The New Reality for Customer Engagement
As rapidly as Inteva has adopted the cloud, Author Solutions moved even quicker. Granted, the online book self-publishing company has the advantage of being about one-twentieth the size of Inteva, but, even so, its decision to replace a mishmash of disparate systems with a single on-demand environment built on Salesforce.com's Force.com SaaS platform was aggressive by any standard.
The company's move toward the cloud began when Kevin Weiss assumed the CEO post last December. Having come from an IT background that featured multiple large-scale deployments of Siebel Systems' mammoth CRM application, Weiss started his tenure by taking stock of his IT environment, which was a mess.
Despite being a company of just 400 employees, it was relying on two databases, two e-commerce systems and three workflow systems to support its three brands. Weiss decreed that the company, which depends on technology for its existence, would consolidate on one platform.
Naturally, the IT department saw that as an invitation to roll up its sleeves, and it diagrammed a home-grown solution that was doomed from the get-go. "I didn't doubt that they could do it, but we're a company that wanted to move very quickly," Weiss says.
He and the IT leadership evaluated Salesforce.com and a handful of other software-as-a-service options before Weiss determined--despite IT's desire to take a crack at building a platform--that Salesforce.com made the most sense. His decision was immediately, and eerily, validated. "The morning we made our decision, our IT system went down for four hours," Weiss recalls. "Somebody was telling me we were doing the right thing."
In truth, several factors swayed Weiss toward SaaS. He wanted to establish an IT platform that would last, and he believed that the ability to constantly reconfigure apps built on Salesforce.com, as well as benefiting from the service's constant improvements, made it the better long-term choice. That config-urability would also give Author Solutions the much-needed ability to make quick workflow changes or add new services, such as letting authors tap into marketing services from third-party partners. Additionally, by going with SaaS, the company did not have to seek out new IT talent, which can be a challenge for a company located in Bloomington, Minn.
And, like just about every company that turns to cloud computing, Author Solutions was drawn to the cost savings that come from not having to maintain and manage a data center and application environment. The company estimates savings of up to 75 percent. For instance, workflow modifications that once took 30 to 120 hours (and cost between $1,500 and $6,000) now take just one-fourth the time. Also, with the old system, adding a new product for authors required 120 to 240 hours ($6,000 to $12,000); that has been reduced by 75 percent.
Weiss reached his decision in March, and by late August, the company was running on what is effectively a new publishing ERP system. Almost everything moves through that system--lead tracking, handling of editorial submissions, management of manuscripts, corrections and even applying XML tags.
Of course, the migration to the Salesforce.com platform wasn't without issues. For instance, a snag occurred when the structure of the company's existing data didn't match up with Salesforce.com as expected. However, in its first weeks of use, the platform was handling 30 percent more work volume than the old disparate environment, and the system provides the company's author-clients with greater visibility into the handling of their manuscripts than ever before.
Essentially, Author Solutions processes more work with the same number of people, so the company realizes substantial efficiency gains. It can schedule work more proficiently, lets authors be more self-sufficient and will eventually yield a bottom-line impact by making it easier to do business with them.
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