REDMOND, Wash., March 14, 2002 — Like many companies, TOA Electronics Inc. recently was looking to do a little spring cleaning at its California headquarters. But the South San Francisco-based manufacturer of commercial sound equipment wasn’t interested in going through its nooks and crannies to get rid of old files, outdated publications or office furniture.
Instead, TOA wanted to consolidate the documents, data and other information that made up its corporate knowledge base. By doing so, the manufacturer of sound-reproduction equipment hoped its employees could more easily access information stored in disparate sources, enabling them to more efficiently serve their customers and dealers. The variety of software and systems used over the years to assemble TOA’s applications and documents had left the firm with ‘a fragmented, disparate and sometimes difficult computing environment
To “clean house,” TOA tapped Convergent Computing, a professional services firm that helps companies develop and maintain their technology infrastructure. Convergent’s recommendation: Upgrade TOA’s desktop PCs to Microsoft Office XP and add Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, which automatically creates a Web portal during installation and is designed to offer a centralized access point for finding and managing information.
“Office XP and SharePoint Portal Server really allow us to improve support to our customers and our employees, while maintaining an environment that we can easily maintain and develop at a low cost,” says Albert Savedra, TOA controller/director of administration.
Microsoft will showcase SharePoint Portal Server during the National Manufacturing Week trade show, which runs from March 18-21 in Chicago. More than 1,600 manufacturers will gather at the annual show to discuss ways to cut costs, leverage relationships and increase profitability.
Manufacturers Leverage Power of SharePoint Portal Server
SharePoint Portal Server is designed to enable users to find, share and publish information within business departments and throughout entire businesses. “In today’s working environment, people spend increasing amounts of time searching, organizing and managing the information groups create and collect,” says Trina Seinfeld, Microsoft SharePoint product manager. “SharePoint Portal Server makes that process easier and can help put companies light years ahead of the competition.”
Microsoft developed SharePoint Portal Sever to provide users with the ability to quickly create corporate Web portals with search functions, document management features and collaboration options. SharePoint Portal Server relies on the power of tools knowledge workers already use every day — Windows Explorer, Office applications and browsers, Seinfeld says.
The portal created during installation offers a centralized access point for finding and managing information. By using a browser to view the portal, users can collaborate on documents and find information without having to switch from one application to another. The portal allows users to browse through information by categories, search for information, subscribe to new or changing information, find information in line of business applications, check documents in and out, review a document’s version history, approve documents for publication and publish documents.
SharePoint Portal Server provides access to information stored inside or outside an organization, enabling users to find and share documents regardless of location or format. In addition, people can customize the portal’s home page to display organizational news and other important information.
The SharePoint family also includes SharePoint Team Services, which provides a customizable, out-of-the box team Web site for ad-hoc collaboration and sharing of information such as documents, calendars, announcements and other postings. SharePoint Team Services sites can be searched and indexed by SharePoint Portal Server and are best for small, or ad-hoc groups needing to collaborate and communicate status on projects with one another.
“In general, larger companies increasingly see SharePoint Portal technologies as a necessary corporate investment,” Seinfeld says. “SharePoint enables today’s knowledge worker to better meet customer demand, management needs, team goals and colleague requests. It all boils down to productivity and a knowledge worker’s access to information — the more access you have to information, the more competitive an organization is going to be.”
But Seinfeld doesn’t need to stress that to employees at TOA.
In addition to providing a central access point for information, SharePoint provided TOA with a way to distribute product information and training material to dealers without overburdening internal support staff. They can now quickly research and resolve support calls via SharePoint Portal Server and Team Services Web sites, as opposed to a manual process that previously took hours. TOA says the ability to easily search and retrieve information using SharePoint Portal Server is reducing the time required to handle support calls by 15 to 20 percent.
TOA’s Savedra says document-management features within SharePoint Portal Server also offer a platform for TOA to control the publishing of documents and to foster collaborative efforts. Such capabilities as Check Out, Check In and Publish provide control over the entire process, from creation to final publication of documents. Information can be recorded and tracked for auditing purposes, and use of the electronic “discussion” feature provides a mechanism for employees to easily collaborate on documents.
SharePoint Portal Server Aids Company Organization
Officials of Anderson Power Products, which manufactures and supplies components for the telecommunications, data-communications and materials-handling industries, express similar praise for SharePoint Portal Server. With facilities in the United States and Ireland, the company needed a broad platform to share product and customer information throughout the organization.
Independent research conducted by Nucleus Research revealed that SharePoint Portal Server enabled Anderson Power to improve information organization and access, such as a reduction in IT management costs, Anderson reports. The elimination of a costly document management system and high-maintenance intranet environment enables Anderson to focus some of those resources on SharePoint and the rest on other strategic IT projects.
Nucleus Research calculated the return on investment (ROI) to be about 267 percent over the course of three years. During this time, Anderson expects to realize US$1.2 million in savings and efficiencies and to repay its initial $255,000 investment in about five months. While manufacturing companies such as Anderson and TOA have embraced SharePoint Portal Server as it exists today, Seinfeld says Microsoft continues to work with customers to understand their needs and incorporate their feedback into future product enhancements.
“The return on investment has the potential to be huge,” she says. “People over the years have implemented different business systems, but they’re hard to maintain and costly to manage. If you can simplify all that and bring it into once place, well, that’s a good thing. And we hope to make it even better.”