New Integration Packages Can Help Knit Disparate Systems

When Whirlpool Corp. wanted to integrate its SAP R/3 system with its pricing and promotion system from Trilogy Software Inc., the $9.5 billion manufacturer of home appliances ran up against a problem: how to get these disparate systems not only to talk to one another, but also to communicate smoothly in real time. Whirlpool turned to CrossWorlds Software Inc., Burlingame, Calif., a developer of enterprise application integration (EAI) systems. CrossWorlds and other EAI vendors such as Active Software Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., provide a seamless connection for making packages from different vendors -- or different versions of software from the same vendor -- work together. "We looked at the pros and cons of writing custom code to integrate the systems, but in our estimation, it would take too long," says Bob Briggs, senior project manager at Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Mich. Whirlpool is certainly not alone. Many companies find themselves in a similar position, wanting to use an ERP system from companies such as SAP AG, Baan Co. NV, Oracle Corp., or J.D. Edwards & Co. as their central focus, but to also continue to employ so-called "best-of-breed" software packages for various specific needs, such as advanced planning and scheduling, sales force automation, or pricing and promotions. "SAP is very good at pricing," says Briggs, "but it just didn't have that little edge . . . that we needed." Austin, Tex.-based Trilogy makes a software suite called Selling Chain that includes promotions, a configurator, and pricing functions. The only problem is, until recently, connecting these packages from different software companies promised to be a major chore. "Through the CrossWorlds connections, our Trilogy system figures the pricing and promotions for our trading partners (dealers, etc.), and then the order goes back to SAP to be processed," Briggs adds. According to Briggs, benefits include not only faster updating of customer and item information, but also a reduction in time from creation of a promotion to deployment from 30 to 10 days.

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