Legacy software built using a proprietary language that was leaving library service wholesaler, Whitehots Inc., vulnerable for sustainability and growth. Whitecap delivered a modern platform that’s ready for the future.
Library Services Provider
ASP.NET Core (MVC), Progress Sitefinity 12, Long View Private Cloud, Vue.js, Hangfire, Sphinx
About Whitehots Inc.
Founded more than 30 years ago, Whitehots Inc. is a Canadian library wholesaler that delivers the latest print and digital books to libraries across the country. The Whitehots Hub, a state-of-the-art online ordering system, gives libraries access to the largest database of books of its kind in Canada so they can easily collaborate, share information, search for titles, order and allocate resources.
Whitecap has a complete team. What came across very quickly in our meetings and through this project was the breadth of different resources. What resonated with me very early in the process, was that they did a lot of homework so when we sat down, they were already at the starting gate and ready to start running. I was really impressed.
Whitehots launched its online ordering platform, Whitehots Hub, 10 years ago, using a programming language that has since become outdated.
At that time, Whitehots offered a bleeding-edge platform for public and school libraries to learn about upcoming releases, build order lists, assign books to specific locations, manage new orders and the creation of purchase orders. Over time, the Hub’s underlying software became virtually obsolete, with few developers available to maintain, update and improve the solution.
Four years ago, it became clear to Whitehots that they needed to make a change so they wouldn’t lose their edge in the market.
“When you are married 10 years to a company, it becomes more difficult to separate. We were very, very dependent on them (our previous developer) for every single order coming through our website and we were nervous to make a change.”
“To get to the point where we are shipping books to our customers, we have to have a state-of-the-art platform. The previous developer was a small company with few staff, and not many resources familiar with the programming language. If anything happened, we felt vulnerable,” recalls Whitehots president, Edmund Salt.
“We were very dependent on them for every order. We were apprehensive to make a change; it became apparent we couldn’t continue in this way. We felt our developer at that time could not commit or come through with changes we wanted.”
The search began for Whitehots to find a new software development partner, with the expertise, experience and resources to support their feature update roadmap, in a modern application built using a mainstream language. They also wanted a software development partner with a larger breadth of technical resources and experience with complex software solutions, and the technical ability to allow for a seamless transition for their customers, with an eye to future enhancements that would allow them to reaffirm their leadership position in the market.
After extensive research and consultations, Whitehots closed the book on their legacy platform, and inked a new relationship with Whitecap Canada Inc., a Toronto based software developer who met all the criteria.
“Expertise, experience with complex websites, responsiveness, customer service, and troubleshooting were uppermost in our minds when we started looking for a software development partner. We got all that and more from Whitecap.”
Applications Get Major Modernization
As a 10-year-old application, Whitehots acknowledges that while their ordering platform, Whitehots Hub had the functionality customers needed, the interface was starting to look outdated and the obsolete software language was hampering efforts to make the enhancements they wanted. In addition, the Whitehots website needed a refresh to make it easier to keep material up to date and add new content.
Whitecap worked with Whitehots to evaluate the options for all aspects of the modernization of Whitehots Hub and their marketing website. They selected mainstream, popular software applications and services to build a solid foundation for future growth that would be less dependent on a single company for support and maintenance. ASP.NET Core, Long View Private Cloud, and Progress Sitefinity 12 were chosen to form the foundation of Whitehots’ online presence including Whitehots Hub and their marketing website.
In addition to selecting the solutions at the heart of a modernized Whitehots environment, the team worked to ensure a seamless integration with every customer’s library system (ILS). Mapping seamlessly to each ILS allows libraries to securely transaction book purchases with Whitehots.
“It was a perfect project in the sense that Whitecap really enjoyed doing it. At Whitehots, we love the business we are in and we are passionate about what we do. We were pleased to partner with a company like Whitecap who gets excited about the project. It’s more than just code to them. They are as invested in our success as we are.”
Upgrading Cloud Services
To allow for scalable growth, a new cloud service was top priority. Whitecap helped Whitehots move to Long View Private Cloud to provide the responsiveness and stability a dynamic company like Whitehots required to support the upgraded website, the Whitehots Hub, and the integration from their solution to the customer’s ILS systems to complete the purchase and acquisition process.
Enhancing the User Experience
Selecting the Progress Sitefinity 12 Digital Experience Platform for Whitehots’ marketing website allowed Whitecap and Whitehots to deliver a high-touch, more personalized experience, in an environment that’s easier to maintain and update to keep content fresh. Edmund and his team are looking forward to the ability to continue to enhance the marketing website with new content and features.
Creating a new and enhanced user experience was also a top priority for the Whitehots Hub. Since Whitehots Hub provides a unique service and has a unique business process, custom development was the recommended approach. Whitecap built the new platform in .NET so Whitehots benefits long term from an application developed in a common language and using mainstream software. “With our new platform (Whitehots Hub), libraries get all the detail they want to make a buying decision. We can also offer suggestions with upcoming releases to help enhance their collections. They can create lists, and then use a shopping cart style selection system that has an interface from our website to their system to generate purchase orders.”
“Speed was a key consideration when developing the user experience,” says Edmund, explaining that the faster his customers can make decisions, the better, so they focused a lot of attention on streamlining that process and providing tools and resources to make the selection process easier.
Users Rave About the Experience
“We were looking for a seamless transition to a new platform,” says Edmund, noting they did extensive training and communication to help customers migrate easily from the old Whitehots Hub platform to the modernized application. Reaction from customers has been outstanding with all customers moving to the new platform and customer orders starting to increase incrementally.
The positive comments have meant a great deal to the team at Whitehots who were told that the transition was seamless, and the user experience has been greatly improved – all top priorities for this project.
“The acceptance has been tremendous,” says Edmund adding one customer described working in the modernized Whitehots Hub as “life changing.”
The Future is on the Books
With a stable platform in place, Edmund and his team can now start to focus their efforts on their enhancement roadmap for the next two years which includes many more upgrades to the Whitehots website and feature additions to Whitehots Hub.
“We had a meeting last week with Whitecap just on the 2020 road map that was the first time in a while we’ve been able to sit down and talk to our web developers about what we want in the next 12 months. It was so refreshing for us to be able to do that. It has opened up a host of possibilities for us,” says Edmund, noting adding a “PCard” system for online payment options in schools and artificial intelligence solutions are on the table.
“Over the years we built up a reputation for cutting-edge technology. We were in danger of losing that reputation,” recalls Edmund. “It was so frustrating because we had so many ideas of what we wanted to do like taking advantage of AI to help push the envelope in terms of how librarians make the decisions on what material to buy. We want to be part of that decision making.”