Del Monte Foods is one of the largest producers and distributors of food and pet products in the United States. The company relies on Microsoft products and technologies to run its technology infrastructure and recently participated in an early adopter program for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Del Monte is developing a SharePoint Server 2010–based application that helps the Finance department automate manual business processes such as approval workflows, and helps it ensure compliance by improving reporting capabilities. Del Monte plans to deploy similar applications for streamlining business processes to other business units throughout the company. With implementations that require little or no custom coding, Del Monte anticipates development cost savings, continued efficiency gains, and better business insights and results enterprisewide.
Del Monte Foods takes pride in its dedication to quality, its commitment to consumers, and its focus on innovation. These qualities have helped the company achieve its status as a leading provider of quality food and pet products, to the extent that its brands are found in 8 out of 10 households in the United States. In 2009, the company generated approximately U.S.$3.6 billion in net sales.
Del Monte strives for continual innovation in all areas of its company, including its technology infrastructure. A long-time user of Microsoft products and technologies, the company’s IT department eagerly accepts opportunities to test and incorporate the newest technologies into its environment. “We have put a lot of energy into fine-tuning our infrastructure,” says Jonathan Wynn, Manager, Advanced Technology at Del Monte, “and we look for every opportunity to push the products to achieve the highest return on our investments.”
||We are investing a significant amount of time and energy into SharePoint Server 2010 because we know it will be worth it. SharePoint Server–based collaboration has become a crucial part of our enterprise.
Manager, Advanced Technology, Del Monte Foods
Del Monte has relied on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to run its intranet, which includes departmental Web sites, Web-based forms and workflow processes, and document management capabilities. While many business processes—including asset requests and approvals, and the distribution of capital funds for purchases of hardware and other items—were automated with Office SharePoint Server 2007, the IT department still saw room for growth. “We wanted to automate more processes, and ones with higher levels of complexity,” explains Wynn. Again, we wanted to continue to innovate. SharePoint Server was rapidly gaining traction as our enterprise collaboration environment. We wanted to see what more it could do for us.”
Del Monte wanted to capitalize on this groundswell of excitement generated among users for Office SharePoint Server 2007. “We wanted to continue to focus everyone around the SharePoint Server environment. It had become a hub of collaboration, and we were well on our way to solving many business problems with it. We wanted to take advantage of the enhancements of SharePoint Server 2010 to continue to attract users and gain efficiencies,” explains Wynn.
In 2009, Wynn and his team were invited to be part of an early adopter program for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which allows companies to be involved with product development teams early, to provide feedback, and to gain a more thorough understanding of a new product’s capabilities. Participants often continue to conduct accelerated deployments of new products and technologies. “We jumped at the chance to experiment with the new technology,” says Wynn. To participate in this early adoption program, Del Monte needed to build a proof-of-concept application on the new version of the server software. “We wanted to find a common, highly manual business process to automate with SharePoint Server 2010,” says Wynn. The team hoped that it could build a prototype application that, in the end, could be used as a template for automating similar processes throughout the company.
Wynn and his team found the business process they were looking for in the Del Monte Finance department. The department used a SharePoint Server site for collaboration, document management, and forms-based approvals. “Finance was accustomed to the SharePoint Server 2007 environment,” says Wynn, “But they also had a series of processes that were highly manual, and highly dispersed in the way that they were organized and managed.”
The department maintains approximately 50 different financial schedules, managed in Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet software, to track corporate accounting information including balance sheet summaries, general ledger information, income statements, foreign dividend analyses, interest expenses, inventory, and more. Each schedule had to be finalized, reviewed, and approved each month to meet governmental reporting requirements such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
Each month, users created new sets of the spreadsheets, often on their local computers, which made it difficult to ensure consistency. Some stored the spreadsheets on network file shares, some in SharePoint Server document libraries, and still others relied on printed documents in binders. And without automated workflows, it was time-consuming for users to properly route the spreadsheets for approval. “It was even harder to ensure that approvers would meet their deadlines,” adds Wynn.
Del Monte created a proof-of-concept application called the Finance Schedule Approval application and continued its development work on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The Del Monte Finance Schedule Approval application will help the Finance department centrally manage financial schedules, or reports, within a SharePoint Server 2010 document library, and uses preconfigured schedule “templates.” Each month, Finance will be able to create a new set of spreadsheets based on a standard format with preconfigured information in the template. Each financial schedule has its own version history, workflow, and content type (which defines the attributes of a document) associated with it, which will help to improve consistency and speed monthly reporting and approval processes.
“Workflows and content types eliminate the act of copying and moving documents—which can introduce errors or inconsistencies into the process,” explains Wynn. “Now, all a user has to do is change the information in a schedule and the workflow takes care of the routing.” The workflow also monitors the due date of the associated financial report. “Approvers are alerted if a schedule isn’t approved,” explains Wynn. “Everyone involved in the process is keenly aware of the date by which the books need to be closed.”
With SharePoint Server 2010, Del Monte can also make documents and sites available to employees, offline. Through Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010, users will have access to content regardless of their location. SharePoint Workspace will also enable the IT department to make SharePoint sites and associated workflows accessible from users’ portable computers. “These capabilities will eliminate business slowdowns due to travel,” says Wynn.
Wynn’s team used SharePoint Composites, a capability of SharePoint Server 2010, to rapidly create collaborative solutions for business users—without writing new code. For instance, Del Monte is using Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 to customize the Finance Schedule Approval application’s workflow processes. “We’re learning from this experience of building the Finance Schedule Approval application how we can use SharePoint Server 2010 to deploy similar workflows across the company, with little or no custom coding. This will allow us to eventually put many of the customization capabilities in the hands of the business users,” says Wynn.
Michael Bernot, Architectural Analyst at Del Monte, who is ensuring a smooth transition for Finance from Office SharePoint Server 2007 to SharePoint Server 2010, also uses SharePoint Designer 2010 to apply the same customizations that were made to the Office SharePoint Server 2007 environment to the Finance Schedule Approval application’s user interface. “SharePoint Designer 2010 is extremely useful in helping us make this a smooth transition for users,” says Bernot.
||We wanted to automate more processes, and ones with higher levels of complexity.
Manager, Advanced Technology, Del Monte Foods
The IT department is exploring the use of a feature of SharePoint Composites, Business Connectivity Services, to enable users to connect to enterprise data, such as information stored in Microsoft SQL Server data management software. “We are in the process of researching the concept of connecting to and integrating data from our SQL Server data stores into SharePoint,” says Wynn.
Del Monte is also investigating the use of SharePoint Insights, features of SharePoint Server 2010 that allow users to find and work with information from a variety of sources within the SharePoint Server environment. The Enterprise Operations group is considering using Visio Services in SharePoint Server 2010 to share Web-based documents created in Microsoft Visio 2010 without incurring per-user software licensing costs. “With Visio Services, we will be able to give users access to Visio documents without purchasing the full client software,” says Wynn. “SharePoint Server 2010 is the place where we can bring all of this information—whether it’s a mash-up that combines information from Office Excel in Visio Services or information from third-party databases in Excel Services—together under one shell.”
Wynn continues, “We are very much at the beginning of exploring and implementing all that SharePoint Server 2010 has to offer. But we are committed to expanding our use of the product as the basis for our enterprise collaboration platform.” Del Monte is in a proof-of-concept phase with its solution; it plans to make the Finance Schedule Approval application available in a production capacity to users in the Finance department, and to other employees requiring access to financial information, in summer of 2010. It will continue to deploy new sites and applications based on SharePoint Server 2010 throughout the year.
Del Monte relies on Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to manage its SharePoint Server environment. “We treat SharePoint Server as a first-class enterprise application,” says Wynn. “It has to be available all of the time.” Del Monte uses the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager 2007 to monitor the health of its SharePoint Server environment and ensure top performance and availability. “We are very excited about the new functionality of the management pack, which allows us to monitor the health of our complex SharePoint Server 2010 environment and our server farm.” Del Monte also uses Microsoft Forefront Protection for SharePoint to help protect its SharePoint Server–based intranet. “Safeguarding our digital assets is a priority for us. We have very large Web applications for sales, finance, marketing, research, and quality systems.”
Del Monte made significant progress toward achieving widespread enterprise collaboration with Office SharePoint Server 2007. By taking advantage of the advancements in SharePoint Server 2010, the company believes it can further improve its collaboration infrastructure, realize broader efficiency gains, streamline development, and rapidly provide more visible business insights.
With the Finance Schedule Approval application, Del Monte expects to make it easier for employees to produce high fidelity reports and comply with requirements, because workflow processes are automated and connected to the document libraries in which its Office Excel 2007–based financial data is stored. “SharePoint Server 2010 will make it easier for Del Monte to become more efficient and streamlined,” says Wynn. “With automated workflow, we’ll know when a schedule was approved and who approved it. This traceable knowledge will simplify audits and help us maintain compliance.” The automated workflows, which are programmed to calculate true business working days and launch two days before a schedule is due to be approved, will streamline the entire process. “It takes the guesswork out of the system,” says Wynn. “Those involved in the approval process receive alerts that they just can’t ignore. It’s very transparent, very successful.”
Streamlined Business Processes
Del Monte plans to carry its success with the finance application to all corners of the enterprise. “We approached the Finance Schedule Approval application with the mindset of applying excellent technical tools to a process that is unique to finance but based on a common scenario, and then expanding and letting that model migrate into other business units,” says Wynn.
||Workflows and content types eliminate the act of copying and moving documents—which can introduce errors or inconsistencies into the process.
Manager, Advanced Technology, Del Monte Foods
The approach is working, as the popularity of the SharePoint Server collaboration environment at Del Monte continues to grow. “Other groups have taken notice of what we are accomplishing in the Finance department. We have gotten so many requests for applications to streamline business processes that we have enough workflow and intranet projects to last a full-time developer approximately two years,” says Wynn. “Users are requesting a marketing portal application, marketing research libraries, key performance indicators, forms based on the Microsoft Office InfoPath information-gathering program—a range of tools that ultimately help drive collaboration and deeper business insights.”
And Del Monte is pleased that SharePoint Server is being accepted by users as a foundation for enterprise collaboration that connects with complementary technologies. “We see SharePoint Server as the focal point of collaboration, with other tools extending from it, like spokes of a wheel,” says Wynn. For instance, Del Monte uses Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to streamline communication. Users can see, within the SharePoint Server environment, another user’s presence and can immediately start an instant messaging session, escalate to a phone call, or invite others to an online meeting without having to open a different program. “The interoperability of SharePoint Server 2010 and Office Communications Server creates a seamless experience for users, which helps them collaborate and communicate easier and faster to complete projects,” adds Wynn.
Del Monte is so confident about the long-term benefits it can achieve through heightened collaboration and faster, smoother business processes that it has increased the size of Wynn’s team by 75 percent since 2007. “We are investing a significant amount of time and energy into SharePoint Server 2010 because we know it will be worth it. SharePoint Server–based collaboration has become a crucial part of our enterprise,” says Wynn. “We will save time, boost efficiency, eliminate the potential for mistakes, reduce duplicated efforts, reduce paperwork—overall the SharePoint Server 2010 solution will help us become an even leaner organization.”
Rapid, Repeatable Development
SharePoint Server 2010 will help Del Monte achieve widespread cost savings because it helps the development team create rapid, repeatable processes that require little or no custom coding. And it allows the IT department to give business users the tools they need to customize SharePoint Server sites, create workflows, and implement other collaborative solutions—without compromising the integrity or manageability of the SharePoint Server environment. “We are getting many calls from our business units—marketing, operations, plant floor managers—who want to take manual processes and convert them to a workflow that can be accessed and used from a SharePoint site,” says Wynn. SharePoint Composites will allow developers, and even business users, to create self-service solutions and advanced applications with very little effort.
With SharePoint Designer 2010, Del Monte developers and other advanced users can implement reusable workflows, connect to external data, and rapidly develop other customizations with no manual coding. Bernot says, “SharePoint Designer 2010 represents vast improvements over the previous generation of customization tools. It’s more intuitive and enables us to manipulate the SharePoint environment much more easily. It’s made my life a lot easier.”
“We’re excited about SharePoint Server 2010,” says Wynn. “Adopting the platform early on will definitely give us an advantage over the competition. We’ll be able to use the new capabilities of the product to become even more efficient in all areas of the business, continuing to build on our solid collaboration environment, rolling out more and more tools to make business users more productive, and enabling the IT department to support them more efficiently.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Internet.
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