Macmillan Learning and Ribbonfish: Solving Diverse Integration Needs to Help Students and Instructors Better

Macmillan Learning is a leader in the education publishing and EdTech industries, with a target market of over 9,000 colleges and 50,000 high schools in USA and Canada. Their partnerships with many of the world’s best researchers, educators, and administrators, as well as their emphasis on top quality content drive their business. Macmillan Learning teamed up with Ribbonfish, who specializes in offering service solutions to the media and publishing industries, to answer the changing needs of the education industry – helping both students and instructors improve their outcomes.

A Technology Strategy for an Evolving Industry

Macmillan Learning observed how the education industry has been evolving over the years and realized that they need a strategy to answer to the rapid developments that are taking place in this industry. Key among their goals was responding to market needs faster and providing students with interactive digital solutions to support their education.

However, the education industry is a seasonal one and Macmillan Learning wanted to ensure their new solutions caused the least amount of disruption, particularly during peak times. Another important consideration was the internal organizational structure. “You can’t develop a technology strategy in isolation, we need to be mindful of both the structure and culture of an organization. The culture needs to be improved, particularly when partnering with others and the structure needs to be standardized across the various teams,” says Sagar Bujbal, VP technology at Macmillan Learning.

Like any other business, Macmillan Learning integrates with many disparate systems. “Around 60 to 80% of your time is spent on supporting these various systems, rather than concentrating on innovation. When thinking about the right solutions implement, we really need to quantify the strengths and weaknesses of each of these systems,” says Paul King, a solutions architect at Ribbonfish. Both Paul and Sagar stress on the point that seamless integration in such a context requires architectural guardrails and governance. They explain that a well-defined target reference architecture (prior to development) with a long term vision, taking into account changes that will have to be encountered over the years, is a solid starting point. Best practices and utilizing out-of-box platform capabilities are further requirements for seamless integration.

Sagar and Paul presenting at WSO2Con USA

Selecting the Right Technology

Both Sagar and Paul believe that an enterprise integration platform is one of the most strategic technology decisions that a business makes. They were looking to build a target reference architecture that was business driven, rather than focusing on a particular technology and evaluated several technology vendors based on this. Macmillan Learning and Ribbonfish considered factors such as platform capabilities, maturity of the product, type of agility provided for developers, quality of production support, costs, and the vendor’s willingness to work closely with a business to solve their particular needs. Both were of the view that WSO2 Enterprise Integrator, with its integration runtimes, message brokering, business process modeling, and analytics capabilities, catered to their requirements.

Achieving Seamless Integration

Given the fact that integration needs at Macmillan Learning were diverse, Sagar and Paul decided on APIs as the de-facto standard for integrating all their systems. They also made sure that there was no direct coupling. Their current architecture includes the Macmillan Learning integration layer composed of WSO2 Enterprise Integrator along with Salesforce. Paul explains that one of their main goals when building the new architecture was to not over complicate things and using WSO2 helped, “One of the big things we really took from it when we selected WSO2 as a platform and service was that there are plenty of solutions within WSO2 itself.”

Paul and Sagar state that documenting the inventory of business processes and interactions contributed a lot to their success, as it helped them to better define their target reference architecture. They also believe that defining their integration techniques, constant communication with their engineering team, and weekly reviews of what they implemented helped them immensely.

More innovation is planned for Macmillan Learning and Ribbonfish. The huge scale of transformation at Macmillan Learning means that there is a continuous demand to meet these requirements. Proactive customer service plays a key role in this transformation. Macmillan Learning and Ribbonfish gain insights from interactions between customer care agents, students, and instructors to improve this transformation process and customer satisfaction. And as mentioned earlier, they will continue to review what they do for the best possible outcomes.

To learn more about how Macmillan Learning and Ribbonfish are working together, watch this video:

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