Touchtone Delivers OS/400 CRM Through WebSphere Portal
May 25, 2004 Alex Woodie
Mobile employees will be able to access and update DB2/400 data using their cell phones or other Web-enabled wireless devices with Touchtone‘s new Wintouch for WebSphere application. The software is a collection of “portlets,” served from IBM‘s WebSphere Portal Server software, which provide access to certain functions in the OS/400-based Wintouch CRM application, such as order entry or account summary screens. Eventually, the entire Wintouch suite will be delivered as portlets.
Wintouch is one of the few native OS/400 CRM programs that use the DB2/400 database and connect directly to customers’ OS/400-based ERP and home-grown AS/400 applications. The components that make up the Wintouch suite, including the Sales Force Automation, Marketing Automation, Partner Relationship Management, Human Resources Management, Enterprise Resource Management, and Customer Service and Support components, were designed to provide companies with a centralized view of the state of their business, including employees, customers, and suppliers.
Prior releases of Wintouch were built on a client/server architecture that relied on a heavy Java applet that had to be downloaded and stashed on a PC (or even a Mac, with the recent Wintouch eCRM 6.0 release). But with Wintouch for WebSphere, the company has adapted its product to run on top of IBM’s WebSphere Portal infrastructure, either WebSphere Portal Express or WebSphere Portal Express Plus.
The initial launch of Wintouch for WebSphere includes six portlets, which are reusable server-side Java components that provide access to Web content, applications, and a wide variety of other resources. The functionality Touchtone provided with these six portlets was deemed by the company to deliver the most important functionality to customers; eventually, the entire Wintouch suite will be “portlet-ized.”
The six portlets Touchtone delivered include the Wintouch menu; Account Summary; a Contact Summary, Search (for accounts and contacts); Search, and Activities (a calendar-like portlet). The portlets within Wintouch for WebSphere give field sales representatives immediate access to iSeries data, and provide them with an enterprise-wide view of every customer, as well as the ability to enter orders, check credit status, and track shipping from the field, Touchtone says.
Standardizing on IBM’s middleware has several benefits, the company says, such as single-sign-on access, search capabilities, and added security protection. Even outside of the OS/400 realm, any portal product gives companies tremendous flexibility in allowing their users to customize their desktops with different “skins,” for a unique look and feel, and to populate their own portal with portlets, providing RSS news feeds, stock tickers, instant messaging programs, and many other actions.
The most important aspect of the new portal architecture is that it makes it easy to access Wintouch from Web-enabled mobile devices, such as cellular phones and PDAs, Touchtone says. Once configured, users will be able to access the Wintouch CRM application–or any other WebSphere Portal application, for that matter–from their laptop, desktop, PDA, cell phone, or any other supported mobile device.
Mobile devices can access Wintouch for WebSphere in one of three ways, supported by WebSphere Portal: straight HTML; Wireless Markup Language (WML), for phones and PDAs that support the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP); or compact HTML (CHTML), which is supported by cell phones in NTT DoCoMo‘s i-mode network, which is widely used in Japan and is making inroads in Europe.
Touchtone customers have options of where they want to run their WebSphere middleware (the Wintouch software must stay on the OS/400 server, thankfully). Depending on which WebSphere Portal offering customers decide to install, they can run on a native OS/400 partition on an iSeries server, or on a Linux partition of an iSeries, pSeries, or xSeries.
The six Wintouch for WebSphere portlets began shipping on April 30. Customers must purchase the WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Portal software separately from IBM. Pricing for Wintouch for WebSphere is the same as for the standard Wintouch eCRM application, which is up slightly from last year and starts at $1,595 per user. There is also a $4,995 fee for the Wintouch server component. For more information, go to www.wintouch.com.