QAS intranet case study – anatomy of a winner

By Toby Ward — A winning intranet has many successful qualities and features. The QAS intranet is a winner at many levels – rich with tools and demonstrable, measured value.
QAS is a World leader in address management and data accuracy solutions. Based on data secured from national postal authorities and other leading sources, QAS captures, cleans and enhances the integrity of name and address data. QAS has a geographically diverse set of 400 employees with offices around the globe in the U.K. (headquarters), U.S.A., Canada, Singapore, Australia, and across Europe.
A winner of a coveted 2005 Information Management Award for Knowledge Management, the QAS intranet, iQ, has many winning attributes including:
  • A well defined plan
  • Robust and flexible technology
  • Rich applications
  • Measured benefits & ROI
QAS Internet Home

A well defined plan

“The intranet is, and continues to be a central business tool that can deliver content and knowledge management/retention, training as well as automated business process management,” says Allistair Crossley, QAS Intranet Architect. “The overarching strategy is to continue to deliver process efficiencies internally to save the business money, and to surface and target knowledge and content to staff, and to make the people more efficient in their roles.”
Prior to implementing a new platform, the QAS intranet was powered exclusively by a content management system (CMS). Though the Stellent CMS provided ease-of-use publishing, the previous platform limited application development and integration.
“It impeded developers who found themselves limited in what they could do in terms of applications development and integrating with other systems within the organization,” says Allistair Crossley, QAS Intranet Architect. “For example, nearly 6 months was spent developing a basic holiday forms application written using the CMS with its proprietary language. The solution was never a satisfactory one and when a new requirement to deliver reporting and statistics came about, the mistake was all too evident, since the holiday forms numerical data was bound up in proprietary text files.”
The CMS’s inflexibility for integrating applications forced developers to write stand-alone applications which fragmented the user experience. So the intranet team set out to develop a more flexible intranet platform while leveraging their investment in the Stellent CMS.
“The project centered on developing an extensible intranet framework to deliver a single integrated business tool capable of responding to increasing business process automation requirements, increased knowledge retention, faster training for new staff, a sense of community, an enhanced user experience and a richer experience overall,” adds Crossley.
“At the same time, although the CMS was being used for obvious content such as HR policies and benefits and some newsletters, the full worth of content and knowledge management was not being taken advantage of by staff. The CMS functions were clunky and cumbersome and did not really sell the idea over network access to staff.”
However, the CMS is seen as a valuable publishing and management tool so QAS wanted to preserve and leverage the investment in Stellent.
Working with Stellent the internal project team included four staff (Web Architect, 2 Developers, and a Departmental Manager). The entire platform development project took 1 year and 4 months from outset to launch.
Ongoing management of the intranet is the day-to-day purview of the intranet team (three individuals) that fall under the Director, Technology.
“We are quite fortunate I think in that we work in a bottom-up system. Each year we define our strategy and our department manager has to rationalize that to management and the board (especially if additional funding is required!),” adds Crossley.

Robust and flexible technology

“The iQ intranet is a J2EE enterprise web application that is used as a business tool for delivering tangible and calculated ROI across the whole organization through the application and integration of innovative and intuitive technology solutions,” says Crossley. “iQ delivers value through broadcasting, knowledge & content management and applications channels through a single integrated user interface.”
The heart of iQ is an extensible framework based powered by low-cost open-source software including:
  • Tomcat
  • Struts
  • Hibernate
  • JasperReports
  • Spring
  • OpenOffice
  • jTidy
The biggest challenge for QAS was decoupling the Stellent CMS from the applications.
“Understanding the Stellent API and defining a generic CMS layer to decouple the intranet web application and all data it works with from any particular CMS vendor was a challenge, particularly since we were one of the first companies in the UK to use the Stellent API in this manner,” says Crossley. “Also, supporting the business with the existing intranet whilst developing the new. Only two developers were implementing the new application.”
In addition to the CMS, the J2EE intranet integrates back-office systems and process applications such as:
  • SelectHR
  • Siebel
  • SUN Finance
  • Purchase Ordering
  • Sales Proposal Building
  • Holiday Forms
  • Project Scheduling
Technology overview:
  • Hardware: Xeon, 2GB RAM, 560GB HDD
  • Web component software : Microsoft IIS, Jakarta JK 1.2 Connector, Jakarta Tomcat 5.5
  • Database: Microsoft SQL Server 2000
  • Development Environment: Eclipse 3.1, Ant 1.6, Microsoft Visual SourceSafe
  • Content Management System: Stellent (via JavaBean API interface)

Toby Ward, a former journalist and a regular e-business columnist and speaker, is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media. For more information on Prescient’s CMS Blueprint service, or for a free copy of the white paper “Finding ROI”, please contact us.