They may be few in number, but they are great in knowledge and ability. "They" are the eCommerce and Enterprise Integration team led by Matt Varblow; the other members being Kelly Vautour and Toby Hartman. The eCommerce part of the group's name is somewhat self-explanatory, but what's involved in the "Enterprise Integration" portion may not be quite as obvious.
The work of the group falls into three broad categories. The first is web development. Clients will ask Matt and his team to update their websites and integrate them more fully with Advantage. Matt, Kelly and Toby work with the client's web designers to make this happen, working most often on ASP.NET and java-based websites. Website development involves building web pages, including tasks such as product search, browsing capabilities, shopping cart functionality, online catalog history and all sorts of customer service functionality. They also get involved in access control issues; setting up security, restrictions, authentications and authorizations. Ordering and purchasing functionality is also often involved in a website project.
"Matt's team produces work of the highest quality and are always ready and able to help with any problems that come up," says Mike Gilbert, Circulation Systems Administrator at Crain Communications. "They have helped us to create a flexible web front-end for our customers (based on the Foundation site) that we know will be supported for as long as we are on Advantage. As we move to integrate other systems with our Advantage data asset, I am sure that we can count on Matt, Kelly and Toby to help."
Web development tends to be an area that is changing at a fast and furious rate. The team is seeing a huge amount of attention being paid to the Access Management and Billing (AMB) module, and other issues involving digital content. More and more clients are interested in offering digital downloads of individual articles. Another growth area is web registration for conferences, through the Conference and Event (CEM) module. There is also a trend in web development to do more in AJAX (a combination of java script and xml) making the browser more responsive and interactive.
The second category of their work is training and consulting for clients who do their own web development. In this instance, Matt's team is concerned with helping the client's staff learn how to use the WEB module and making sure that the necessary Advantage functionality is exposed to the website.
Matt, Kelly and Toby often travel to client sites to do one- or two-day training sessions for client web developers about working with the Advantage eCommerce tools. And most days find them fielding a question or two from clients whose websites they have worked on in the past.
Lastly, the team handles overflow development work from the Product Development group. They - well, most likely Toby, who is a former member of the development team - may be called upon to handle the occasional development project. The team is flexible and easily rolls with the ups and downs in demands on its time.
Although the vast majority of their work is for clients, the group is also called upon to manage the workings of the ACS website and the CSL system, plus some other internal applications here at ACS. When pressed, they all admit that they enjoy working with clients the most, perhaps because the projects are more challenging, but also because they get satisfaction out of making clients happy with what they do for them.