Motorbike distributor uses SharePoint for BI

A Canadian motorcycle distributor is using Microsoft Corp.’s SharePoint software to help its employees collaborate on projects instead of relying on chains of e-mails with attachments.

“E-mail is a very inefficient when it comes to sharing documents,” said Graham Hunter, IT manager for Deeley Harley Davidson Canada, a Concord, Ont.-based firm that sells motorcycles in Canada for Harley Davidson Inc.

More SharePoint news from ComputerWorld Canada

Vancouver firm tackles SharePoint pain points

The company has hired Vancouver-based Habanero Consulting Group to create a corporate portal using SharePoint 2007. A major advantage of the software is its ability to integrate with other software packages from Microsoft, Hunter said.

Along with the portal, Deeley also started a pilot project that would combine business intelligence from Cognos software and the collaboration capabilities of SharePoint. The goal was to help business executives get a better understanding of underperforming projects and figure out what effect, if any, a promotional program had on sales.

“The name of the game is to get as much information as we can into our systems,” he said. “We see Cognos as being our conduit between enterprise systems and SharePoint.”

For its enterprise resource planning (ERP), Deeley uses Oracle Corp.’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne software, running on IBM iSeries servers. The Cognos business intelligence software uses data from a Microsoft SQL Server database, Graham said.

Habanero helped them complete the migration to EnterpriseOne in April, and a major focus was on presenting the data in different ways to different workers, said Carol Villeneuve, a senior consultant with Habanero Consulting.

“You don’t want to give access to JD Edwards to every single person in your company, but that data’s really valuable, so we’re talking about different ways to service that data,” she said. “There’s lots of ways to getting the SharePoint site to retrieve data from other enterprise systems and display it.”

The entire project was “not a huge investment,” Hunter said, with hardware and licensing costs coming in between $150,000 and $200,000.

Next year, the company plans to connect the ERP system directly to SharePoint, without filtering the information through the Cognos software, and allow employees to view financial information at the account level.

“The beauty of SharePoint is you can apply security right down to the document level so that only the people who should see a particular document have rights to do it,” Villeneuve said. “We have the really senior people and they’re going to be allowed to see the financial stuff. Then there’s information that should be shared with every group in the company. Maybe it’s HR forms.”

Deeley has its own SharePoint developer team, so a major focus for the consultant was to teach them how to train non-tech workers.

“Typically we train the trainer,” Villeneuve said. “The internal training team then trains content authors to load the content in.” This way, she added, the people who use the content are making decisions as to what gets migrated to SharePoint.