As it prepares to consummate its merger with BEA Systems, Plumtree Software is going ahead with plans to launch a major new version of its portal software at its user conference next month.
Plumtree is keeping the technical details of its Plumtree 6.0 platform under wraps for now, but the new version will include Plumtree's broadest support to date for different system configurations, according to Jay Simons, Plumtree's vice president of product marketing.
"For all of our products, we're offering native Java and .Net interfaces," Simons said.
Plumtree's Odyssey show next month in Hollywood, Florida, combines for the first time its annual customer and developer conferences. It will also give the company's customers a chance to hear more about its future within BEA, which agreed last month to buy Plumtree for US$200 million. The acquisition is scheduled to close within the next few months.
One customer planning to attend Odyssey, Applebee's International portal communications manager Frank Ybarra, said he's not worried about the looming BEA transition. BEA has publicly pledged to continue developing Plumtree's software as an independent product line, and all Plumtree's communications with customers so far indicate that product support won't be interrupted, Ybarra said.
Plumtree has struggled for share in a portal market increasingly dominated by applications and middleware giants such as SAP, IBM and Oracle, which often sell portal software as an add-on to customers buying from their broader software stacks. US restaurant chain operator Applebee's could have gone that route -- its ERP (enterprise resource planning) backbone is built around PeopleSoft software -- but the company decided Plumtree's functionality outclassed its rivals enough to make the integration challenges of working with multiple vendors worth handling.
Applebee's selected Plumtree nearly four years ago, but only in the last year has it begun making regular use of its corporate portal through its 1,700 restaurants, many of which are operated by independent franchise owners.
"We did a fairly slow rollout and really tried to prove out the concept," Ybarra said. "We're not a technology-focused company. Our job is to sell hamburgers, steaks and salads."
Still, he can point to one portal project that has quickly paid off for Applebee's: The company developed a new electronic system for auditing its restaurants, replacing inspectors' paper checklists and clipboards with PDAs (personal digital assistants) running software that connects to Applebee's portal. Data that used to take months to manually compile is now quickly available, and managers can use analytics software to examine their operations in more detail than was previously possibly.
Applebee's next project will be developing knowledge-mining strategies to pull together information such as best practices and sales tips and package them for prominent display on its portal. For that, Ybarra expects to work closely with Plumtree and take advantage of features in Plumtree's forthcoming 6.0 update.
"What we want to see happen is a way of making our portal more effective at connecting knowledge. We definitely see Plumtree as a partner in making that happen," Ybarra said. "We want to make the portal a recognized daily information source. We're on the way there, but we're not there yet."