On Vacation at the Touch of a Button


Stephan Flohr, a senior systems analyst in the IT department at Boehringer Ingelheim, is more than satisfied. He just completed the application for his annual family vacation – three weeks on Corsica. Flohr entered all the information needed for the request into a central enterprise portal based on SAP NetWeaver Portal on his own and directed the request to his managers for their approval.

2 minutes instead of 20

“We handle a vacation request in 2 minutes today. We used to take a least 20 minutes,” says Flohr. Because all 10,000 employees at Boehringer Ingelheim in Germany use this employee self-service, the company saves an enormous amount of time.
Things were a lot different just a short time ago. Vacation forms had to be completed in Microsoft Word, saved, and then sent as an e-mail attachment to the responsible persons in the employee’s department and the HR department. Those responsible for time management then manually entered the data from the forms into the SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) application. Errors like transposed numbers for the day or month were inevitable and resulted in more work.
“That’s all over with now. Supported by portal functions for employee and managers, we now have a comprehensive, IT-supported, secure, fast, and transparent workflow – without media breaks,” says Flohr. When he transmits his request, the data flows into SAP ERP HCM automatically. It also goes automatically to the accounting department for the monthly close and is posted there. Flor’s manager simultaneously receives the data about the vacation request by e-mail. The manager can approve the vacation plan, compare it with the requests of other employees, and evaluate it with the needs of upcoming projects. This approach avoids overlapping vacations and personnel bottlenecks.

Less routine work

As important as vacation time may be to employees, it’s only one aspect of the portal. The company bundled all HR transactions onto a uniform platform and delivers services directly to the workforce. Today, a click is all it takes for employees to change their addresses or bank information, view monthly payroll statements, find information on new training opportunities, book training online, submit ideas directly as part of the company’s suggestion program, and report work accidents.
“Every employee now has a handle on these processes and therefore more responsibility,” says Flohr. “The HR department and those responsible for time management are freed of routine tasks, such as distributing and filing the earnings statements.” They have significantly more time available for strategic tasks like personnel development or individual counseling – with a noticeable effect on employee satisfaction and loyalty. In a contest to find Germany’s best employer in 2007, the pharmaceuticals firm won third place among companies with more than 5,000 employees.

IT experts as process consultants

Over the years, Boehringer Ingelheim has built a comprehensive SAP landscape and continually enhanced it with new solutions and functions. In addition to SAP ERP HCM, the pharmaceutical company uses the SAP ERP, SAP Travel Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM), SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), and SAP GRC Global Trade Services applications, as well as the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) and SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI) components.
The desire to integrate all applications and processes under a common portal and to provide comprehensive, rapid access to all SAP software has existed at the company for a long time. Individual departments are focusing more on process design. After a critical examination of the company’s needs, the IT department decided on SAP NetWeaver Portal. The ability to integrate the component with the existing IT and SAP landscape was one reason for the decision. Easy, secure, and personalized access to information was another reason.
The IT department set up the portal infrastructure using a prototype rather than according to a fixed project plan and schedule. Boehringer Ingelheim has a decentralized organizational infrastructure, so individual departments have a high degree of responsibility and broad authority for making their own decisions, even when those decisions involve the implementation of new IT solutions. The IT department plays a consulting role within the group. “We see ourselves as business process experts who show user departments how they can use new IT solutions to design their business flows to work more quickly, efficiently, and economically,” explains Flohr. For example, joint project teams and close coordination with the departments work out how to link HR processes in SAP NetWeaver Portal.

Clear view of internal IT projects

In other portal projects, the IT department has implemented uniform access to key performance indicators (KPIs) and improved reporting options for its own IT project with internal customers and for facilities management.
The approximately 400 employees in the IT department now have a clear view of all data and KPIs. “We know precisely how much money we have spent on a project,” says Flohr. The portal-based KPI system helps to determine overtime in projects and provides an opportunity to respond to project needs by temporarily assigning more personnel.
Comparative values enable the company to recognize when the time spent on maintaining specific solutions is out of proportion with application development. And business departments can also grade IT projects. For Flohr, these numbers are “not only important indicators of the satisfaction of internal customers and whether we’re keeping to the agreed-upon service levels, but also indicators of the areas in which we can improve.” The IT department uses the integrated data warehouse of SAP NetWeaver BI to evaluate data and KPIs. It updates the information monthly and supplies the reports to all employees in the IT department with a cockpit that was developed in house.

A handle on building costs

Boehringer Ingelheim also has a better perspective when managing its facilities. All building-relevant information from various source systems, such as an Oracle database that was developed in house and the SAP ERP Financials application, is now linked to the portal and available at a glance. A cost center manager in facilities management with responsibility for the isotope warehouse receives role-based data that is displayed graphically and informatively. The data includes rental and floor space, year of construction, overall building costs, depreciation, expenses for plant security, and building management that includes heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems along with plumbing.
Cost center reports give building managers an up-to-date overview of the running costs of individual buildings and of the costs of maintenance and repair projects. The managers can then check repair delays or the unplanned expenses for materials and labor right away and change planning and budgeting accordingly. Today, Boehringer Ingelheim creates annual financial statements on the costs and revenues of managed properties, including annual operating costs, right after the new year and sends them to group accounting immediately.
“Our users are enthusiastic,” says Stephan Flohr. “Single sign-on enables them to use the most varied applications and data sources without technical hurdles.” Although a manual logon process is still available, it is hardly used any more. The IT department has also benefited from the conversion to single sign-on, because it requires significantly less administrative and maintenance effort than password-supported access.

Unlimited collaboration

The portal will be enhanced over the next few years. Rapid product development and introduction are essential success factors for the pharmaceutical industry, so Boehringer Ingelheim wants to use a structured, virtual work environment based on SAP NetWeaver Portal to make collaboration among its research units even more efficient.
Flohr concludes, “In the long-term, we want to use SAP NetWeaver Portal as the foundation for unifying many applications under one roof so that we can handle flows and processes with customers and partners even more quickly and economically.”

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry