Feature

Royal Mail sets up online system to support new post pricing structure

The Royal Mail has implemented an online pricing application to handle the changes it made to its letter and package pricing last month.

The changes in the pricing structure, the first in 100 years, link the cost of postage to the size and weight of an item, rather than its weight alone.

Technology supplier Selectica redeveloped the Royal Mail’s legacy online pricing calculator and used Java code to support the new Pricing in Proportion structure.

The system, which is used by organisations that have large, complex mailing requirements, uses Selectica’s Java-based pricing and configuration engine, the Pricing Configurator, which integrates into Royal Mail’s existing Java-based portal, which uses software from ATG.

The Pricing Configurator will also link into new online applications, such as Stampnow, which allows users to buy and print their own postage stamps once they have calculated the correct price.

Royal Mail has worked with Selectica since 2001 and was using a vanilla version of its pricing software, which was not integrated into the postal service’s e-commerce platform.

Explaining the initial lack of customisation, Dennis Greene, head of e-business at Royal Mail, said, “At the time, the business was losing money and we were in the midst of a recovery plan. Investment in IT was limited.”

He added that integration with the ATG environment would allow Royal Mail to support a wide range of evolving online products and offer more personalisation, customisation and content targeting. Royal Mail will also be able to offer online users a more reliable and faster service, he said.

Ian Mahoney, principal consultant at Selectica, said it deployed and tested the application on its own application and web servers, then ported it to Royal Mail machines.

The application itself runs as an Enterprise Java Bean – a self-contained Java programme – embedded in Royal Mail’s ATG environment. It also draws on Royal Mail’s Oracle database and uses XML messaging to transfer data.

Greene said Royal Mail’s e-commerce team would continue to focus on developing customer self-service technologies in the future.

Royal Mail put 70 applications online last year and ran 150 IT projects. It plans to complete 170 IT projects this year. “Despite the squeeze on investment, we have made some significant improvements,” said Greene.

 

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This was first published in September 2006

 

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