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Posted: 3/15/2012
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Columbia Sportswear Outdoor Apparel Manufacturer Speeds Online Order Processing and Boosts Service

In response to fast growth of online sales, Columbia Sportswear needed to improve an outdated e-commerce integration solution. With help from Neudesic, Columbia implemented a service-oriented architecture based on Microsoft technology. With the new, scalable solution, order processing is faster, customer service is stronger, and the company can easily adapt to major changes in its IT environment, such as a planned transition to SAP enterprise resource planning software.

Business Needs

In 2009, Columbia Sportswear launched e-commerce businesses and has built significant sales in its multiple brand websites. As its e-commerce volumes grew, and to support a companywide supply-chain transformation project, Columbia decided to upgrade from its original e-commerce solution to further strengthen its processing of online orders.

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* With BizTalk Server 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2, processes that used to take minutes now complete in seconds, so our order processing is massively faster than it used to be. *

Larry Davis
Senior Solution Architect
Columbia Sportswear

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A previous e-commerce integration solution, based on Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2, used point-to-point integrations to connect various applications. That solution showed signs of strain as the company’s online sales continued to grow.

“Between 2009 and 2010, our online sales increased dramatically,” says Larry Davis, Senior Solution Architect at Columbia Sportswear. “Supporting that growth required an unsustainable level of effort.”

The old solution also would have complicated the company’s planned transition from its JD Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to SAP ERP. Davis says, “Keeping the old e-commerce solution while deploying SAP would have required us to create, run, and maintain two separate integration environments at greatly increased support and development costs.”

Columbia wanted an e-commerce integration solution that would support higher throughput and adapt to planned changes in the company’s IT environment.

Solution

Columbia redesigned its e-commerce integration solution by applying a service-oriented architecture (SOA) based on Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The company worked with Neudesic, a Microsoft National Systems Integrator and Gold ISV partner, to design and deploy the new solution, which went live in August 2011.

The new solution uses SQL Server 2008 R2 to store BizTalk Server 2010 application-group configurations, route service bus messages, and track business activity monitoring data. Because SQL Server 2008 R2 offers scalable shared databases, Columbia can scale the new solution up or out to handle increased sales volumes or expansions in stored data. The Microsoft BizTalk Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Toolkit 2.1 extends the functionality of BizTalk Server 2010 and plays a key role in the company’s SOA by supporting lightweight service composition, dynamic resolution of endpoints and maps, web service integration, fault management, and reporting.

The solution also employs Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services, and PerformancePoint Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. These technologies give analysts access to intuitive dashboards and reports that provide comprehensive visibility into operational and technical information. The new solution required only minimal changes to existing JD Edwards processes and can be easily modified to support new SAP business processes.

Deployment proceeded on schedule and was completed well in advance of the 2011 holiday shopping season, a crucial deadline. Brian Summers, the Senior Manager for Global Application Development at Columbia, credits teamwork with Neudesic with the timely deployment: "Neudesic brought in the right resources at the right time and was always responsive to our needs. The project was delivered on time and under budget."

Benefits

By transforming its e-commerce integration system into a SOA based on BizTalk Server 2010, Columbia can process orders faster and solve customer-service issues more nimbly. The solution’s reusable processes and services also support future changes, such as deploying SAP ERP or moving services to the cloud.

Speeds Order Processing and Increases Scalability

With the new solution, the company is well-prepared for continued growth in its e-commerce volumes. “With BizTalk Server 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2, processes that used to take minutes now complete in seconds, so our order processing is massively faster than it used to be,” says Davis. “Our BizTalk Server 2010 solution is serving our current transaction volume with a good deal of headroom for any future growth. And the scalability of BizTalk Server 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 would make it easy to grow past our current headroom if we needed to.”

Improves Customer Support

By offering comprehensive visibility into automated business processes, the new solution makes it easier to resolve problems. “First, the service-oriented architecture of the BizTalk Server 2010 solution reduces the level of required manual intervention overall,” says Davis. “But with SQL Server 2008 R2 reports and the transparent management dashboards created in SharePoint Server 2010, nontechnical employees can resolve issues before customer service is affected and without involving the development team. As a result, developers can spend time on more valuable projects.”

Supports Supply-Chain Transformation

By replacing its point-to-point integrations with a SOA, Columbia has positioned itself well to support future planned changes in its IT environment. “Our BizTalk Server 2010 deployment project included transforming our e-commerce processes to include reusable services, an enterprise service bus, and dynamic message routing,” says Davis. “So it will be relatively straightforward for us to execute the transition from JD Edwards to SAP ERP with very little disruption. Also, the BizTalk ESB Toolkit dramatically decreases the time needed to create new interfaces.”

With the new solution, Columbia also has the option to easily move services to the cloud, as needed. Davis says, “By deploying BizTalk Server 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 as part of a service-oriented architecture, we can innovate faster and integrate cloud technologies into our environment on our terms, when it makes business sense to do so.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 4200 employees

Organization Profile

Columbia Sportswear manufactures and sells high-performance outdoor apparel and equipment. Columbia products are sold online and in retail outlets worldwide. Established in 1938, the company’s holdings include Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, and Sorel.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Biztalk Server 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services
  • PerformancePoint Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Vertical Industries
Consumer Goods

Country/Region
United States

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Neudesic

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