One Electronic Sos Clinched The Deal

`It didn't take long for French computer-services giant CAP Gemini Sogeti to find out the value of the intranet it installed last September. Project manager Ed Baugh's customer, Exxon Chemical Co., wanted a software-development tool that would help it blend off-the-shelf software packages with the oil giant's custom business applications. Exxon had combed the market for five months in vain. And Baugh knew building the tool from scratch would take at least 18 months, too long for Exxon's needs.

Hoping CAP Gemini's 17,000 software engineers and technicians might have a lead, Baugh sent out an electronic SOS across the company intranet, dubbed Knowledge Galaxy. Presto--48 hours later, CAP Gemini's British unit, Hoskyns Group PLC, responded. An engineer there knew of a software tool that might be tailored to meet Exxon's needs. Within three weeks, Baugh presented a solution to Exxon and clinched a hefty development contract. "We found the missing link," says Baugh.

Knowledge Galaxy has helped CAP Gemini cut project time in half and prepare sales bids faster by putting critical resources and expertise within every employee's reach. As a virtual storehouse for software objects, or prefabricated chunks of code, it has helped the company avoid reinventing the wheel for each project. "We now reuse objects like Legos," says Jean-Paul Figer, group vice-president in charge of developing CAP Gemini's intranet.

The consulting company's network is more than just an elaborate E-mail and filing system. It has areas for electronic chats and bulletin boards, a database of current projects with links to employees working on them, and hundreds of Web pages aimed at keeping a global workforce up to date on the latest technologies. CAP Gemini is so enthused with the Web it has set up an Internet cafe for employees at its Paris headquarters so they can surf the Net while on break.

CAP Gemini hopes to do lots more on its intranet. First, however, it has to solve a problem plaguing both high- and low-tech companies: getting people to use it. "The real challenge is to change behavior," says Figer. Success stories such as Baugh's will certainly help.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.