Borders Group, Inc. is a publicly held company with 2009 consolidated sales of $2.8 billion. Borders Group operates Borders.com; over 506 Borders superstores in the U.S.; three stores in Puerto Rico; and approximately 168 stores in the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment, including Waldenbooks, Borders Express and Borders airport stores. In addition, virtually all Borders stores feature Seattle's Best Coffee cafés. Borders is finding new ways to help their customers create richer and more satisfying lives through knowledge and entertainment with a rich shopping experience, providing them with the books, music, movies, and other entertainment items.
Borders Group, Inc. needed browser-based applications that could be accessed both locally by corporate users and remotely by stores and field sales representatives. These applications also needed to be incorporated with proprietary database information and business processes from multiple servers, blended with elements from third party web sites..
PlanetJ's Web Object Wizard (WOW) met their immediate needs and addressed Borders Group's concerns right out of the box. Traditional coding methods were too limiting in capability, were largely green-screen and lacked the efficiency of graphic presentation. Web developer resources at Borders Group were dedicated to their ecommerce site, and developers that were available did not have much depth of experience (if any) with web development. Their existing in-house tools were unable to seamlessly integrate with the 3rd party web applications. WOW solved all of these problems.
Development Process and Experiences
Borders Group developers had the skills for working with WOW: SQL, RPGLE for stored procedures, some HTML and CSS training, basic Java programmer training (formal in some cases, others used teach yourself books), and all had the drive to learn new things. As Mark Webb, IT at Borders Group stated, "WOW's tutorials enabled us to establish a development environment based on an Apache Tomcat web server and iSeries database server. We then sent a developer and technical lead through basic training and this enabled us to present a working draft of our first application within just a couple of weeks, including the design time spent with the user.
The basic training is well organized, well paced, and did not overwhelm us with training on features we wouldn't use." Their production implementation used an IBM WebSphere web server in order to standardize with their organization's technical support expertise. This, plus placing procedures to their change control process to be SOX compliant, took them about a month (no fault of WOW but information worth noting).
After implementing a couple of applications and becoming more proficient using WOW, Borders Group recognized the need to be able to get deeper into WOW's capabilities to meet more complex and customized processing requirements. They proceeded through the WOW Advanced training course. This proved to be well worth their time and was very well suited to their level of experience. They now continue to deliver a broader set of features and functions to their users.
Application: Assortment by Plan Code
Overview: The Assortment by Plan Code application is an inquiry with 2 displays providing summary data for use by merchandisers for managing product assortment via a link to a 3rd party tool. The first thumbnail image shows the first display screen in which the user would choose a merchandise group from the drop down, or Possible Values, list.
Once a user selects a merchandise group and clicks the "Search" button, the application then shows summary data for the selected group and includes the selection prompt for another group as well as a hyperlink to a 3rd party application (Above the Treeline).
Application: Store Tools
Overview: The Store Tools application shows six displays for maintaining store information. From here, the Borders developers can Add a store, maintain store information and administer to the application settings for each particular store. The first display appears after authentication (using Database OS sign on) and is the main menu; with 3 large, easy to read buttons.
Hardware and Software Overview
Hardware: IBM iSeries 870 with i5/OS version 5.4 in a 7 processor partition with 44 GB RAM IBM P570 with AIX OS version 5.3 in a 4 processor partition with 1 GB RAM
- DB2 on i5/OS
- Software: WOW 6.5.4 Enterprise IBM WebSphere version 6 on AIX
- Developer Client: Dell Latitude D620 GHz, 2 GB RAM Eclipse 2008 version 3.4.1
- JDK 1.5
- Apache Tomcat 6.0
Borders Group, Inc. used PlanetJ's WOW product to build numerous applications right out of the box.
While leveraging PlanetJ's support, they started projects small, built their skills and are now using WOW as the base for many in-house applications.
Webb's further comments:
The benefits to us (in using WOW) have been:
- Customer satisfaction – our users are pleased with results that in-turn save them time and effort.
- The browser based solutions that WOW enables provide a significant leap forward in information presentation and decision making that is a huge advantage over green screen – data entry and displayed results that would span multiple green screens and often gets rather cryptic can be done legibly and intuitively all at once.
- Developer satisfaction – having WOW as a web application development tool simplifies that effort while allowing us more time to focus on database design and processing accuracy, resulting in an overall better quality business process.
- We realized a 70% to 80% saving in effort in the web application portion of development projects.