Tourism New Zealand originally implemented SAP's R/3 application suite to integrate project planning with revenue and expenditure management across the organisation.
However, the data entry requirements created by SAP placed an onerous demand on field personnel, diverting them from their main jobs. The resulting training cost was also excessive, says Tourism New Zealand corporate services general manager Keith Thomas.
The solution was two-pronged: the first was to centralise back-office administrative tasks such as printing invoices, freeing regional staff for marketing activities; the second was to provide easy-to-use web interfaces for staff to enter project planning and accounting data. This would include web-based workflow to enable managers to request and grant budget approvals and expenditure approvals online.
Drury-based SAP integrators Design Build Systems (DBS) developed an intranet portal encompassing three main areas: project planning, customer invoicing and supplier payment approval. DBS used Backsoft's bTalk, which dynamically generates component code and web-based templates for SAP functions, to tie the portal, developed in Macromedia (previously Allaire) ColdFusion, to the SAP back end. This code is deployed on web application servers and enables real-time availability of SAP data over the internet.
Much of the expertise required to enter data into SAP previously consisted of business rules which had to be memorised. Examples included using a certain cost element for project planning or using a certain account group for certain customer types. The website eliminates much of this complexity by coding these business rules into the web application, and where necessary, storing rules in configuration tables resident in a small database on the web server.
"Users now complete only the minimum of information which has considerably simplified, if not dispensed with, the previously detailed training requirement," says Thomas. The web application has also received immeasurable improvement in user acceptance, he says.