Ixxus and Alfresco Selected to Design and Develop Cengage Learning’s Higher Education Product Archive Platform

Cengage Learning is an educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education and K-12, professional and library markets worldwide. With operations in more than 20 countries around the world and revenue of $1.5B USD (2014), Cengage provides innovative teaching, learning and research designed to foster academic excellence, increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes.

Challenge

As a globally established company, Cengage had grown over time to incorporate a number of different divisions and reporting lines, many of which had their own separate systems, structures and digital platforms.

Cengage, which was recognized for technology innovation with an Ebbies Award, was investing in a series of business transformation projects designed to exploit new technologies, enable new product creation and bring them closer to the customer.

As part of this transformation, Alfresco was chosen as Cengage’s new platform of choice to provide an integrated, enterprise-wide content solution which would avoid data siloes and allow the company to work more collaboratively and efficiently. As Alfresco’s largest platinum partner, specializing in publishing and media solutions, Ixxus was chosen to advise upon and develop an integrated content solution based upon Alfresco which would align with Cengage’s strategic business goals.

Cengage required a new product archive solution to encompass the entirety of its post-production higher education (HE) print content archive, representing some 85K products consisting of over one million assets.

As well as holding content across a number of disparate, siloed legacy content management systems, Cengage also holds a wealth of valuable media assets in a currently unmanaged state, loose upon desktops and personal file systems; many of which were high-value, rich media assets such as video, audio and hi-resolution images. The disorganized nature of these assets meant that they are not easily accessible when needed, and it is difficult for editorial staff to get a high-level view of what is available – meaning that time and money is wasted in relicensing assets which they already own, or on re-commissioning work which has already been done. 

When content is requested from the existing archive, often only particular extracts – for example a chapter, paragraph or image – are requested, rather than the full book. Cengage does not currently have the capacity to fulfil these requests, which are instead passed on to external vendors. This leads to unnecessary costs, inefficient processes and considerable user-frustration.

With the initiative, Cengage set out to achieve the following goals:

  • Reduce order bounces from external vendors to decrease costs and increase efficiency
  • Improve users’ ability to self-fulfill requests for a particular asset
  • Reduce repetition of file-finding activities
  • Improve discoverability of content and aid the potential for reuse
  • Reduce duplication of content and associated problems
  • Speed time to market for new products

Solution

Ixxus developed the solution built on Alfresco One as an enterprise-scale, content management system, integrated with the enhanced custom search capabilities of Solr and deployed on Amazon Web Services for confident scalability.

The new product archive solution delivers advanced search & discoverability capabilities, making it easy for editorial staff to find the content that they are seeking. Users can apply filters to their search, allowing them to search by ISBN, file format, file type (package, part, fragment, etc.), date, author, etc. Users can also trigger associative search through a “search related” action, making it easy for editorial staff to see which assets are included within one a product or package and how they relate to one another.

The platform is integrated into Cengage’s PIM (Product Information Management) system, ensuring that no ISBNs are duplicated and that data is consistent.

As well as now being able to fulfill content requests, the increased discoverability of particular assets also facilitates powerful content reuse; a business-critical capability which enables Cengage to easily create multi-volume textbooks with multiple iterations, composites, versions, and digital solutions. This is particularly important for the world of textbooks, where content may be subject to content differences across territories, or sudden changes to governmental or educational mandates.

The system has been built to be scalable, flexible and highly performant, providing Cengage with a reliable content service which can scale to absorb any unexpected surges in traffic activity. This has been achieved by deploying the entire architecture onto Amazon Cloud Services, and by integrating load-balancing alongside the Alfresco Transformation Server in order to streamline any heavy processing tasks, such as bulk upload, download or file conversion.

Content encryption has also been incorporated by leveraging Amazon S3 Encryption Services via an Ixxus-built Alfresco-S3 Connector, giving Cengage additional protection and peace of mind.

Results

Following the initial discovery phase, Ixxus delivered the platform on time and on budget to go-live in 6 months. The archivist team, situated across multiple locations, are now benefitting from the solution and the increased discoverability of content assets.

The new platform fulfills Cengage’s immediate content requirements as well as supporting ongoing digitalization strategy. Moving forward, the platform will allow Cengage to grow and develop an organizational-wide view of what content exists, where it is being used and how, which will inform business decisions and analytics.

Ixxus is continuing to work closely with Cengage to enhance and extend its functionality. “The Cengage Content Management System (CCMS) brought together a strong and talented team of internal experts and key Ixxus partners to deliver a world-class solution in less than six months,” said Andrea Kudzia, Executive Director of Digital Data Management Services at Cengage, “The CCMS platform will serve as the springboard for a suite of content creation, management, workflow, and enrichment functions that will increasingly support Cengage Learning’s publishing strategy and operations.”

“Cengage Learning have been outstanding to work with. They have great ambition to transform content management throughout the company and it’s been a terrific experience to assist them in their journey so far,” commented Andrew Robinson, Senior Publishing Consultant at Ixxus, “Their requirements have been challenging and far-reaching, making excellent use of Ixxus’ skills and experience in delivering value and business transformation. And of course, their people are wonderful to work with.”