BEA Systems Reaches Out
When three-year-old BEA Systems bought WebLogic in 1998, it picked up a promising line of products that help customers build and manage applications. Now WebLogic is the company's backbone: BEA says its WebLogic revenue grew 12% in 2005 and expects the growth to continue. Customers report success with the toolsalthough one or two say the Portal software didn't live up to its sales pitch.
In late 2002, Accredited Home Lenders, a San Diego mortgage banking company, looked to tie together different pieces of the mortgage process, from origination to approval, many of which were done via paper and entered manually into a database, says Mike McCoy, the director of enterprise architecture. The firm wanted a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to tie together applications, as well as a user portal and a workflow element for Accredited and its 6,800 independent brokers. McCoy says BEA was the first software provider to offer all that in one package.
Accredited purchased a system from an industry consultant to manage mortgage processing and extended the product with BEA's WebLogic Platform. For example, WebLogic Portal added a user interface that allows loan administrators and brokers to access updates on loan status, and WebLogic Workshop helped Accredited's developers to create new SOA-based Web applications.
After rolling out the system in spring 2005, McCoy says the company's loan origination business grew by millions of dollars, though he did not provide specific metrics.
But things were different down South for Marcel Good, director of technology and architecture for Broadlane, a Dallas-based health-care procurement company. He found that user interfaces in BEA's Portal product, which operated with the WebLogic Server, couldn't be customized the way he expected.
Broadlane got marching orders from a new customer to build a portal with access to product catalogs, order status and purchasing history. At the time, customers could connect to Broadlane only through electronic data interchanges and an exchange component of their enterprise resource planning systems.
In June 2004, Good picked BEA WebLogic Portal for the integration project, expecting that customers would be able to personalize interfaces to display only the catalogs or forms they needed. But out of the box, Good says, users couldn't adapt the interface to eliminate options they didn't want. "We realized the version of the portal we bought was really nothing more than a framework," Good says, claiming he felt "a little oversold" by the BEA sales team. He says he's still working with BEA but will decide in the coming months if Broadlane will look for another partner.
Blake Connell, director of product marketing for BEA's WebLogic Server, says he hasn't heard of any cases of "over-promising" or "under-delivering" with WebLogic Portal. He did say, however, that the next version of WebLogic Portal, to launch this month, will feature a collaborative tool called GroupSpace, which will let users share documents, organize discussion threads and create wikis, or Web content that can be edited by users without permission.
Scott Metzger, chief information officer of credit services marketing firm TrueCredit, says he had similar issues with the portal product but credited BEA's support team for addressing the problem quickly. Metzger says support has been one of the key reasons his firm stays with BEA: "Anytime we've had a real support issue, we've gotten the right people to rally around it to get it resolved."