The Need for Speed: Global Publisher John Wiley & Sons Looks to LANSA for Its Internet Solution
- By Marjanna Frank
Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons Inc. (www. wiley.com), is a global publisher of print and electronic products, specializing in professional and consumer books and subscription services; scientific, technical and medical books and journals; and textbooks and educational materials for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as lifelong learners. Wiley has publishing, marketing and distribution centers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. Headquartered in New York, Wiley has more than 2,300 employees worldwide, and, in 1999, revenues exceeded $508 million.
Wiley historically developed all of its AS/400 core systems using Synon/2E (Cool:2E). In a continuous effort to meet customer needs and provide timely information, Wiley has extended its core applications with LANSA and IBM's WebSphere to provide Web-based order entry and inquiry directly to its customers. In a staged implementation, thousands of bookstores over the world will be able to access Wiley's regional AS/400s to place and trace orders and access electronically published contents.
Stephen Foster, Associate Director of Systems Development, explains, "We are impressed with the LANSA product and its ability to develop Internet solutions. Having Synon experience, the learning curve is not that big at all. After using several other Internet development tools, we are confident that LANSA will be the tool for our Internet applications, now and in the future."
Wiley has more than 11,000 active book titles, 400 journals/subscriptions and publishes about 1,500 new titles in a variety of formats every year. Wiley's customers include thousands of college bookstores, public bookstores, libraries, corporations and end-consumers.
Until recently, customers placed their orders mostly by phone, fax or mail, with only a few larger bookstores using EDI. Fax and mail orders were re-entered by Customer Service staff, as they handled order inquiries. Customer Service in the United States alone numbers over 80 in staff, and nearly 170 worldwide.
Foster explains, "We wanted to give our customers the ability to come in online and access the information realtime. We wanted to improve the speed with which we can respond to orders and other customer requests. Next to this, we were aiming to cut down on the number of phone calls coming into our Customer Service department. A lot of the calls were just simple inquiries that can easily be handled using a Web application."
In Search of a Solution
Foster continues, "A few years ago, we introduced a Web-based order entry facility that was hosted by an outside company. That shopping cart application was not realtime, and orders placed during the day were e-mailed to us for re-keying the next business day; so, we lost, at least, a day in the process. Moreover, the system did not allow for any customer inquiries. We started to look for a solution that would truly integrate with our core AS/400 application."
Stephen Miglin, Project Leader, Systems Development, comments, "We used Synon/2E for all our development. Synon introduced Synon/TC, a thin-client solution based on third-party software, called Jacada CST. We tried that, but the performance of the Java client interface was not acceptable. Furthermore, at that time, Synon was taken over by Sterling and they dropped the Jacada product; so, this path was a dead end. Then, we tried Net.data. This product intrigued all with the Web potential, but proved not the best product for real development. Net.data was good for a type of quick inquiry, but was tedious to work with otherwise. All the coding was very low level."
Foster remarks, "Then, we looked into LANSA. We were impressed with the product, and saw the potential to develop Internet solutions using a product similar to Synon. During the evaluation process, we went up to the LANSA site in Canada and actually worked with the developers for the day to really see the product used. That was a great day, convincing us that LANSA would be the product for our Internet solutions, and it certainly has been."
A colleague and I attended a LANSA training course. There are similarities between Synon and LANSA and the learning curve was not too steep. When we came back, we had a customer inquiry function up and running within two weeks."
The System and Its Staged Implementation
This Web extension is directly integrated with an in-house developed Synon/ 2E application. Internal staff uses the green-and-black Synon/2E interface, while customers use LANSA for the Web browser interface to the same system.
"Currently, any green screen development is still done through Synon. Any Web development or GUI development will be done through LANSA," says Miglin.
Wiley has chosen a staged implementation of the Web application. New functionality is first offered to about 10 beta sites. Their feedback is used to fine tune the system. After about a month, the new functionality is made available to college bookstores and end-consumers in the United States
Miglin explains, "Eventually, we hope to have most of our customers use the Web for their order inquires. We expect approximately 1,200 college bookstores in the U.S. alone, and next to these, an even larger number of standard bookstores and end-consumers. Once we have gone fully live here in New York, we will install it in our regional centers worldwide, including Toronto, Australia, the UK, Singapore and Germany. We have sales offices dotted all around the world that have AS/400 access at their regional center shipping point."
The initial system offers a customer inquiry-type function. This allows the customer to come in, key in a user name and password, and display all orders and credits. There is online tracking information for UPS, RPS and FedEx. One can search for a specific ISBN, trace it to a particular carton and obtain status. Two people worked on this stage for about two months. This included setting up the infrastructure.
Customers can register online and use their credit card to obtain an "un-lock" code for CDs distributed with some of our books. The un-lock code turns a demo CD into a fully functioning CD. Wiley uses ROI online credit card verification software.
Subsequent stages of implementation include an online catalog, further customer service functionality, convention ordering and direct mail ordering (hotlink in e-mail).
Miglin comments, "Once we had the experience and infrastructure in place, it took us only weeks to deliver the shopping cart application."
Miglin comments, "LANSA's multilingual facilities will help us to get a bigger market share in Asia, especially in markets like Japan, where bookshop staff have a strong preference to do business in their own language. Our Singapore center wants to offer Mandarin, Japanese and other DBCS languages to their customers. Canada and Europe will offer the Web application in multiple languages to their customers, as well."
Foster concludes, "The online system allows us to give better service to our customers. Bookstore staff can now obtain shipment status at any time of day. With our shopping cart system, an order will be filled immediately, and we can ship without delay. On top of that, we expect significant long-term savings within our Customer Service department."
"Online product delivery is where the industry is headed," Foster says. "Making book and journal content available online in different manners and formats is a formidable challenge. Print copies are not disappearing, but distributing and publishing content electronically is becoming more and more important. LANSA is going to help us stay ahead of this development."
Marjanna Frank is the International Industry Partner Manager for LANSA Inc. in Oakbrook, Ill. She has 20 years of experience in the IT industry, including development, consulting and training on a wide range of projects. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.