Wattyl paints future with Web apps

Despite a heritage of stovepiped and legacy information systems, paint maker Wattyl is taking the great leap forward into Web-based architecture and is deploying a new portal project to unify its current range of applications.

Dubbed "Wattyl Workplace", the new portal plans to unite several disparate application platforms - including iSeries, PC, point-of-sale, business intelligence, and spreadsheets - into a common intranet, according to information services manager Rae Hough.

"We used to buy the cheapest application we could find," Hough said, adding the number of disparate applications and systems resulted from not having a strong IT strategy.

"Our strategy is to make the intranet a conduit to all other applications," she said, adding a "strong adherence to standards" would see new applications added without the "need to throw out the legacy ones".

Hough said full migration away from some legacy applications would take another two years.

Although Wattyl has no previous history with Web applications, the company was quick to realize the benefits.

"It can't happen fast enough," Hough said. "We have offices in every state and a disparate workforce so collaboration was a challenge. We are now looking to [consolidate] applications onto the portal."

On Wattyl's to-do list of desirable portal desires are a POS system and new business intelligence tools that would "fit perfectly" on the portal.

Designed in August last year and going live in December, Wattyl has become one of the first companies in the world to implement IBM's Workplace Services Express collaboration platform, according to IBM.

"We love Workplace's flexibility," Hough said. "It has an office document editor and e-mail workplace functionality. Workplace really refines what they get - the right document and version. Also, staff log on to the portal and see task lists and knowledge [references]."

Currently being trialled on a limited basis, the portal will be extended over all 850 staff by August.

"We want the portal to be owned by the company and not IT. The intranet is the basis for all forward strategies, Rae said."

Wattyl CIO John Croker said although the company hasn't typically been process driven, it intends to become more "robust, reliable and reproducible".

"The concept was to use the intranet and [to give] all apps XML connectivity," Croker said. "The ROI for the project is expected to be a couple of years.

The savings are in a more flexible and efficient organization. For example, we spend about $250,000 a year on paper and ink so if we can get that down by 20 percent by using [Web] forms for everything then that's a $40,000 per year saving."

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