Every day, the 15,000 information workers at Tyson Foods share information with one another to develop and market hundreds of products. To speed employee connections, strengthen business insight, and improve efficiency, Tyson deployed Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 as its companywide collaboration platform. Using the software’s Enterprise Search capability, employees can find the people and data they need quickly, and employees have created more than 700 personal sites to share skills and experience. Users can access dashboards that expose SAP data through SharePoint sites to aid decision making, as well as business intelligence tools that integrate with Microsoft Office desktop programs for improved insights. In addition, the IT staff has been able to quickly create powerful, new Office Business Applications that are boosting productivity and savings across the company.
Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, was founded in 1935 and has become the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. The company—which has approximately 104,000 employees at more than 300 facilities around the world—provides a variety of protein-based and prepared food products to customers throughout the United States and in more than 80 countries. Tyson is the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500.
The 15,000 information workers at Tyson Foods need to share information and knowledge to develop and market hundreds of products, respond to customers promptly, keep production lines moving, and handle myriad operational details. In 1995, to provide online sites for easier information sharing, the company’s IT staff launched its first intranet using Microsoft® SharePoint® Team Services, a feature of the Microsoft Office FrontPage® Web site creation and management tool. However, only 50 people in the company—IT staff and a few “super users”—were qualified to post content to the sites, which resulted in information bottlenecks, out-of-date site content, and a lack of effective collaboration among employees.
In 2003, Tyson replaced Office FrontPage with Windows® SharePoint Services 2.0, part of the Windows Server® 2003 operating system, broadening the number of content managers at Tyson from 50 to 150 people by simplifying content management. Because more people could post content to the online sharing sites, information remained fresh and people took greater advantage of the intranet. By giving more people the responsibility of managing Web content, the IT staff had more time to develop business applications.
In 2006, Tyson upgraded its intranet again, this time to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, to take advantage of new features such as customizable Web parts, the ability to save documents and spreadsheets to a SharePoint site, and a rudimentary search engine. At the time, Tyson had about 100 SharePoint sites on its intranet.
With customer and product data growing exponentially and cycles accelerating for everything from new-product development to customer response, Tyson information workers were under increasing pressure to connect and collaborate quickly and effectively. They also needed to make better use of data and processes contained in SAP and other line-of-business (LOB) systems. As the company grew—from 69,000 to 104,000 employees in 2001, due to a large acquisition—employees could not easily find the people and information they needed, and they struggled to learn complex SAP-based business processes. Finally, despite the spread of SharePoint sites, the company’s file shares continued to house a significant amount of information.
Another problem related to company growth was the challenge of making sense of so much data. Tyson used Cognos as its corporate business intelligence (BI) tool, but the program required a steep learning curve. Many employees beyond the Cognos experts could benefit from BI insights, but the IT staff did not have time to develop custom Cognos analysis cubes and dashboards for every department. In fact, the overworked IT staff had far more project requests than it could handle. It was eager to discover and deploy new technologies that would either shorten development cycles or empower users to create their own solutions without IT help.
In July 2007, a few members of the Tyson IT staff attended a Microsoft business intelligence vision session at the Microsoft Technology Center in Austin, Texas. “We learned about Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and saw how that product could be integrated with BI and with our Microsoft Office productivity programs,” says Mark Barron, Lead Programmer Analyst of the Productivity Management Group at Tyson Foods. “We saw that if we invested more in our collaboration infrastructure, we could do more and save money.” Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a complete Web collaboration solution that includes content management, business intelligence, enterprise search, workflow, line-of-business integration, and sophisticated rights management capabilities.
||Office SharePoint Server 2007 BI tools are faster to learn and use than our other tools…. We can enable more people to take advantage of BI due to the familiar interface.
Project Leader, Productivity Management Group, Tyson Foods
The IT team returned home with new ideas about using its SharePoint sites for far more than content sharing. The IT staff formed the Productivity Management Group to consider what Tyson could do with Office SharePoint Server 2007 and market those services to business users. In April 2008, the company deployed Office SharePoint Server 2007 companywide in one weekend.
The Productivity Management Group decided that Office SharePoint Server 2007 was so easy to use that it would not require a global training effort. Instead, the team decided to let people experiment with the product. “We did implement individual sites for the IT staff and some product groups to broaden the program’s use and get the word out,” says Rebecca Wilson, Project Leader in the Productivity Management Group at Tyson. “But people started to discover the new features themselves and spread the word for us.”
Bringing Business Intelligence to the Masses
Tyson employees are discovering the powerful BI capabilities in Office SharePoint Server 2007: dashboards, Web parts, key performance indicators (KPIs), business connectivity technologies, and reporting tools. The employees use these capabilities to self-service their information needs and to create, publish, and distribute information more securely, with little training.
For example, prior to using Office SharePoint Server 2007 to publish sales force scorecards, salespeople would spend two weeks every quarter completing complex forms that requested performance metrics in a number of areas. The accounting staff would pull data from Cognos into spreadsheets and combine it with data that they manually extracted from other systems such as SAP. Now, the Tyson IT staff uses Excel® Services in Office SharePoint Server 2007 to combine the sales and SAP data into a Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet that is accessible through a single dashboard. This tremendously reduces preparation time and makes business users happier.
Because Excel Services dynamically renders the spreadsheet as an interactive HTML Web part, users can access the spreadsheet from the SharePoint site with any Web browser. In one dashboard screen, Tyson sales managers and salespeople can view individual performance, or the performance of a team, in a way that makes sense to them. “Salespeople can see what they’re being measured against and view their own performance in the context of their peers across the company,” Wilson says. “Managers can see their entire team’s performance and drill down for more detail.”
Similarly, in the finance department, the IT staff uses Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 Analysis Services to create analysis cubes—data structures that enable fast analysis of data—and uses Excel Services to publish those cubes to a SharePoint site, where financial analysts can easily view them. SQL Server Analysis Services is a suite of data mining services included in Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software. Tyson uses SQL Server Reporting Services to create financial reports that are posted on SharePoint sites for easy report distribution and management.
Gaining Efficiencies through Office Business Applications
The IT staff began to see Office SharePoint Server 2007 as a useful general-purpose development tool. The IT staff is using Office SharePoint Server 2007 to address requests from small groups that had not warranted development resources in the past. Now, the staff can quickly and inexpensively fulfill these requests, experiencing productivity boosts and savings across the company.
For example, the IT staff created an application based on Microsoft Office Word 2007 that pulls data from LOB systems to help a small group of employees speed contract revisions. Each quarter, account managers in the Food Service Group use a template in Office Word 2007 to prepare or update contracts with restaurants and stores. Previously, these contracts were stored on file shares. To complete the contracts, the account managers had to open multiple LOB systems to look up information. Employees often did not know where to find the latest version of a contract, whether the products requested were still being made, or if prices were current. It typically took two weeks each quarter to write up new contracts, which delayed business renewal and reflected poorly on the company’s image.
To solve these issues, the IT staff used the 2007 Microsoft Office system to create an Office Business Application (OBA) that links the Office Word 2007 contract template to business systems such as customer and product databases. OBAs connect people to business processes, enabling people to work and collaborate using familiar desktop software along with LOB data and transactions. In Tyson’s Contracts Office Business Application, users go to a SharePoint site and access a Contracts template that enables them to look up a contract number. Once the contract is opened, it dynamically pulls live, up-to-date information from LOB applications into the Office Word 2007 template, automatically updating contract variables. Built-in workflow determines next steps and routes the contract to the appropriate Tyson personnel.
In its international trade area, the IT staff used Office SharePoint Server 2007 to streamline the letter-of-credit approval process. Every day, the credit department at Tyson receives dozens of letters of credit from international buyers through an electronic data interchange (EDI) process. Information workers in this department manually broke apart the letter and transferred the data into an Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet. Inaccurate or incomplete documents delayed delivery or customer acceptance. Plus, Tyson was assessed a financial penalty and had to spend additional time and effort to correct and resend those documents. If the process dragged on too long, Tyson could lose the perishable product en route.
The IT staff wrote a Web service that takes the EDI letter of credit and transfers it into a template on a SharePoint site. When traders open the spreadsheet, they see the original EDI document as one tab, while another tab contains the prefilled template. “We took advantage of Open XML Formats in Office 2007 to pull information from the EDI document,” says Charles Norman, Lead Programmer Analyst in the Productivity Management Group at Tyson Foods. “Also, by entering the sales order number into the spreadsheet, the employee automatically updates the company’s sales inventory system, with no extra work. Only five people use this system, but it prevents us from paying significant detention charges each year.”
Taking Fuller Advantage of SAP
Tyson wanted to get maximum value from its significant investment in SAP, the company’s core business system. Office SharePoint Server 2007 has become critical to Tyson’s ability to broadly inject SAP data into business processes across the company. By integrating SAP data into SharePoint sites, Tyson can enable employees to easily access that data through familiar Office programs. This gives more employees security-enhanced access to SAP data and eliminates the time needed to open and close multiple applications throughout the day.
For example, Tyson plans to integrate SAP with Office SharePoint Server 2007 to aid with employee self-service and supplier collaboration. Employees will be able to view, share, analyze, and act on SAP data and processes in user-friendly formats without leaving their Microsoft Office programs. Tyson would also like to extend SAP processes to supply-chain partners, to make purchase order changes using Microsoft Office-based workflows and eliminate cumbersome, manual processes.
Finding Information and People
Tyson currently has about 250,000 documents posted on hundreds of SharePoint sites. Employees use Enterprise Search in Office SharePoint Server 2007 to search these documents for instant answers. This eliminates the need to manually navigate the intranet to locate documents hidden in various document libraries.
Using Social Computing for Better Collaboration
Tyson also has about 700 MySites—personalized SharePoint sites—where employees post their skills, education, background, active projects, and more. “MySites really appeal to younger workers who are familiar with Facebook,” Wilson says. “Social networking helps us find colleagues who have the expertise we need to form more cohesive teams.” The number of MySites continues to grow as sales teams and other groups across the company launch sites.
Other employees have taken advantage of the ability to create blogs and collaborative Web sites in Office SharePoint Server 2007, providing new ways for employees to share information and experience on a variety of topics. “There are individual and departmental blogs in numerous Tyson product groups, and in customer support, research and development, finance, and even our community services area,” Wilson says. “Employees now know where to go to share information and can share it in a quick, conversational way.”
By using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to support collaboration companywide, Tyson gained much more than a modern content management system. Tyson is providing employees with a richer tool set for collaboration so that they can both find and act on information they need to make fast, accurate decisions. The built-in BI tools give more employees access to information that leads to powerful insights. Taking advantage of the document libraries and workflow features, Tyson engineered process efficiencies across the organization. Best of all, the IT staff now uses Office SharePoint Server 2007 as an extension of its development environment to fulfill project requests that consumed too many resources using traditional development approaches.
Using the Enterprise Search and MySite capabilities of Office SharePoint Server 2007, the company’s 15,000 information workers are better able to locate the information and people they need, when they need it. Tyson is gradually moving all file shares to Office SharePoint Server 2007, where employees will be able to search all the company’s business information—project data, blogs, wikis, announcements, employee contact information, competitive intelligence, and more—regardless of format. Faster access to accurate information, especially SAP processes and data, speeds decisions, minimizes errors, and produces better business decisions.
“Enterprise Search and social networking help us solve problems and execute tasks faster because it’s easier to find people,” Wilson says. “When a document is posted to a SharePoint site, we can see who uploaded it and view a profile of that individual. We are providing more information about one another to our information workers, which helps us take better advantage of our collective skills and experience.”
Better Business Insight
Tyson can now deliver business intelligence to the masses through the use of Excel Services dashboards, through KPIs in Office SharePoint Server 2007, and with SQL Server Analysis Services and Reporting Services. Employees use familiar Microsoft Office programs to gain powerful BI insights without learning another application such as Cognos. In fact, the company’s BI team is working on a one-stop reporting portal where all reports and analysis capabilities from programs such as SQL Server Reporting Services, Cognos, SAP BI, and Office Excel 2007 will be available. Users will be able to access the information they need on a SharePoint site without having to remember which application hosts the information.
“Office SharePoint Server 2007 BI tools are faster to learn and use than our other tools, from both a developer and end-user perspective, because they take advantage of our deep Excel knowledge,” Wilson says. “We can enable more people to take advantage of BI due to the familiar interface. Plus, having SQL Server Reporting Services integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio® tools simplifies report development, because we no longer need a separate reporting tool.”
Tyson salespeople have access to information that previously was not available to them because of the lack of report integration. Now they have one place to see how their performance compares to that of their peers. They also have more time to spend with customers rather than concentrating on internal reporting. “The sales reporting application has fostered a new spirit of competitiveness among the sales team by making the information public,” Barron says. “Managers can view every member of their organization and compare them to one another using consistent metrics. They can quickly see who needs improvement. The application has been wildly popular with the executive team because it makes it so much easier to get an instant status of our sales performance.” Now, every sales team in the company uses the sales reporting dashboard, totaling 500 users across the company.
Improved Organizational Efficiency
Using SharePoint sites for information sharing, information updates, and process improvements helps Tyson introduce efficiencies throughout the organization. For example, in the Food Service Group, Tyson cut contract review time in half with the contract-review OBA. Contracts are completed in minutes versus days, and all the information is accurate because it is updated dynamically using LOB data that can be automatically accessed. “The contract review application is used by only 10 account managers, but these contracts represent hundreds of millions of dollars of business,” Wilson says. “Plus, it has created greater customer goodwill for Tyson, because contracts are always on time and error-free. Account managers can spend their time with the customer talking about new products or substitutes for discontinued products versus making corrections at the last minute.”
In the finance department, having data in analysis cubes improves the company’s ability to audit financial data because information is consistent and more secure. Security is also enhanced by the ability to use Excel Services to hide information from unauthorized users. Financial analysts can publish reports to the intranet versus attaching documents to e-mail messages, which speeds access and reduces e-mail volume. Many analysts are using SQL Server Reporting Services in place of Cognos because it is less expensive and easier to use.
Responsiveness of financial analysis has also improved since Tyson began using Office Excel 2007 with SQL Server Analysis Services. “Performance has been amazing—the Analysis Services reports come back instantaneously, whereas the Oracle and Cognos reports could take anywhere from minutes to hours,” Barron says.
Powerful Solutions with Less Development
The IT staff—and senior management—is excited about the new applications being developed using Office SharePoint Server 2007. “We demonstrated to management that we, as an IT staff, are able to approach business problems differently than through a traditional development effort,” Wilson says. “We also provided solutions that enable users to stay in the familiar Microsoft Office environment. It has helped our staff’s image and enabled us to meet more business needs. Before, we just couldn’t take on a 5 or 10-user solution because it affected too few users; now we can.”
Tyson manages more structured data assets through SharePoint sites and increasingly encourages users to create their own reports using Office Excel 2007. “We are working with our finance team to enable accountants to create their own dashboards using Office Excel 2007, Excel Services, and SharePoint sites,” Wilson says. “That’s exactly what we did with our sales reporting application, but IT handled the publishing. Our next step will be to teach our business users to do this without IT assistance.”
Adds Barron, “Office SharePoint Server 2007 has really made our managers rethink how we deliver information to the business. It has also been a catalyst for our department in taking services to the user community versus them coming to us. We can show them what we have done for other departments to help trigger ideas. The sales reporting application, for example, was a huge catalyst in changing reporting methods across the company.”
The IT staff has been able to take full advantage of the software that users already know and use—Microsoft Office programs and SharePoint sites—to deliver improved productivity, collaboration, and information sharing. Managers can see information in different, more meaningful ways, and teams can streamline business processes to speed up the overall rate of business response.
The IT staff can deliver solutions to users sooner and less expensively using Office SharePoint Server 2007 because the team does not have to launch code-based development efforts. And some of those efforts are reaping returns.
The credit-approval OBA, for example, is saving the company significant sums due to faster document generation and the avoidance of detention fees for product held in foreign ports while waiting on revised shipping documents.
“In Office SharePoint Server 2007, we have found a cost-effective, easy-to-use solution that addresses a broad range of needs,” Wilsons says. “We are looking forward to using it to accelerate information sharing and business processes across the company.”
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