Things are currently difficult on the site operator market. Infraserv Höchst too has had to fight hard to win customers and investors. Companies and investors are looking for operators that offer more than just expertise and experience. They also expect complete service packages, a good price/performance ratio and a comprehensive support package. To ensure it stays at the front of the pack, Infraserv is therefore committed to making procedures more efficient, developing innovative applications, and making it easier to integrate new Web applications into the existing corporate portal.
SAP NetWeaver unleashes IT forces
The SAP NetWeaver open technology platform from Infraserv Höchst provides the perfect vehicle for creating added value from existing IT investments and developing innovative solutions. SAP NetWeaver components SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) and SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS) have an important strategic role for Infraserv Höchst. “SAP NetWeaver provides a future-focused basis for an Enterprise Service Architecture that already gives us considerable scope for application development and process optimization,” says Dr. Wolfram Schmidt, Chief Information Officer at Infraserv Höchst. In 2001, the company developed its first applications based on the SAP Web Application Server. A year later, it began evolving its Internet presence into a corporate portal based on SAP NetWeaver with powerful Web Services. The Infraserv-Höchst portal – ISH portal – has grown steadily ever since.
Infraserv Höchst has also been using the SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI) data warehouse solution very successfully since 2000. The reporting and analysis functions supply definitive information – for example business content for account planning or financial accounting – and thus create an optimum basis for management control processes. Infraserv Höchst is currently implementing a new purchase and information system for accessing data from the data warehouse solution and linking it to data from the Internet. This new solution is currently being developed based on SAP Web AS and is intended to provide users with a means to assess external suppliers.
ISH customer portal creates transparency
Infraserv Höchst offers a very comprehensive range of products comprising more than 6000 services. The ISH customer portal is therefore crucial for the company’s operations. It functions as a sales channel providing access to the market, as a communication platform for supporting internal and external cooperation, and as a virtual shop window for showcasing various products and services offered by the company. Thanks to SAP NetWeaver, the diverse range of services can now be presented clearly and transparently on the Internet. The fully standardized order and accounting structure increases transparency and mutual confidence between Infraserv Höchst and its customers. Staff and customers also profit from the portal’s powerful functions. Infraserv Höchst is also expanding its range of services based on specific role concepts and is marketing these via the customer portal.
Infraserv Höchst is implementing new Java-based portal services known as “engines” using time- and cost-optimized procedures. This ensures that all of the company’s services can be accessed using similarly structured ordering processes. The only differences are to be found in the order specification. Infraserv Höchst has so far developed two engines – the “individual item” engine for detailed presentation of invoice information and the “event tracking” engine for monitoring shipments within the site’s logistics chain. Infraserv-Höchst is currently working on additional engines. These include a configuration and specification engine and a booking engine that will allow users to provide more complex services online in future. The services currently being offered in the inline store of the ISH portal cover a broad range of products and standardized service packages – ranging from packaging and technical materials to protective equipment and laboratory chemicals.
Three user groups – each with different rights – access the ISH portal via a single sign-on procedure. The “Prospective customers” user group can access information offerings such as brochures and press releases. Registered users can access additional functions such as entering complaints. Authorized users have the most rights, however, and are approved for specific services by Infraserv or the customer. This group of users has access to value-adding online content and services. It is crucial for determining Infraserv Höchst’s business success. The number of users is expected to climb from its current figure of 80 to 1000 by the end of 2005.
In-house developments with SAP Web AS
Infraserv Höchst uses SAP Web AS to develop mission-critical applications. “SAP Web AS is the perfect development platform for implementing our IT strategy”, says Schmidt. This is because the generic Web infrastructure of the SAP solution is based on open standards, which means that Infraserv Höchst is not dependent on any one platform. This is vital given the company’s heterogeneous system landscape. SAP standard software, third-party applications and in-house developments can all be integrated easily and reliably using SAP Web AS. This central module of SAP NetWeaver also supports both ABAP and J2EE environments. To develop and operate business applications for the most part in Java, the company does not require an additional application server and developers do not need specific expertise. In-house development is an average of 30 to 50 percent cheaper than buying in ready-made solutions. In addition, standardized and reusable codes produce quick results and are more cost effective for development work. Infraserv Höchst is confident in the skills of its personnel to carry out development work. Its most recent development is a Java engine for managing seminars. The new application enables customers to book courses online via the ISH portal.
Process innovation and cost benefits
A study conducted by Gartner independent business consultants reveals just how lucrative Infraserv Höchst’s decision was to invest in the SAP NetWeaver technology platform. Conducted using the Total Value of Opportunity (TVO) method, it shows that considerable time can be saved managing transaction-driven processes. The time currently required for processing around 6000 transactions is reduced by an average of 45 to 65 percent. When extending the solution to around half of all core processes and some 30,000 anticipated transactions per year, Infraserv Höchst’s investment will be repaid within the next two to four years. This corresponds to an ROI of 100 percent. Given a potential volume of 300,000 to 400,000 transactions per year, a Return on Investment in excess of 200 percent can be anticipated over the next five to eight years. This assumes that the SAP platform is used for all core processes.
According to the study, application development costs are reduced by up to 50 percent. This is because, thanks to the open technology platform, Infraserv Höchst can develop new applications in-house and integrate these easily and quickly into the existing IT architecture. The company therefore does not have to buy in ready-made solutions. In addition to the quantifiable benefits, the Gartner study also reveals additional positive advantages such as the increase in employee and customer satisfaction. These are made possible by highly automated processes and online services which can make using the services of the Infraserv Höchst group both easier and more transparent.
Well-prepared for the future
SAP NetWeaver provides Infraserv Höchst with a platform for future improvements in its business processes and opportunities for additional cost savings. The company is planning to integrate further core processes into the corporate portal step by step, thus making greater use of the benefits offered by the solution and optimizing the return from the investment made in SAP NetWeaver. The scope of the services in the ISH portal is growing all the time. In the field of water protection, for example, Infraserv Höchst is currently planning to link a laboratory information system to the portal. In addition, a vehicle guidance system is currently in preparation for the industrial park which will be used to download shipping documents via the portal.
From a long-term perspective, Infraserv Höchst is considering introducing an Enterprise Service Architecture. Schmidt believes that the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) offers advantages for the future: “In terms of managing our overall structure, SAP XI offers potential for consolidating our systems, simplifying administration and integrating the systems of external service partners into our portal.” SAP XI is expected to be implemented by early 2006. In the light of this development, outsourcing of services takes center stage. A minor addition to the company’s value-added chain would therefore enable Infraserv Höchst to really boost its corporate success. The company has already opted for this route by employing SAP NetWeaver.