Practicing What They Preach
McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek magazine brings its legacy print order system into the modern era, reaping a one-year 100% retrun on investment in the process.
It was early 2001, the height of 'dot-com' euphoria. BusinessWeek magazine was then, as now, one of the most influential business publications. Millions of readers turned to its pages every week, steeped with tales of corporate stars exploiting the latest technologies to rewrite the rules of business.
But while BusinessWeek's writers were telling the world of the latest software marvels, BusinessWeek's production staff was living in the past. Circulation was working with a 20-year-old, mostly manual system.
BW's sales and circulation people were faxing instructions and phoning requests that would ultimately be hand-written, trafficked, and filed. The print order system itself was hardly computerized, running on aged 'green screen' terminals and PCs.
Employees manually, sometimes redundantly entered data into a handful of non-integrated programs, from FoxPro to Excel to Admarc. The databases didn't share data, so the information was fragmented and hard to manage.
"Things were really out of date," says Tom Masterson, VP and worldwide circulation director at BusinessWeek, in New York. "We were still printing labels [one by one] for some things."
Of greater concern was the system's reliance on a handful of 'key' employees who knew how to run the old applications. And one of those key employees was about to retire.
The old system "worked, but it was in danger of not working in the future," Masterson says. "We had a system that was very complex, very manual-intensive, and very dependent on one or two key people."
While the old system needed replacement, doing so would affect many departments within BusinessWeek, its corporate parent (McGraw-Hill), and partners along the print supply chain, which includes six different printing plants.
Four of the plants were in the U.S.—two R.R. Donnelley plants and two Perry Judd plants—one in Europe (Smeets), and one in Asia (Times Printing).