
One Global Solution
Endress+Hauser first implemented SAP software in 1985 with SAP R/2, then updated to SAP R/3 in 1996. It was an early adopter of SAP NetWeaver technology, rolling out SAP NetWeaver Portal in 2003. “We use SAP ERP for all of our back-end processes, from quoting to ordering, manufacturing, delivering, and invoicing — the complete logistics chain,” says Jürgen Schrempp, Division Manager of Business Technology at Endress+Hauser InfoServe, the global IT provider of the group. “We use SAP technology for customer relationship management and supplier relationship management, and when it comes to portal, we also use SAP NetWeaver as a platform for integration.”
The initial portal deployment focused on integrated processes, self-service and HR workflows (like automated leave or invoice requests and approvals), and web-based business intelligence reporting. This functionality paved the way for Endress+Hauser to consider moving to a common solution to unite a company-wide intranet and CMS. However, the business would first have to retire the homegrown solution it had originally built — a Lotus Notes-based intranet and CMS that most of the businesses in Europe and the US had adopted. Since many Endress+Hauser companies in Asia and Russia had not implemented the Lotus Notes-based intranet, the business network had no global reach. News that the entire network of entities would implement one global solution excited users who were dealing with the limitations of the current system. And when Endress+Hauser’s more than 5,000 SAP users learned that the solution would also integrate with SAP NetWeaver Portal, they were ecstatic.
First Things First: Requirements
In 2007, Endress+Hauser approached the project carefully, making sure to line up priorities and key executives. In fact, from the very beginning, the steering committee included an HR board member, a marketing director, the director of corporate communications, and the division manager of business technology to ensure all aspects of the business and IT were represented. Working together, the steering committee decreed the top two priorities:
- Superior integration with SAP NetWeaver Portal
- Ease of use for CMS editors and end users
Secondary requirements included diverse language capabilities due to the global scope of the business and the ability to share and reuse data. “Take one of the Endress+Hauser sales centers as an example: They think of themselves as one company, functioning with their own internal company intranet,” says Schrempp. “We wanted to move to more of a global mentality. We wanted the global intranet to help bring every Endress+Hauser employee together to speak in one language, to have one way of presenting and sharing information.” A main goal was to share and reuse information in one common intranet.
The steering committee spoke to peers and scoured the market for a vendor that could give the company what it desired. At the time, only a few vendors could fully integrate with SAP NetWeaver Portal. Endress+Hauser chose two to participate in a proof of concept to find the best fit, and then selected e-Spirit’s FirstSpirit Content Management System integrated with the SAP business package delivered from the company HLP.
“We wanted to move to more of a global mentality. We wanted the global intranet to help bring every Endress+Hauser employee together to speak in one language, to have one way of presenting and sharing information.”
— Jürgen Schrempp, Division Manager of Business Technology, Endress+Hauser InfoServe
Ironing Out the Wrinkles
Finding the right vendor was easy, but deploying the intranet to Endress+Hauser’s entire network of 94 companies wasn’t so simple. Specifically, the business faced hurdles replicating the intranet in remote locations. Bandwidth restrictions drove the company to install Accelerated Application Delivery for SAP NetWeaver to accelerate web access to SAP systems over WAN and improve end-user performance. “Previously, remote users were experiencing slow response times, and with the accelerator in place, due to its caching mechanisms, users experienced responses that were 100% faster,” says Schrempp.
To ensure the company rolled out the best version of the CMS, Endress+Hauser first ran a pilot test at Endress+Hauser InfoServe — involving all six locations in five countries. User tests were performed regularly, providing IT with information on how to improve the CMS before the official go-live, and beyond. One important aspect was search capability. The steering committee realized they spent a lot of time on the navigational structure when a powerful search function would be more useful to end users.
After making this observation, the team implemented a Google-like search leveraging the Search and Classification (TREX) technology of SAP NetWeaver to allow users to quickly find exactly what they need. “You key the data in one system, and with one search, get the results from wherever it’s maintained,” says Schrempp. “You don’t have to think in separate companies anymore. It’s all connected.”
Endress+Hauser also integrated the “Who is Who” application, which retrieves information when a user searches for a specific person — by job description, picture, contact information, and so on. “The global Who is Who application lets business users find information about colleagues in Endress+Hauser locations all over the world,” says Schrempp. “This small, self-developed Java application, which integrates with the SAP ERP back end, turned out to be the ‘killer app’ people are looking for in a new intranet.”
The ability to integrate any web application like Who is Who or cloud service into the FirstSpirit CMS was one of the features that attracted Endress+Hauser to the application from the start. (See the sidebar to the right for more information about the e-Spirit FirstSpirit CMS application.)
Transforming Challenges to Rewards
The benefits were clear once the business rolled out the CMS to all of Endress+Hauser’s companies. For example, a sales employee can now process approval workflows, check division order entries, and view the latest news for the local sales center and global business — all through one intranet. If users want to find product information, a telephone number, or organization details for a colleague, they just need to bring up the intranet’s search engine, and the information is returned in seconds.
“Our intranet has a lot of content and is highly used,” says Schrempp. Today, there are over 12,715 pages in the CMS, content is generated in nine languages, and thousands of intranet users worldwide are viewing about 650,000 pages per month collectively. The 475 authors using the CMS can update information immediately throughout the network instead of each company entering the data itself.
“We have a lot of information in the system, and it was a challenge to bring this data onto the intranet quickly because the update process was not efficient at the beginning.” Schrempp adds. “Daily batches used to take hours to complete. Now, we’ve reduced the update process dramatically, and we deploy in the production system four times a day.”
The ability to easily share and find data has increased brand identification and strengthened the corporate culture for the companies in the network. Finding similar information from different locations in the same system — even in the same place within the navigation — creates an awareness that Endress+Hauser employees all over the world work on the same topics. This harmonized IT structure has helped transform globalization into a business benefit for Endress+Hauser, instead of a challenge to overcome.
In closing, Schrempp offers three pieces of advice for a successful global intranet project:
- Project setup is very important. Make sure the business and technical sides of the company are represented. Also, involving top management from the beginning saves steps later in the process.
- Good teamwork is a must. Always remember that you’re in it together in terms of managing and implementing the system.
- Don’t fret the design. Don’t invest too much time designing content and navigation structures. A powerful search functionality is much more useful for an intranet.