Portals Keep SMBs in the Know

“Portals are definitely a hot topic in corporate life,” according to a recent study (“Corporate portals in operational practice”) by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, IAO. “More and more SMBs are recognizing and discovering the savings potential inherent in corporate portals, with good-value standard solutions particularly in demand at the moment. SMBs are able to leverage distinct competitive advantages,” agrees Axel Wessendorf, founder and Managing Director of SAP Business Partner United Planet. The Freiburg-based IT company is responding to this trend with its Intrexx Xtreme for SAP Business One, a portal solution aimed at SMBs having 5 to 500 staff, but also at organizations and public authorities.

Integrated global solution for SMBs

The entirely Java-based Intrexx Xtreme software is a development tool enabling SMBs to quickly construct and securely administer information portals (intranet, extranet, Internet). The “application designer” allows, as Wessendorf puts it, “even untrained users” with no programming experience to quickly create attractive, powerful forms and applications for portals. An in-house portal designer supports companies in designing pages and constructing menu structures.
Intrexx Xtreme also includes templates and applications especially developed for SAP Business One, making for a comprehensive, integrated corporate solution. The software additionally enables data to be consolidated in real time and preprocessed for role-based use by staff according to their access rights. “Of course, data from legacy systems, such as custom bookkeeping programs or special applications, can easily be integrated into the global solution,” explains Wessendorf.

Improve processes, cut costs

Via the portal, SMBs can document and archive their staff knowledge and expertise for future use. The types of information which can be stored include meeting minutes, forums, notice boards, documents, customer records, information on competitors and schedules. The benefits can be felt most keenly when it comes to organization, where, according to Marcus Rübsam, United Planet’s Managing Director, “workflow components ensure that all the players are interactively integrated.” SMBs usually have a number of forms which are used for making travel applications, investment applications, holiday requests, booking conference rooms, etc. If this information can be collected, digitized and made available to staff on demand via their browsers in a logical and (if possible) automated manner and via a common portal interface, this speeds up internal processes. “The access rights assigned to staff and teams make sure they only receive the data they need to efficiently carry out their designated tasks and duties,” clarifies Marcus Rübsam. “This makes for leaner processes thanks to shorter processing times, reduces costs and increases productivity, because more time is left over for staff to devote to their core duties, whether they be in sales or in the office,” he sums up.
According to United Planet, SMBs who have no special portal requirements can go live within five hours, as long as they have SAP Business One installed. Customers can choose between ten draft layouts and around 40 to 50 ready-made solutions. In addition, a further 150 ready-to-use applications are available as free downloads from the company’s community server. These include larger applications such as an Internet shop, a CRM module and internal ordering and procurement systems which electronically steer and map these more complex processes.

Quick integration, quick information

Applications created using the Intrexx Xtreme application designer, such as forms for data capture (content management) or data visualization, can be quickly and easily integrated in SAP Business One by means of a Software Development Kit (SDK). Depending on the roles assigned to them, staff can then use the individual portal applications to directly access existing data in SAP Business One. This includes information from the knowledge base, the service history and assignments of articles to individual customers. In addition, customer master data can be checked and if necessary updated. The system promptly communicates key figures such as stock levels or sales to the responsible person or persons by e-mail or text message.
Connecting the entire portal to SAP Business One via a predefined interface takes only a few hours and extends the software to support the SAP SMB software’s alarm functions, which control corporate business processes.

Flexible, future-proof and cost-effective

As far as system requirements go, hardware-wise companies need a Pentium-class, one Gigahertz-or-over CPU, 500 MB RAM and 200 MB of free disk space, plus a Web server (Tomcat, Apache 1.3 or later, Microsoft Internet Information Server, IIS) and a database (e.g. MAX DB version 7.3 or later, PostgreSQL version 7.3.2 or later). “Our product is extremely flexible and can be installed on Windows or Linux operating systems,” says Manfred Stetz, Head of Development at the Freiburg software house. “XML and XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) technologies, which enable all data to be processed and facilitate the integration of third-party applications and (mobile) terminals, ensure that this solution is future-proof.”
United Planet says that there is no minimum number of users. The Portal Manager, together with a test server, is available as a free download from the United Planet website. The smallest fully-licensed server package for five users costs Euro 498, which works out at under Euro 100 per workstation. “The Intrexx Xtreme and SAP Business One combination enables us to deliver a made-to-measure package containing all the portal-building software SMBs need,” concludes Axel Wessendorf, “and at a very appealing price point too.”

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Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry