Integrated Enterprise Portal
An EPIC solution
The more you innovate, the lesser is the dependence on pre-configured solutions.
To keep with this vision the Eicher Group of Companies has set up an integrated
portal called Eicher Portal for Information and Collaboration (EPIC) to help
facilitate employee productivity. by Shipra Arora
The challenge for automotive engineering major, Eicher Group, was to be able
to meet the growing information and collaborative needs in a user-friendly and
An integrated portal EPIC (Eicher Portal for Information
and Collaboration) based on the Lotus Domino platform, as a single point of
service for all these needs, not only improved efficiencies in terms of collaboration
and employee productivity, but also facilitated knowledge management and downright
According to Sanjay Govil, Director of IT, GIS, Cartography and Chief Information
Officer at Eicher, "The vision is to make EPIC the facilitator and single
point for all information and collaborative needs covering the employees in
the first phase, and extending it to our partners in the future. And we have
reached quite a bit in this journey."
Workflow gets a boost
The Eicher Group has its business interests spread across the design, development,
production and marketing of tractors, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and automotive
components apart from cartography, GIS, engineering services, and management
With its presence spread across a corporate office, seven manufacturing locations
and around 25
marketing offices, maintaining information access and adequate collaboration
across the organization is one of the keys to success, but nevertheless a daunting
task. The company has multiple business units across 40 locations in India and
In terms of workflow, today the company covers most of the employee-centric
processes like travel management, reimbursements, and appraisals. It is constantly
adding new processes and applications to EPIC.
There are around 1,500 employees, who are mostly white-collar, accessing the
self-service portal through user code password access.
The Eicher Group faced the problem of limited access to information on one hand,
and resource-eating cumbersome processes on the other. In terms of information
access, employees could not easily consult the manufacturing documentation,
company procedures, and quality standards since the information was not housed
in a central location.
The information was spread across different sources and in structured and unstructured
formats. It also did not have convenient collaboration forum or corporate information
There was no easy access to check the status of aspects like expense reimbursement
claims, travel requests, or to clarify a salary issue. All this, in effect,
threatened to affect the employees' productivity and ultimately the group's
sales and market shares.
Conceptualization and solution
Around mid-2002 the company conceptualized a solution in the form of a self-service
portal that integrated the solutions to all its requirements into one and that
would also take care of the future information and collaboration requirements
with the partners.
According to Govil, there were three areas that the company wanted to focus
on-improving collaboration, improving an individual's productivity, and
facilitating knowledge management within the organization.
In terms of technology, this translated into building tools for content management
and delivery, to enable knowledge management, collaborative tools like instant
messaging and workflow automationall into one integrated portal.
Applications help operations
A powerful document library (with an in-built approval workflow) and content
management tool provides the platform for knowledge management. EPIC thereby
integrates all the facets like intranet, workflow automation, collaborative
tools, and knowledge management tools into a single unified architecture.
The Eicher Group already had applications like SAP, which provided the transaction
processing needs, Microsoft Exchange for messaging, and Crystal Decisions for
Business Intelligence. Creating a single interface to access these was the next
After the conceptualization process, Eicher evaluated various vendors for providing
the portal solution including IBM, BroadVision, and Microsoft.
that IBM offered the best solution to meet the requirements of our enterprise
as well as unparalleled technological expertise and industry experience,"
Another deciding factor in favor of IBM was its worldwide network of business
partners. With the system requirements in place the application development
was outsourced to IBM business partner Pre-emptive Systems, a Lotus Domino developer.
The components of the software deployed include IBM Lotus Domino R6, Lotus Domino
Enterprise Server, Lotus Domino Designer, Lotus Instant Messaging, Lotus Web
Conferencing, and Lotus Notes.
The solution was integrated with the backend SAP ERP using XML technology and
the Microsoft Exchange messaging platform. In order to keep EPIC simple and
user-friendly, Eicher decided to use a browser as the access mechanism.
"It gives us an advantage to allow some applications to be available over
the Internet. So, people who travel can use the Internet and log into the system
for access," Govil adds.
EPIC introduced better workflow automation, which according to Govil, turned
out to be a grand success. Today the Eicher Group has enabled most of its employee-centric
business processes over the portal, and got rid of the paper-based processes.
Employee leave, reimbursements, travel management, appraisals, and annual work
plans are all done in real-time through this portal. The solution enables the
employees to draft a broad range of requests, automatically routes them for
approval and processing, and tracks their progress.
And being tightly integrated with SAP, the SAP database gets updated automatically.
However, Govil clarifies that EPIC is not just a HR system since there are other
aspects as well. The focus is driven from an employee's perspective. Eicher
is now expanding the scope of EPIC beyond the HR processes through the workflow
automation of other processes, and adding them to the portal on a regular basis.
It has recently started a helpdesk for IT called 'Serve IT'.
Also in the pipeline are Customer Service Management (CSM) and procurement management,
which are both very workflow-oriented processes. CSM, which is for after sales
support, is already being piloted at one of the business units. Other collaborative
business processes like purchase requisitioning, training, management, and budgeting
will also be workflow-enabled on EPIC over the next few months.
According to Govil, it is difficult to say whether total automation of workflow
will be possible, but clearly the vision is to eliminate the non-value added
activities from the company's processes and automate the processes as far as
"We have not automated for the sake of automation but actually in areas
where we will get business benefits in terms of cutting down on the cycle time
of processes, and bringing down the cost of processes," he said. As a result,
the group is taking up those processes for their workflow automation where there
are business benefits.
An interesting feature of the portal solution is that it has embedded intelligence
to display the latest organization structure for the workflow operations. The
entire application is being driven by the organization's structure and any changes
in the structure are incorporated automatically.
Collaboration and Knowledge Management
EPIC provides a content publishing tool to allow knowledge management capabilities.
In this function, the content has been categorized into different categories
and allows anyone to contribute to any category.
However, every category has a moderator or a content editor who can accept and
publish, edit, publish, and reject the article.
"We have allowed everyone to contribute to any category thereby keeping
it very open and transparent. Anything I contribute through this is available
and visible to everyone. So, that's how the knowledge management piece gets
built up," explained Govil.
In addition to this the portal provides document libraries. The document libraries
have been created as secure areas where one can define access to different people.
Eicher has created different document libraries for different areas, functions,
and business units within the organization, thereby creating a huge information
repository, which is centrally accessible.
"With all this we are trying to proliferate information-sharing but at
the same time making sure that certain amount of manageability and confidentiality
of critical documents is maintained," says Govil.
The Eicher Executive Information System (EIS) tool on the other hand provides
executive information on sales, purchases and production, and receivables. The
company plans to extend knowledge management to integrate external sources of
information like industry news, financial analysis, best practices, and benchmarking
in the future.
On the collaboration front, EPIC provides an Instant Messaging (IM) tool, which
is Domino-based and instantly tells who's online. It allows any user to send
a chat request to another user.
While all the 1,500 EPIC users are entitled to text-based chat, there are only
few people who are entitled to use audio and video in their chats for resource
optimization and bandwidth management. In addition to IM, there are features
like surveys, polls, discussion forums, and team rooms, which are largely for
According to Govil, the implementation of the portal solution has resulted in
a number of benefits. There are benefits in terms of reducing the turnaround
time of key employee-centric processes by 30-40 percent, and considerable reduction
in data entry errors and administrative costs by minimizing the need for telephone
follow-ups, printed forms, and manual data entry.
Most of the employees require SAP access for authorizing and approving transactions,
and for viewing HR-related information for themselves and their subordinates.
However, with the same enabled through EPIC there have been cost-savings on
the number of licenses.
In addition to this, the Eicher Group has witnessed benefits in terms of rise
in employee satisfaction and productivity with the transparency of employee-centric
processes and easy access to information.
In an online survey conducted three months after implementation by the Eicher
Group, more than 75 percent employees reported improved productivity due to
elimination of time-consuming and paper-based processes.
As part of its future strategy, EPIC will play the central role in becoming
the 'single-window' anytime, anyplace, and anyway gateway for all information
and collaboration needs. Over the next 12-18 months the company plans to integrate
its dealer and vendor portals into EPIC and have a unified system in place.
In future, the group also plans to deploy a true portal technology at the backend
so that even the applications are run through this. So, the only screen that
users will need to see for processing SAP transactions will be EPIC.
This will, however, be a little ahead in the future. According to Govil, "SAP
is already Web-enabled, but using EPIC will make it more esoteric. So, what
is important right now is where we can extract the most benefits. We will move
the process gradually as and when the need arises and reap the benefits."
Shipra Arora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
| The company
The Eicher Group has business
units in 40 nationwide locations, seven manufacturing locations, and around
25 marketing offices.
The company needed to allow
information access and adequate collaboration since it felt that these
were important for success.
The company set up an enterprise
portal called Eicher Portal for Information and Collaboration (EPIC),
using a number of useful technologies to help facilitate employee productivity.
There are benefits in terms
of reducing the turnaround time of key employee centric processes by 30-40
percent, and considerable reduction in data entry errors and administrative
costs by minimizing the need for telephone follow-ups, printed forms,
and manual data entry.