Marshall Cavendish Rocks the International Market
If there's any question of the impact evolving technologies can have on the modern publishing company, at least one publisher has a tale that might help tip the scales.
A recent 52-part "Speak English" series for the Russian market could have presented major challenges to the team at Marshall Cavendish, publisher of books, directories, magazines and partworks (series), whose brands include Marshall Cavendish Reference, Benchmark Books, Cavendish Children's Books, Federal-Marshall Cavendish Education and Times Editions-Marshall Cavendish.
Each book in the "Speak English" series was being developed and "packaged" by language-teaching experts in the United Kingdom, translated in the Ukraine, produced in Poland and distributed in Russia. This type of project is often a recipe for chaos, involving weeks of back-and-forth text files, Quark files and PDFs, with CDs being dispatched back and forth by courier.
The Marshall Cavendish team, however, implemented a new workflow technology that refined the process, reducing file transfers to a matter of days, with no concerns over file integrity or security.
"It's fair to say that without [this technology], we would have struggled to meet our launch schedule," admits Marshall Cavendish's art editor, Chensie Le Roy Chen.
According to the Marshall Cavendish production staff, the technology—Vio Digital Workflow Suite (VDWS)—is helping the company break into emerging Central and Eastern European markets by enabling them to cut through complex international workflows. The company is now seeing "meteoric" circulation growth of its titles in former Eastern bloc countries.
Whisper Down the Globe
Sure, it helps that the market is ripe. "In the post-Communist era, consumers in the region have displayed an enormous appetite for information and self-education. This makes these prime markets for collectible publications, which offer an affordable way for people to build a personal library of up-to-the-minute reference materials," explains Marshall Cavendish's managing director, Peter Barber.
But tapping the market is a different story and one that requires strict control to meet deadlines. With a diverse community of contributing editors, designers, translators and suppliers, in territories as widespread as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Ukraine, communication is not only challenging, but problems can essentially result in a situation comparable to a game of "whisper down the lane."
Initial concept and design creation is undertaken in-house in the United Kingdom, before further development is outsourced to external packagers. Most publications are then distributed to local publishing partners for localization, adaptation and translation, and the finished product is printed, marketed and distributed locally. Overall control and responsibility for each product rests with the UK Running Projects team—which oversees and approves all editorial and finished layouts—to uphold the quality and consistency of the company's products.
"With up to five new partwork products published each year, the pace of output is intense, so transferring data accurately, quickly and on schedule is fundamental to our success," says Chen. "At particular points in the product-development cycle, the movement and management of information can be intensely time-critical. To put it bluntly, if it doesn't get there on time, it's disastrous for our business."
By implementing the new workflow technology, Chen says the company gained full control of communications and enabled faster production. "Before … tracking incoming e-mails and attachments was giving us a real headache," he explains. Features like 'Red Hot Icons' for the 'Vio Send to Me' application were especially helpful in improving file transfer and communication, he says. "We now just send one e-mail to our external contributors, giving them a 'Red Hot Icon' to install on their desktops. Then, whenever they're ready to send a file or folder to us, they simply drag and drop it over the icon, and it's routed straight to the Vio server, with an instant e-mail notification to us that the file and its accompanying Job Ticket are available for collection.
"For remote contributors where there may be language barriers, or technical issues such as e-mail file-size restrictions, it's a godsend. Vio has put us back in control of the data that is being sent to us because we can download the files from the server when we're ready to work on them, and route them into the appropriate workflow," adds Chen. "What's more, we're not frustrated by the limitations of our contributors' speed of access any more or by problems with file sizes. Any file size reaches Vio at the sender's speed of transmission, but we download everything across a 2 Mbps [megabytes per second] leased line, supplied and supported by Vio. Now … we'll be looking to make the most of the 'Vio Auto Retrieve' feature for certain publications [which would automatically route jobs into the workflow by job title, origin, etc.], and maybe at adding a 'Vio Send To Me' button to our Web site, to enable more ad-hoc contributors to send files to us via that interface."
A Message for the Gun-shy
It was fortunate that Marshall Cavendish's experience with this workflow technology proved successful or the staff might have become discouraged about the very idea of automating workflow. The company's previous experiences with managed file-transfer solutions had been anything but positive, says Marshall Cavendish's IT manager, Martin Bentley. "As a publisher, you're looking for a tool that will take the pain out of managing your workflow. But if the supplier's support and account management falls short, it's more hindrance than help," explains Bentley.
The company's current arrangement provides the simplistic setup needed in a complicated workflow environment. "We now have one supplier to act as our ISP, manage our high bandwidth connections, monitor our firewall, and provide us with a single, expert point of contact for all training, service and support issues.
"With the added ingredient of Vio's intuitive workflow applications, everyone on the floor is happier, and we're seeing a real difference in the way projects are flowing through. It has given us security, speed, simplicity, cost saving and—most importantly—complete peace of mind."
About Marshall Cavendish
Marshall Cavendish's publishing network spans Asia, Europe and the United States (Tarrytown, N.Y.). Its brands publish products in education, general and reference, business, and library reference, among others. The company was founded in 1968 in the United Kingdom, and established a presence in France, Germany and the United States, before building an infrastructure in Asia by acquiring companies such as Oxford Universities Press and MPH (Singapore). It is a member of the Times Publishing Group, a global network of 40 subsidiaries and associated companies with staff in 20 international offices.