The Biggest Intranet
During the war in Iraq, Gen. Tommy Franks ordered the Army to cut off access to commercial Internet services such as AOL and MSN. For soldiers who made their way to a computer to send e-mail home, that left one option: the portal called Army Knowledge Online, or AKO.
The Army calls AKO—a portal for 1.4 million soldiers, National Guard, reserves, retirees and civilian staff—the largest intranet. It provides personalized information to soldiers, such as their medical readiness for deployment. The portal “makes for one less thing that a personnel clerk has to do,” says Major C.J. Wallington, AKO team leader in the Chief Technology Office. About 98 percent of those on active duty use the portal.
To sign on, users log in at the Army’s site (www.army.mil). There, they have access to e-mail, instant messaging, and their personnel records and training information. In addition, more than 300 Army organizations maintain communities of expertise on AKO, such as equipment manuals for an artillery battalion. Family members can also sign up for guest accounts.
AKO uses a J2EE architecture developed by Appian. Wallington, who could only say that the Army “went through a lot of cash and has more than recouped the cost” in creating AKO, estimates that the system’s single authentication process alone saves the Army roughly $200 million. Usage at Army.mil spiked in February 2003 with war talk. The biggest day for unique user log ins: 125,000 on March 25, 2003. On that day, U.S. troops in Iraq encountered heavy fighting in southern cities of Nasiriyah and Najaf as sandstorms raged in the desert.
THE ACUSHNET CO.’s CUSTOMER PORTAL grew organically. Two years ago, the golf equipment maker created a way for customers to check order status and get product information.
Since then, Peg Nicholson, Acushnet’s senior vice president and CIO, has learned that a portal requires ongoing care. Now that about 3,500 of Acushnet’s 11,000 customers (pro shops, sporting goods and other retailers) use the portal to inquire about new Cobra clubs, Titleist balls and FootJoy shoes, enter orders and pay bills, part of Nicholson’s job is to keep them happy.
That means, for example, offering users of the password-protected portal, Acushnetgolf.com, a price break on a new Dell PC. Easier product returns are on tap. Acushnet, a $1 billion unit of Fortune Brands, implemented its portal using Click Commerce software.
Nicholson says the biggest challenge in building Acushnet’s portal was reengineering business processes to get product information (price, size, brand) into the company’s systems at the right time. With the portal, Acushnet has seen service calls decrease; many customers use the system after hours. Nicholson, who declined to say what Acushnet spent on the portal, says she believes it’s paying off. She adds, “The ROI is there as you get more and more customers on board.”
On a Screen Near You
Portal implementations cut across industry and function
The Sperry-Marine unit at Northrop Grumman helps workers in different locations manage RFPs and the subsequent projects through a portal running on software from Welcom.
Toymaker Kids II shares new product designs with 25 plants in Asia via a portal connected to its Mapics ERP system.
The General Services Administration has developed a procurement portal for federal agencies using Sybase software. It tracks almost 1.5 million products and services offered by more than 4,000 vendors.
Tesco.com, the British grocery giant’s portal for Web and mobile phone consumers, tailors consumers’ shopping views using Autonomy software.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services gives health workers at 150 offices immediate access to Medicaid benefits data via a Novell-based portal.
IT managers at Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group monitor its global computer network that supports hotels in 18 cities through a portal application run by InteQ.
Drugmaker Eli Lilly’s corporate portal categorizes documents that make up a molecule library for 30,000 users. The MyElvis portal integrates Lotus Notes with software from Documentum, Plumtree and Semio.