Columbia House links the music, video, and DVD portions of its Web site to a mainframe running the CICS transaction-processing system and 40-year-old pricing and customer-management applications. The problem: Because the company's music, video, and DVD clubs were started at different times, links between each club's Web page on Columbia House's Web site and the mainframe were based on different architectures.
The retailer considered using customer-relationship management software, but adapting packaged applications to fit Columbia House's unique business model would have been difficult, says Chris Arnold, project manager at Tallan Inc., the IT services firm that managed the project. That's because prices vary according to a club member's purchase history.
Instead, the mainframe applications were left intact and Tallan developers built new APIs between the legacy systems and the Web site, Interwoven Inc.'s content-management software, and custom front-end customer-service applications. Java-based gateway software from IBM provides access to the CICS system that, in turn, accesses a database with consolidated information about all of Columbia House's products.
Columbia House's new architecture will reduce costs, Gambardella says.
The back-end integration project was completed late last year. Tallan is now building an interface to the system for Columbia House's 200 service representatives, giving them access to the consolidated customer information and improving their selling capabilities with targeted sales and promotions.