Building Security

Since its widespread
adoption by businesses around the world, the internet has held the promise of being the
next great business communications medium, linking companies to their partners, suppliers
and customers. Technological innovations make ecommerce over the internet viable, yet
companies continue to be unsure about conducting business over the net.

According to Findhorn
Ltd, a UK-based Progress Partner, commercial use of the internet will increase when
companies realize the advantages or reengineering business processes and incorporate
internet, intranets and extranets to foster true ecommerce. Findhorn uses Progress
Software’s newest product, Apptivity, as a core technology to build multidiscipline,
Java-based business.

Critical database
applications

Companies want to use the internet for business-to-business commerce but get discouraged
when a technology-only solution fails, explains Duncan Sperry, Findhorn’s Chairman and
CEO. “We work with companies to help them understand the underlying processes of
their businesses; how these processes can be improved and which technology and
communications will make it fast, easy and safe to conduct international business
electronically. Java and Apptivity help enormously in the process.”

Building
trust

Located in Oxon, England, Findhorn was started in 1996. Customers benefit from the
multi-disciplinary expertise of the organization’s 10-person staff. Sperry’s background is
in setting up international markets for global payment systems, and he has worked for
corporations in the US, the UK and Southeast Asia.

Sperry decided to
focus Findhorn’s business relationships on the banking industry initially, because a large
proportion of banks and financial institutions operate internationally. “Business on
the internet comes down to trust,” he says. “People and businesses don’t think
twice about giving credit card numbers over the phone to strangers, trusting that people
will apply this private information only to its intended uses. However, even though proven
internet communications and security systems are readily available, businesses are less
excited about transmitting sensitive information over the net. If we can get the banks to
be comfortable with the idea that business can be secure, then other companies and
industries will follow suit.”

Findhorn’s solution is
Axiom, a modular business-to-business ecommerce solution that combines a low-cost internet
web commerce server with Java-based business applications, security, connectivity and
communications. With Axiom, businesses can run remote transaction processing systems,
including payments and information transfers, across the internet using web browsers that
interconnect with existing legacy database systems.

The Axiom transaction
processing engine includes a series of Java-driven application modules and tools, which
Findhorn terms Enablets, and which address a range of processes such as transaction
processing, electronic purchases and supply chain management, as well as administration
and business analysis. The Java applications were all developed using Apptivity.

“The essence of
the Axiom engine is that it produces HTML on the fly from the database, and can mirror
existing business processes,” explains Sperry. “Java enables you to quickly
develop and deploy new applications to mirror changes in your business processes. We knew
Java was the environment, but we were unsure about which tools were best to get the job
done.” After researching and evaluating a number of Java-based development
environments, Findhorn selected Apptivity to develop its suite of Java-based Enablets.

Findhorn cites four
primary customer benefits to its Apptivity-based Enablets:
Streamlining of business processes.
Empowering individuals to make decisions on a local
level, while retaining central budgetary control and allowing the company to apply common
business standards across the whole organization.
Implementing common business processes across MNCs
with multiple business units, multiple languages and different accounting systems and
operational procedures.
Enabling company managers and executives to quickly
and easily view timely information about their organizations to map trends, identify new
business opportunities and respond to discrepancies as they occur.

“Platform
independence is a primary benefit of Java, and Apptivity allows us to build and deploy
applications that work the same whether you are running Windows, Macintosh or Sun,”
Sperry notes. “For our business to be successful, it has to be relevant to the needs
of global companies, which, in most cases, operate different computing platforms in their
various international locations. Apptivity allows us to rapidly customize our software to
meet specific needs of customers, and gives them the freedom to deploy Axiom on their
preferred computing environments. Using Apptivity, we were able to accelerate development
of the Axiom Enablets.”

Web-powered
business-to-business extranets

Axiom was created primarily to facilitate business-to-business commerce. It allows
companies to establish extranets to link to their suppliers, for example, to order and
purchase products and to advertise goods and services. Companies can also specify
pre-authorized spending limits and volume discounts. In addition, the Axiom platform’s
built-in security features, including firewalls, authentication procedures, smart
card-enabled controls and authentication, assure that transfer of proprietary information
and funds are delivered to the proper recipients safely and securely.

Axiom enables
customers to set up three-way business-to-business ecommerce environments. First, an
Administration Server allows a company to specify users, set up budgets, assign authority
levels and link to dynamic spreadsheets to provide timely updates to business events.
Next, an intranet server using Appptivity’s high-performance connectivity enables internal
staff to browse and access leading databases on the fly, based on each user’s assigned
level of authority. Third, suppliers databases can reside as virtual machines on host
servers at a customer’s site.

Mirroring
the social system
When designing the Axiom system, Findhorn engineers used Apptivity Developer to
build, test and maintain intuitive, user-friendly Java business Enablets. With Apptivity,
Findhorn and its partners can create applications that are highly interactive and using
the Apptivity Component Library allows Findhorn developers to incorporate human touches
into the software.

Any technology has to
take into account what we call the social system-the ergonomics of the way people work and
interact. Sperry explains, "For example, if an individual has limited access to
information, we display only the material he or she is entitled to, rather than displaying
all the information that others in the company may be authorized for, but which he or she
is not allowed to see. You have to be able to customize the solution right down to the
individual, to think of how he or she interacts with the system and with others. You also
need a powerful and flexible tool to design these types of features into the GUI and
applications, and Apptivity allows us to do just that.

Findhorn anticipates
that businesses and banks can glean significant cost reductions and operational
improvements as a result of implementing business process reengineering and the Axiom
solution. "Using the web and our Java-based Enablets, companies can automate many
business processes and eliminate the need for others," says Sperry. "For
example, generating and routing one purchase order from beginning to end, including all
reconciliation, typically can cost a company between $70 and $150. With Axiom, we can
bring the cost down to less that $20, providing companies with significant ROI and cost
savings."

Findhorn continues to
work with Apptivity and the Progress team to add functionality to Axiom and to develop
additional business reengineering disciplines for MNCs. The company is moving forward on
establishing a US presence this year, and is actively looking for prospective partners.
Says Sperry, "The companies that we work with are trading on a global basis. In terms
of its core organization and technology, we see progress providing us with a strategic
platform to market and support companies international ecommerce needs now and in the
future."

PHIL LANDA.
Courtesy Progress Software.

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