Grocer uniforms store with content mgmt.

FRAMINGHAM (10/10/2003) - Regional supermarket chain Giant Eagle Inc. is installing a content management and collaboration system at all 214 of its grocery stores in an effort to ensure that business operations are consistent from store to store.

The Pittsburgh-based company, which does business in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, announced details of the project last month along with software vendor Open Text Corp. Giant Eagle began rolling out Open Text's Web-based Livelink tools in May and has them in place at about 70 percent of its stores. The deployment is due to be completed within 12 months, Giant Eagle said.

The grocer is also testing a real-time Web conferencing application developed by Waterloo, Ontario-based Open Text. The packaged software replaces a prototype content management system that Giant Eagle built three years ago.

Jack Flanagan, vice president of business systems at Giant Eagle, said the company's management realized it had to do a better job of fostering uniform operating practices in order to meet a goal of increasing annual revenue from US$5 billion now to $9 billion within four years.

In the past, Giant Eagle sent out memos on paper, Flanagan said, but that often led to communication delays or the spread of misinformation. In comparison, the content management system lets store workers use PCs to search databases of information about operating policies.

The company is running the Open Text software on Windows 2000 servers and has linked those machines to an Oracle Corp. database server that's based on IBM Corp.'s AIX version of Unix. Giant Eagle officials didn't disclose the expected total cost of the project, but they said the grocer has spent about $2.3 million on the initiative over the past three years.

Rich Levine, Giant Eagle's senior project manager for information systems, said the company evaluated products from about 20 software vendors. He said that in addition to data workflow and indexing tools, Livelink includes threaded discussion forums that let workers collaborate and exchange information.

Rob Lancaster, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said content management vendors are making inroads with users in markets other than finance and health care, two early adopters of the software. The integration of collaboration capabilities has become a key selling point, Lancaster added. "It brings content management a step closer to knowledge management," he said.

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