Al Juffali.com integrates platforms around WebSphere

When Jamil Al Emad, IT manager for Al Juffalimall.com sat down and thought how to build his company’s electronic mall, he focused in on one key element: front to back end integration.

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By  Peter Conmy Published  August 5, 2000

When Jamil Al Emad, IT manager for Al Juffalimall.com sat down and thought how to build his company’s electronic mall, he focused in on one key element: front to back end integration.

“We realised from the start that there are two aspects to a successful e-commerce web site,” Al Emad, told ACN. “They are the financial transactions aspect and the logistics and delivery aspect; and your backend must be fully capable of supporting both parts.”

At the beginning of the project Al Emad evaluated several platforms to be the core of Al Juffali’s B2C site. For Al Emad, reliability, scalability, ease of use, and short development time, were all essential elements for the development of the site.

WebSphere Technology

“Having an open option to scale the solution and the ability for it to run on any platform were also very crucial factors to our success,” explained Al Emad.

“Our environment consists of multiple OS/390 servers running Windows NT. We needed to have the freedom and the ability to transport all the applications to other environments without any modifications.”

The only environment that fulfilled these requirements was IBM’s WebSphere software platform. Working with Saudi Business Machines (SBM), both on the technical side and as the mall’s ISP, the retailing organisation started reengineering its business processes for the Web.

“WebSphere allowed us to concentrate on re-engineering our business processes around the e-commerce process,” commented Al Emad. “We’ve discovered that 50% of building an e-commerce site was on the content management and provision side.

"The other 50% involved business re-engineering issues. The WebSphere environment helped us build a single framework, which we can use and re-use to launch new businesses on the web with minimum effort.”

The solution that Al Juffali built relies on IBM’s Universal Database providing it the dynamic elements it needs, an excellent search facility, and high availability.

Through the extensive business process reengineering and technical integration provided by WebSphere, Al Emad was able to quickly link traditional back end business processes to the Web site.

For example, the inventory and back-office systems are instantly updated when a transaction is conducted on the site.

As to fulfilment, a partnership with Aramex, allows Al Juffali to ship merchandise throughout Saudi Arabia at a very low cost, and even free to some areas.

Online Transactions

Al Juffali’s online commerce efforts are aided by the company’s string of brick and mortar warehouses throughout the Kingdom.
Plans for online credit card transactions are apparently in the pipeline.

Although the site has the infrastructure to support transactions, the Internet and banking infrastructure within the Kingdom doesn’t allow for online transactions.

Al Emad said that Al Juffali has been in negotiations with several Saudi banks.

The Al Juffali mall, still in its early stages, has not been Arabised. Al Emad recognises this as a shortcoming, but says that the visitors to the site are comfortable using English.

There are no technical difficulties in supporting Arabic content, since the plaform can do this natively, explained Al Emad. The main hurdle to putting Arabic content online is that the product material is supplied in English.

“Companies provides us with product information in English — there is no Arabic translation. There is a real shortage of Arabic content in this field,” said Al Emad.

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