REDMOND, Wash., March 12, 2001 — It was almost too much of a good thing.
British Telecoms corporate intranet — one of the largest online information storehouses of its kind in Europe — has saved the UK-based telecommunications provider more than 1 billion pounds since 1995 by dramatically reducing printing and distribution costs as well as enabling more efficient teamwork over the Web. But with millions of documents tucked in thousands of Microsoft Exchange public folders across multiple databases and software applications, the sheer bulk of the companys information technology network was creating new challenges for employees.
“Our people were telling us, The intranets great — but its starting to get too big,”
said Colin Lilburn, head of enterprise applications for BT Ignite Application Services, the division of British Telecom responsible for managing the intranet as well as hosting a range of business productivity applications for external companies. Product development teams within British Telecom were missing potential opportunities to borrow ideas from each other, or to locate essential business documents that became buried within the cavernous intranet.
“Teams were starting from scratch when they didnt have to, which added time and costs to their projects,”
To untwist this labyrinth, BT Ignite last fall began installing the Plumtree Corporate Portal, a platform that funnels corporate information, business applications and Internet services to a single Web desktop on a users computer. Running on Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and integrated with Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server, the Plumtree Corporate Portal is already helping employees in several divisions of British Telecom locate files faster and reduce the number of separate applications they need to open to complete a task.
“The portal takes the guesswork out of finding information, simplifies the network for people and creates a place for teams to collaborate,”
This is the type of success that Plumtree and Microsoft aim to create for more of their joint customers through a new strategic alliance between the companies. Under the global alliance, Plumtree and Microsoft are collaborating to ensure tight integration between the Plumtree Corporate Portal and the Microsoft family of .NET Enterprise Servers, including SQL Server 2000. Starting in April, companies can purchase the Plumtree Corporate Portal 4.0 combined with a license for SQL Server 2000 to simplify the portal installation. Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Compaq Global Services, both of which are integration partners of Microsoft and Plumtree, will provide consulting services to help customers worldwide deploy and maximize the value of the Plumtree Corporate Portal running on the Microsoft platform.
Beginning in April, customers also will receive new Plumtree Portal Gadgets — plug-in portal components that deliver key services from enterprise applications and Internet sites to the business desktop — that integrate with Exchange Server 2000. Another new technology called the Plumtree Web Parts Adapter allows Microsoft Web Parts, which consolidate and deliver Web-based content within
to be used in the Plumtree platform. In addition, companies that use Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server for tasks such as document management, information searches and publishing can integrate them into the Plumtree Corporate Portal as either gadgets or Web Parts.
Joint Portal Offering Lays Groundwork for .NET Services
The partners see their integrated portal as an ideal vehicle to fulfill the broader objectives of Microsofts .NET strategy, which calls for delivering software applications and diverse content as services that people can retrieve any time, any place and from any device. Plumtree, a charter member of the .NET early adopter program for independent software vendors, has begun a development plan with Microsoft to deliver .NET services through the Plumtree Corporate Portal.
“One of the greatest strengths of this alliance is that our companies share a long-term vision for creating a Web desktop that unites all the tools and information that people need in one location,”
said Dave Young, business development manager at Microsoft.
“Beyond the extensive integration that Plumtree and Microsoft already provide, our mutual customers are assured of getting the maximum benefit from future innovation.”
Glenn Kelman, Plumtree vice president of product management and marketing, noted that his company has built its products on a foundation of Microsoft technology since Plumtrees inception in 1997. Approximately two-thirds of Plumtrees customers run the Plumtree Corporate Portal on Microsoft SQL Server.
“Microsoft provides an unrivaled platform and highly reliable enterprise servers that can support the Plumtree Corporate Portal in any size of business information technology environment,”
“We believe that this expanded partnership will give customers a more reliable roadmap for moving their business processes onto the Web and getting more value out of the technology.”
Gathering Around the
Global Water Cooler
With more than 100,000 employee desktops running on Microsoft Windows and Exchange, as well as an extensive group of Microsoft Office users and SQL Server-based applications, British Telecom began its search for a corporate portal knowing that integration with Microsoft platforms would be crucial.
“We were looking for a product that could merge peoples day-to-day tasks, from looking at email and searching the Web to working with core business applications,”
Lilburn said. The company wanted its 15,000 at-home workers, 15,000 employees outside the United Kingdom and 35,000 customer service engineers to be able to access the system from any location. Besides implementing a portal application internally at British Telecom, BT Ignite also was interested in offering the chosen vendors product to outside clients as an application service provider (ASP).
After evaluating four portal applications, BT Ignite decided that Plumtree had the most mature product, reliable technology and proven experience with large companies. And unlike some offerings,
“Plumtrees open architecture allowed us to use a mixture of applications within the portal, instead of being locked into proprietary applications from a particular vendor,”
Colin Lilburn said. In addition to installing the portal internally, BT Ignite joined Plumtrees Hosted Solutions Program for ASPs last December.
BT Ignite and Plumtree initially deployed the portal in a pilot project with about 300 users last fall. Pleased with the results, British Telecom has expanded the project to several other lines of business and endorsed Plumtree as the preferred portal for all of its operations. Lilburns group is busy organizing each divisions applications and content sources into subcategories that can be easily searched and retrieved companywide using the Plumtree Corporate Portal.
With a library of more than 1,000 Plumtree Portal Gadgets available for integrating content from other applications and services, plus the ability to create its own customized gadgets and Web Parts,
“we can open up a lot of valuable information that has been locked away in individual user communities,”
Lilburn said. He also sees wide-ranging opportunities for product development teams, whose members often reside in different locations throughout Europe and Asia, to share information and make decisions faster in online work groups within the Plumtree platform.
“This technology makes it much easier for people to collaborate without having to travel to the same location for a meeting,”
“It creates the kind of team atmosphere you see around the water cooler or the coffee machine.”
Knowing that most of its employees were already comfortable working with Microsoft Office applications, BT Ignite worked closely with Plumtree and Microsoft representatives in the United Kingdom to develop a gadget that would preserve familiar traits of Outlook email, calendar, contacts, task lists and other features in the portal. Also, a bar across the top of the portals home page contains links to the 10 most popular sites on the British Telecom intranet, and users can add their own most-used sites to the list.
“These are ways that were able to let employees personalize the intranet and feel as if theyre in control of how they work in the portal,”
“We want to get to the point where this is the only thing people have on their desktops because they can set up information-sharing communities, have all their software delivered more easily, work more efficiently and get all their needs met in one place.”
He added that British Telecoms corporate portal offers a more cost-effective means of distributing new software applications and upgrades to the 100,000 desktops at more than 4,000 sites, as well as to employees who log onto the network from home.
“As we move to more of a multi-device environment, with our field-service representatives using things like handheld computers and Web-enabled mobile phones, the integration provided by Plumtree will become even more valuable,”
He is eager to see how much Plumtree and Microsofts development efforts will enhance the capabilities of Exchange Server, Web access to Outlook and other Microsoft solutions in British Telecoms network.
“Were really pleased to see the vote of confidence and recognition that Microsoft has given to the Plumtree Corporate Portal, because that validates our companys feelings as well,”
“The further integration of their products and the focus on delivering .NET services in the future are only going to mean better results for us in terms making the portal experience even simpler and more productive for our employees.”