In-Depth

Timken execs turn to portal for vital data

Application Development Trends'
2002 Innovator Awards
Data Warehousing
Honorable Mention

The year 2000 was a year of change for many organizations, especially for The Timken Company, Canton, Ohio. An international manufacturer of highly engineered bearings, alloy and specialty steels and components, Timken had much at stake when it launched a project to transform the company's structure and the way it does business. Management wanted more emphasis on performance, innovation and customer-centricity and realized that an executive information system could play a role in empowering executives with information for decision-making.

Thus began the Brio Portal project. Its goal was to use Web technology to provide management information and key performance indicators that had been dispersed in different systems. Through single sign-on, the portal, commonly called the Timken corporate portal, provides a one-stop site to access and manipulate business data. It provides real-time data electronically on demand, centralized data customized to individual needs, self-service access to previously unavailable data, and reduced dependency on IT for data gathering and analysis.

Timken geared its portal toward upper management. In fact, senior management, faced with economic challenges due to a manufacturing recession and a weakening economy, drove the portal effort as a way to make better decisions with more timely information.

The security around Brio Portal and the page look and feel it presents attracted Timken to it as a decision support solution. "These kinds of things ... will allow us to use it as a vehicle for business management," noted Carl Musille, manager of CRM and front-end systems support.

Timken uses the Brio Performance Suite, which includes Brio Intelligence, Brio Portal and Brio Reports. These tools combined to allow users to do data query and analysis, enterprise reporting and delivery of global information regarding business performance. The development team used Brio Intelligence to develop and deploy interactive reports to access a variety of information across various categories.

The project faced challenges: a tight timeline, a learning curve with new technology and toolsets, and time to gain confidence that information was secure. The development team worked with the Brio technical support staff and consulted other resources to overcome these challenges. Software development experience among the team members ranged from six months to more than 20 years. Two members of the team attended administrative support training in Brio Portal software, and one technical support team member received training.

The development team comprised four or five smaller development teams, which consisted of a project lead, developers and business/financial analysts. Each of these smaller teams was responsible for a different business area of the portal, such as business decision support, engineering and key performance indicators.

The project followed a formal schedule from March to June 2001. It stayed on target and took approximately 50 person-days to complete. Management used the Planview project resource-tracking tool to oversee project management.

If Timken could do the project over again, it would start with a longer timeline and invest more time on upfront training. Management and users are pleased with the portal's ease of use. Musille anticipates all management employees will be taking advantage of it eventually. In preparation for that, he added, "We continue to do more development on it to roll out additional business decision support tools."

Application profile:

Tools and Technologies:
Microsoft SQL Server, Informix, Essbase, DB2, Brio Intelligence, Microsoft Office Suite and Windows NT

Development Team:
Marcy Stroemple, Shawn Stamp, Carol Main, Josh Davis, Jocelyn Kasler, Kathy Christ, Dick Offenberger, Claire Addessi and John Hare

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at freelancewriter@gates-works.com.

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