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Computron talks, walks KM

John Rade, CEO and president of Computron Software (www.computron.com), considers Version 4.0 to be a "breakthrough release" for Computron. Integrated enterprise financials, asset management and process automation modules are combined with reporting, query and data management capabilities and are supported by workflow and Internet technologies. The software is accessed via a 32-bit Visual Basic interface.

Philosophically, it's clear that Rade pitches Computron's tent in the KM camp: "The wealth, potential, and ultimate success of 21st century organizations will be determined by how well knowledge is used to manage, protect and leverage their corporate assets," he said. Computron's knowledge processing solutions "will help companies improve their business results by providing them with enhanced capability to make better decisions in a more timely fashion," Rade added.

A core component of Computron's knowledge processing solutions--its Budget, Procurement and Expense Cycle management suite--evolved from Computron's traditional expertise in "packaged" enterprise financials. (Computron rolled out its first mainframe version in 1984 and has steadily improved its three-tier, open-component client-server version since its advent in 1990.) Proven business process assumptions and workflow templates are integrated into Computron's financial suite to provide turnkey, customizable solutions. Rob Nishi, Computron's VP of product marketing, said, "Our solutions are perfect for companies who'd like to avoid the high costs and lengthy implementation cycles involved with a Baan, an SAP, or a Peoplesoft--plus, we easily scale to provide multinational, enterprise-wide solutions."

As an example, Nishi cited the experience of home fashion vendor F. Schumacher & Co. (New York): In fewer than 60 days--from install to live cutover--Schumacher implemented Computron's Expense Cycle Management solution to automate and manage the vouchering process for hard-copy invoices. Computron sources claim that the Budget Cycle Management module, which automates the process of collecting and disseminating budget data, can be implemented in as few as 15 to 20 days. The full Computron Financials package has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, across the enterprise in companies like United Airlines (Chicago), Coca-Cola Bottling (Atlanta), and America Online (Reston, VA).

Integral to Computron's product line is its COOL suite, now organized under a dedicated line of business. Michael Roman, an assistant VP of business analysis for Everen Capital (Chicago), is a beta user of Computron's latest version of COOL. Everen is a full-service, employee-owned nationwide brokerage firm with 3,000 employees in 180 offices.

Roman is pleased with enhancements in COOL 4.0 that enable that declared knowledge sharing strategy. COOL Net, for example, is a 100% Java solution that provides full client-server functionality via Java applets, and makes COOL documents securely available over Everen's intranet. "Securely available" is a key consideration for Everen. Roman said, "COOL 4.0 has powerful and flexible security features that integrate well with our native (Unix/AIX) internal security environment. Users have extensive annotation capabilities, as well as the ability to cut and paste portions of COOL reports to other reports--but access to all of these capabilities is easily controlled."

"The new 32-bit client is also a noticeable improvement," said Roman. He cited enhanced access speeds for graphical reports--from 30 seconds down to two or three seconds--as a striking example. Roman was predictably coy on the subject of ROI, but did share the fact that the project has passed rigorous internal review.

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