Radio Shack gets Clever with new portal

Radio Shack Canada was having a problem. The retailer was expanding quickly, opening stores across the country and it wanted to make sure employees felt like they were part of the corporation.

The Barrie, Ont.-based company also wanted to be able to give the same information at the same time to each employee, so that no one was left out of the loop. And they wanted to achieve this with a self-service application.

The company had invested in various products over the last four years to help manage its environment, including Computer Associates International Ltd.’s eTrust security product. This led Radio Shack to look at CA’s CleverPath Portal product as a means to solve its information delivery problems.

Margot Weeks, vice-president of information services with Radio Shack Canada, said one compelling reason to go with CA was that the product was built in an environment (the product has architecture support for .Net, J2EE, XML, XSL and SOAP) that gets along with other players well.

“I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket,” Weeks said.

She said the portal product allows all employees to clearly see what the company is doing and what the corporate mission is.

Radio Shack turned to CA’s Professional Services to help with the implementation. Weeks said centralizing all of its information and giving portal access to all locations was a huge job, and by getting professional services to do it for them, they accomplished two things: they got it working and benefited from the knowledge transfer.

“There were no courses and no books. It was a shortcut,” she said. The implementation was completed in eight weeks.

Many employees were hesitant at first, Weeks said, but after building the training process slowly and then more or less forcing people to use the system, employees are now adding information and ideas to the system. IT and the corporate offices are no longer putting all the information on the portal; much of it is coming from retail locations.

Ricardo Antuna, vice-president of marketing for CA, said implementing the CleverPath Portal is the first step on a long journey to information delivery. Last April, CA reorganized its brands into units – the CleverPath unit is made up of a wide variety of information and analysis products, which CA has grouped these into four levels.

The first level is centralizing access to data – CleverPath falls into that. The second level is delivering trustworthy information, which includes CA’s OLAP product, a reporting tool and a visual development tool. Level three is transforming information into knowledge and level four is putting knowledge into action. Products for those two levels include automating known business process and rules and a predictive analysis server.

Weeks said she knows Radio Shack is a level one, but wants to be a level four. Antuna said most enterprises look at CA’s information delivery model and want to be a level four, but most are only a level one.

“Radio Shack started by providing a central point of access to information for employees, and are now looking to expand it,” Antuna said.

Henry Morris, group vice-president for applications and information access at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said moving to this type of information delivery and then relating information to business rules and making decisions based on that is the way portals should be approached.

He said portals will evolve from being a place to deliver information to being able to integrate some information before giving it to the user. As CA is an infrastructure software organization, it can offer some integration of data now, and that is going to help CA appeal to customers, Morris said.

“Right now, you won’t find too many examples of people implementing portals with (business) rules,” he said.

He said CA’s expertise in predictive analysis will make its solutions seem fairly sophisticated compared to what many of its competitors have.