Most of us have never contemplated the totality of services provided every day by our local or city gov-ernments. From administering elections to maintaining a court system, a coroner’s office, birth and death records, and deeds of trust, to managing trash pickup, recycling programs, and hazardous waste disposal, local governments are document repositories extraordinaire! The consolidated city-county government of Denver, Colorado, is a striking case in point. With a combined population of over 600,000, and encompassing 155 square miles and 80 defined neighborhoods, this fused governmental entity oversees nearly 140 schools, over 200 parks, 29 recreation centers, 14 public libraries, 34 fire stations, over 1,000 buses and five light rail lines, Denver International Airport (DIA), an animal shelter, a Department of Motor Vehicles, and hundreds of other governmental departments and services. The amount of documentation in the varied and yet often interconnected departments is staggering. Nearly $1 billion and over 10,000 employees are needed to keep Denver’s services running and to record, verify, and compile all of the supporting documentation. In 2005, the more than 70 agencies of the con-solidated city-county government used 14 different document management systems, none of which could communicate or interact with each other. The Information Technology department supervised multiple autonomous IT units with their own systems and standards. This decentralization created problems not just with document sharing, but also with document security and the ability to audit record keeping functions, particularly scanned contracts and financial records. Employee productivity was negatively impacted through time wasted in locating required documents from other agencies, duplication of IT functions, and cumbersome document scanning applications. Mayor John Hickenlooper, a proponent of government transparency and efficiency, created a centralized IT group and assigned it the task of conceiving an integrated strategy to unify and streamline IT functions. Scrapping the 14 document management systems was an obvious first cost-saving action. The enterprise content management (ECM) system adopted would need to revamp the city’s contract record system so that it no longer needed a nightly reboot, met security standards, and was easily searchable for employees across agencies. Described by Al Rosabal, Deputy CIO Denver City and County, as an “end-of-life” system, the existing system had poor search capabilities and overall feeble performance. Initially, the Technology Services Group was stymied in locating a cost-effective solution that could be implemented without any interruption in service. Then it discovered Alfresco. Alfresco’s all-Web-based, open source ECM system was not only affordable to implement, but would conservatively save Denver approximately $1.5 million over five years. CIO Rosabal estimates that, over time, the open source model could save the city up to $1 million a year in recurring licensing, deployment, and maintenance costs as opposed to a proprietary system. Alfresco’s ECM capabilities include document, record, and image management, document versioning, multi-language support, support for multiple client operating systems (Windows, GNU/Linux, and Solaris), Web content management, and integration with MySQL, which Denver used for its relational database management system. With a browser-based graphical user interface and integration with the most commonly used Microsoft Office suites, Alfresco ECM was a perfect fit to economically meet Denver’s needs. Implementation began in 2009 and took place in 6- to 12-week cycles over 15 months’ time. Each cycle also included employee training. This gradual phase-in encouraged employee cooperation and allowed time for feedback before the next learning curve began. For the auditor and controller offices, Alfresco was integrated with the current PeopleSoft Financial Management software so that employees could view contracts and associated content within the familiar interface. Complete automation of the contract requisition, writing, and authorization processes resulted in accelerated contract approval time and enhanced contract and financial document auditing. The procurement process had the same structural problems as the IT department; it was spread throughout multiple autonomous or semi-autonomous agencies. To centralize and standardize the procure-to-pay process (which includes the initial decision to make the purchase, the process of selecting the goods, and the transaction to pay for the goods purchased), the existing PeopleSoft Financials system was again leveraged. Elements of the workflow and the I  document repository were handled by Alfresco, and a Web service was used to communicate and move requisitions, purchase orders, receiving documents, accounts payable invoices, and associated documents between Alfresco and PeopleSoft Financials. In addition, an Alfresco content repository maintained all data retention policies. According to Rosabal, another important part of the long-term strategy was to improve citizen engagement. A key element was to extend the document repository to citizens. While many documents could be obtained at government offices, Denver wanted to provide citizens with online access at a reduced cost. As with the contract record system and the procure-to-pay process, Oracle Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) was used to integrate Alfresco with PeopleSoft and other key applications. This enabled data to be routed as Extensible Markup Language (XML) messages between multiple applications. Documents could now be moved between Alfresco and PeopleSoft and made available to citizens on the Web. Another initiative to better serve citizens was an upgrade to the 311 service. 311 is a special non-emergency phone number in many communities that connects citizens to a Citizen Service Center. Residents can call to report community concerns such as pot-holes, barking dogs and other noise disturbances, graffiti, roadway debris, and dysfunctional street and traffic lights. Denver migrated the 311 service online by reusing newly created Web services and incorporating Alfresco with the call center and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Citizens can now use an online form to submit complaints and concerns from their computer or through iPhone and iPad apps. With the Alfresco ECM, PeopleSoft, and Oracle ESB infrastructure in place, Denver can now reuse the 311 application technology to proceed to new initiatives such as migrating various licensing, permitting, and inspection programs online and making them accessible to mobile devices. If the projected cost savings are fully realized, Denver can look for-ward to not only improved employee productivity, superior document access, auditing, and security, and enhanced service to its citizenry, but the ability to strategically invest in future technology.

Sources: “The City and County of Denver Automate Business Processes and Improve Citizen Engagement with Zia Consulting and Alfresco Software,”, accessed June 10, 2012; accessed June 15th, 2012; Paul Hampton, “Why We selected Alfresco — City of Denver,” Alfresco Video Blog,, August 12th, 2010; and Global EDD Group, “Video: Alfresco Document Management at City of Denver — Customer Case Study,”, October 24, 2010.


1.  What types of problems was the consolidated city-county government of Denver, Colorado, experiencing with document management before instituting the Alfresco ECM system?

2.  How did the Alfresco ECM system provide a solution to these problems?

3.  What management, organization, and technology issues had to be addressed in selecting and implementing Denver’s new content management system?

4.  How did the new content management system change governmental processes for Denver? How did it benefit citizens?





Case Study #2




Nev Hyman had been building surfboards in Australia for 35 years. In 2005, he teamed up with Mark Price and a group of longtime surfing friends in Carlsbad, California, to form Firewire Surfboards. This company thrives on innovation and was responsible for the first major change in surfboard composition and assembly methods in 40 years. Rather than polyurethane resin and polyurethane foam, Firewire’s boards were composed of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and epoxy resins. Hyman and Price believed that this composition for the surfboard core, along with aerospace composites for the deck skin and balsa wood rails (the out-side edge), created a more flexible and maneuverable product that would attract top surfers and set Firewire apart from its competitors. Firewire is competing in a crowded field that includes Isle Surfboards, Surftech, Aviso Surf, Board works Surf, Channel Island, and Lost Enterprises. Firewire is alone in the reintroduction of balsa wood to the board rails for added flex response time and the ability to maintain speed during precarious maneuvers. Firewire believes it can compete success-fully because its surfboards are far lighter, stronger, and more flexible than those of its competitors. An additional selling point is the reduced environmental impact: Firewire’s materials emit only 2 percent of the harmful compounds of traditional boards and recycling excess expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam has earned Firewire international awards and acclaim. But that isn’t enough. To make sure it stays ahead of the competition, Firewire decided to start making custom surfboards instead of just the usual off-the-rack sizes. For the everyday surfer, the durability and flexibility of Firewire’s materials was a key selling point. However, custom boards made to surfer specifications are critical in the elite surfboard market, and the ability to claim top-level competitive surfers as customers drives the broader surfboard market as well. Traditionally, skilled craftsman, called shapers, designed and built surfboards by hand, but Firewire started doing some of this work using computer-aided designs (CAD) sent to cutting facilities. The company’s computer-aided manufacturing process returned to the shaper a board that was 85 to 90 percent complete, leaving the artisan to complete the customization and the lamination process. According to Price, who became Firewire’s CEO, there are 29 time-consuming and labor-intensive steps in the surfboard manufacturing process. Initially, the multifaceted manufacturing process made it impossible to offer personalized CAD to the average consumer. Customized boards could only be produced for elite competitive customers. There was no way to offer customization to a wider market without overburdening Firewire’s CAD system. Moreover, most custom boards had to be ordered by filling out a piece of paper with various dimensions for the requested changes. There was no way to see a visual representation of these adjustments or assess their impact on the board’s volume, which directly affects buoyancy, paddling ability, and performance.  Firewire needed a system that would allow customers to experiment with established designs, feed the CAD process, and integrate it with its  computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing process. Enter ShapeLogic Design-to-Order Live! For NX, which provides an online customization system with a Web-based user interface and advanced 3-D CAD tools. Firewire started working with the ShapeLogic NX software in 2009 to develop its own Firewire Surfboards’ Custom Board Design (CBD) system, which allows users to easily manipulate board dimensions of established models within design parameters. Any registered customer can choose a standard Firewire model and use drag-and-drop tools to adjust the board’s length, midpoint width, nose width, tail width, and thickness, as long as these changes don’t degrade the board’s design integrity. CBD generates a precise three-dimensional model of the stock model used as the base design along with a 3-D portable document format (PDF) file of the customized board. The PDF file documents the board’s dimensions and volume. A customer can manipulate the model from all angles and compare the customized board to the standard board to fully understand the design before placing an order. When the customer uses the system to order a custom board, CBD generates a precise solid CAD model of the board that is transmitted directly to the Firewire factory for driving the CNC machines that manufacture the board. This combination of technologies results in a board that is 97 percent complete, minimizing the manufacturing time, finishing process, and thus, costs to the consumer. In contrast to the earlier CAD assisted, 10 to 15 percent hand-finished boards, once a surfer has designed the board of his or her dreams, it can be remade to those exact specifications time and again. Neither the ideal handmade board nor a shaper-finished board can be replicated with this degree of precision. An additional benefit of Firewire’s online design system is the social networking engendered by the sharing of customers’ unique design files. Before placing an order, customers can show their modifications to fellow surfers and ask for opinions and advice. After placing an order and using the product, they can report their experiences and (hopefully) tout their design or suggest improvements to other customers. Interactive communication such as this drives customers to the Firewire site, creating a marketing buzz that boosts sales.

Sources: “Case Study: NX CAD technology drives custom surf-board design,”, accessed June 14, 2012; “Firewire Surfboards by Nev Hyman,”, accessed June 14, 2012; “Firewire Partners with NanoTune ‘Board Tuning Technology,’”, February 22, 2012; William Atkinson, “How Firewire Surfboards Refined Its 3D Order Customization,”, November 21, 2011;  “Firewire Surfboards Custom Board Design Blends Replicability of Machine Made Boards With Uniqueness of Custom Boards,”, October 12, 2011; and “Firewire Surfboards Garner Recognition for Technological Advances,”, July 22, 2010.



1.       Analyze Firewire using the value chain and competitive forces models.

2.  What strategies is Firewire using to differentiate its product, reach its customers, and persuade them to buy its products?

3.  What is the role of CAD in Firewire’s business model?

4.  How did the integration of online custom board design software (CBD), CAD, and computer numerical control (CNC) improve Firewire’s operations?


Case Study #3




Colgate-Palmolive Company is the second largest consumer products company in the world whose products are marketed in over 200 countries and territories. The company had 38,600 employees worldwide and $16.734 billion in annual revenue in 2011. Colgate has been keeping people smiling and clean around the world, with more than three- quarters of its sales in recent years coming from out-side the United States. Colgate’s brands in oral products, soap, and pet food, are global names, including Colgate, Palmolive, Mennen, Softsoap, Irish Spring, Protex, Sorriso, Kolynos, Elmex, Tom’s of Maine, Ajax, Axion, Fabuloso, Soupline, and Suavitel, as well as Hill’s Science Diet and Hill’s Prescription Diet. The secret to continued growth and stability for the past two decades has been Colgate’s ability to move its brands off shore to Latin America, Europe and Asia. In the past, Colgate divided the world into geographic regions: Latin American, Europe, Asia, and North America. Each region had its own information systems. As long as the regions did not need to share resources or information this patchwork system worked, more or less. This all changed as global operations became more integrated and senior management needed to oversee and coordinate these operations more closely. Colgate had been a global SAP user since the early 1990s, but it was running five separate ERP systems to serve its different geographic regions. Over a period of time, disparities in the data developed between different geographic regions and between the data used at the corporate level and the data used by an individual region or business unit. The data were constantly changing. For example, every time a sales report was run, it showed different numbers for orders and shipments. Colgate wanted more usable data to drive business decisions and all of its managers and business units worldwide to use the same version of the data. Colgate chose to solve this problem by creating a single global data repository using SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP’s analytical, reporting and data warehousing solution. Colgate’s regional ERP systems feed their data to the warehouse, where the data are standardized and formatted for enterprise-wide reporting and analysis. This eliminates differences in data across the enterprise. One of the outputs of the warehouse for senior managers is a daily HTML table showing a series of financial and operational metrics for the day com-pared to the previous month and quarter. The data the executives see is exactly the same as what their peers in all Colgate regions and business units see. However, the data were not being used by enough employees in their decision making to have an impact on business benefits. Colgate’s power users had no trouble using the reporting and analytical tools provided by the warehouse, and they were satisfied with the matrix reports from the system. Colgate’s senior managers and other casual users, on the other hand, did not feel comfortable running ad hoc reports or drilling down into the layers of data to answer questions the data brought to light. They did not have much time to spend developing reports, and the standard reports produced for them by the warehouse lacked navigation and drill down capabilities. Tables had no color coding so users could only interpret the data by scrutinizing the numbers on the table. Eventually Colgate’s senior managers and other casual users began requesting deeper access to the warehouse data in a more timely and user-friendly format. They wanted reports that were easier to run and where the data could be interpreted faster. Senior management requested customizable, real-time dashboards that could be more easily used to drive performance improvement. Colgate’s information systems specialists then implemented SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator to speed up data loads and improve user perception and adoption and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence to build customized reports. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence provides a powerful, intuitive interface that enables business analysts and non-technical business professionals to ask spontaneous questions about their data. Casual business users can use simple drag-and-drop techniques to access data sources and create interactive reports that drill, slice and format information based on their needs. Tools for cutting edge visualization allow end users to view two- and three-dimensional charts and hone in on specific areas of focus. Colgate started using SAP’s Business Objects tools to build user-friendly dashboards, and quickly created dashboard prototypes for management to review. Once management approved the dashboard design, the dashboards were populated with production data. Now Colgate’s senior managers are running the  dashboards to monitor the business from a high level. Employee training was essential to the dashboards’ success. Members of Colgate’s global information systems development team created customized courses for Colgate’s 65 business intelligence experts and ran the classroom training. The training identified people that could be used as resources for developing the reporting tools. When word spread about the dashboards’ capabilities, Colgate’s power users signed up for the classes as well. For Colgate, better reporting tools that can sup-port different kinds of users have greatly expanded the use of business intelligence throughout the company. Currently about 4000 users interact with Colgate’s SAP systems daily but this number is expected to expand to 15,000 to 20,000 users in the future. People who are accustomed to seeing reports stuffed with numbers are finding that they can use the information presented in dashboards to make faster decisions. For example, managers can determine positive or negative financial conditions by simply looking for where dashboard reports use the color green, which reflects improvements in Colgate’s financial position. Executives who formerly relied on other people to obtain their custom reports and data are able to access the information on their own. They can see real data from the system much more easily and quickly.

Sources: Paul Ziobro,  “Colgate Shows Improved Growth,” Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2012;  Colgate Palmolive Corporation,  “SEC Form 10K for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 2011,” Colgate Palmolive Corporation, February 26, 2012; David Hannon, “Colgate-Palmolive Empowers Senior Leaders with Executive Dashboards,” SAP InsiderPROFILES, April–June 2011;, accessed July 22, 2012; and SAP, “Placing Relevant Business Content within Business User Reach,” 2011.




1. Describe the different types of business intelligence users at Colgate-Palmolive.

2. Describe the “people” issues that were affecting Colgate’s ability to use business intelligence.

3. What management, organization, and technology factors had to be addressed in providing business intelligence capabilities for each type of user?

4. What kind of decisions does Colgate’s new business intelligence capability support? Give three examples. What is their potential business impact?

**For each of these, only answer the case study questions associated with them found at the end of the discussion. You do not need to answer the “MIS in Action” questions.