Meritage Homes builds better customer information into its business

Connecting applications with IBM WebSphere software and IBM Business Partner KS2

Published on 15-Nov-2011

"With IBM WebSphere Cast Iron we have an ideal solution to support our mission-critical Salesforce.com and JD Edwards applications, enabling us to get the very best out of both." - Chris Sinkwitz, Director of Applications, Meritage Homes

Customer:
Meritage Homes Corporation

Industry:
Construction / Architecture / Engineering

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
IGF, IGF: IT Financing - IBM HW, IT/infrastructure, BA - Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, High Availability , Information Integration, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:
KS2 Technologies, Inc.

Overview

Committed to building homes and communities that are innovative, built with care and craftsmanship, and that deliver enduring value, Meritage Homes Corporation (Meritage Homes) has built more than 70,000 homes across the southern and western United States. As the first top-10 US homebuilder to be 100 percent ENERGY STAR qualified, Meritage Homes builds each of its homes with sophisticated energy-efficient features, materials and appliances at no additional cost to buyers.

Business need:
Meritage Homes wanted to cut IT costs, increase sales and provide better customer service. To achieve this, the company needed to better integrate customer data from its Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne system and Salesforce.com application, and refresh its energy-inefficient legacy server.

Solution:
Deploying IBM® WebSphere® Cast Iron® Cloud Integration provides a ‘configuration not coding’, template-based approach to enable real-time transactions between Meritage Homes’ JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Salesforce.com applications. An IBM Power® 770 server running the IBM i operating system offers a highly available, energy-efficient platform for the solution.

Benefits:
Accelerates the sales process so that Meritage Homes employees can serve customers faster and more effectively. Gives corporate executives deeper insights into which campaigns are successful and which are not. Allows executives to track the effectiveness and follow-through of their sales team members. Decreases power consumption, leading to significantly lower data center costs.

Case Study

Committed to building homes and communities that are innovative, built with care and craftsmanship, and that deliver enduring value, Meritage Homes Corporation (Meritage Homes) has built more than 70,000 homes across the southern and western United States. As the first top-10 US homebuilder to be 100 percent ENERGY STAR qualified, Meritage Homes builds each of its homes with sophisticated energy-efficient features, materials and appliances at no additional cost to buyers. The company also aims to integrate its green philosophy in other parts of the business, including sourcing sustainable materials and designing landscapes with low water requirements.

Always striving for improvement
Meritage Homes is always looking for ways to improve service to customers – whether by enhancing the quality of its homes or simplifying the sales process. The company realized that if it could cut down on the time customers needed to spend to buy a property, then customer satisfaction would increase alongside the sales team’s productivity.

Chris Sinkwitz, Director of Applications at Meritage Homes, explains, “The bottleneck that prevented us from accelerating the sales process was the lack of integration between our Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Salesforce.com applications. Employees needed to input data manually, which was time-consuming and introduced the risk of errors.”

The company recognized that by synchronizing sales data with its Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne application suite, Meritage Homes would have an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of its customers. It could ensure that information collected on every aspect of the sales process – from first contact to the after-sales period – could be developed into a 360-degree view of each homebuyer. However, the existing approach of employing highly skilled external developers to come in and write code for one-off integration projects was proving expensive and disruptive.

“Getting to know the people that buy our homes is at the heart of what we do at Meritage Homes,” says Sinkwitz. “We wanted to be able to understand how promotions and marketing campaigns were received, how our salespeople were doing and ultimately how to find the ‘best-fit’ home for each customer as quickly as possible. But taking a coding approach required a lot of time and resources – we knew there must be a better solution.”

Meritage Homes also needed a hardware platform with the reliability and stability to support these business-critical software environments. Adopting energy-efficient solutions is always a priority for the company, which aims to embed green technologies wherever possible. As a bonus, increasing energy-efficiency would also lead to lower data center costs, benefiting the company’s bottom line.

“We were looking for a server solution that could provide the highly available environment we needed to support our vital ERP and sales systems,” comments Sinkwitz. “It was important to us that it also fit in with our Meritage Green philosophy. Since our data center provider bills us based on monthly power usage rather than floor space, this was an added impetus to find the most efficient solution possible, without compromising on performance.”

Selecting IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud Integration
Meritage Homes carried out a thorough evaluation of the top ten integration tools on the market, eventually narrowing down the field to just three options: solutions from IBM, Informatica and Oracle.

“We selected IBM WebSphere Cast Iron over the competition for a number of reasons,” explains Sinkwitz. “As a ‘plug and play’ appliance with native connectivity to both our EnterpriseOne and Salesforce.com applications, it promised an exceptionally fast implementation time. In fact, we were able to install it ourselves using the manual in a little over an hour!”

“The speed of transformation was incredibly impressive,” continues Sinkwitz. “The solution includes a design studio environment that makes it easy to design and test integration projects that you can then simply publish once you are happy. Data is now synchronized in real time between Salesforce.com and our JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP system.”

Rock-solid stability with IBM Power Systems
Working with IBM Premier Business Partner KS2 Technologies, Inc. (KS2), Meritage Homes also set about identifying the best-fit server platform to support the solution.

“As long-time IBM i users, we have always been impressed with the reliability and security of IBM hardware,” says Sinkwitz. “We also trust KS2 to give us the best possible advice, so when they recommended the IBM Power 770, we were immediately interested.”

“We were very impressed with the expertise and commitment KS2 showed in examining our growth patterns and sizing requirements, working closely with IBM to configure the machine exactly to our needs. They also negotiated a highly attractive deal with IBM Global Financing for us, enabling us to take advantage of the latest technology while cutting down on business risk,” says Sinkwitz.

In a complex project, which involved running the new and old servers in parallel for two weeks for testing purposes, KS2 successfully migrated all of Meritage Homes’ business-critical data.

“In spite of the large number of moving parts and complicated testing procedures, KS2 was able to minimize the disruption caused by the migration so that the process was almost seamless,” comments Sinkwitz. “Overall, we would say KS2 is the best Business Partner we have ever worked with, mainly due to their superb level of responsiveness.”

Enjoying the benefits of integration
Using IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud Integration to enable real-time synchronization of sales data with its JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications, Meritage Homes is able to accelerate and streamline its development cycle. Removing the need for manual data entry frees the company’s employees to focus on more profitable work, while enhancing accuracy.

“We now have an automated system in place that encompasses the sales process from end-to-end,” says Sinkwitz. “From creating a buyer’s contract through to managing approvals and performing financial reporting, we now have an integrated, transparent workflow that is updated in real-time. Our salespeople can focus more on delivering a better service to our customers, while our corporate managers have a comprehensive, accurate view of operations at any one time.”

Eliminating the need for outsourcing coding work, IBM WebSphere Cast Iron has given Meritage Homes the tools to carry out integration projects in-house in a matter of days.

“Whereas previously, even a minor integration project would have involved calling in outside help for at least two weeks, with WebSphere Cast Iron we are able to carry out the same task ourselves in just two days,” explains Sinkwitz. “This gives us the ability to be a lot more agile and responsive, giving us a key competitive edge.”

Greener, more scalable infrastructure
Deploying the highly energy-efficient IBM Power 770 server has reduced Meritage Homes’ data center power requirements. The exceptional stability of the solution also ensures that maintenance costs are kept low.

“We estimate that by implementing the IBM Power 770 server, we have significantly cut down on energy requirements,” says Sinkwitz. “So far, the solution has also proven extremely reliable, with no support issues since deployment, translating into lower costs for us and better service to our customers.”

The IBM Power 770 servers are designed to scale non-disruptively, offering Meritage Homes the headroom it needs to accommodate future growth.

Sinkwitz concludes, “When we selected the IBM Power 770 we were looking for a platform that could scale alongside us for at least four to five years, and we feel confident we have found what we needed. With IBM WebSphere Cast Iron we have an ideal solution to support our mission-critical Salesforce.com and JD Edwards applications, enabling us to get the very best out of both.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Power 770, Power Systems, Power Systems running i

Software:
WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud Integration, IBM i

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM Corporation, Route 100, Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America, November 2011, All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, WebSphere, Cast Iron and Power are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates.