Book consortium case

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Book Consortium's IT Overhaul a Recipe for Success | |
|By Matt Kelly | |
|September 21, 2005 | |
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|Case Study: A book distributor completely overhauls its business processes, resulting | |
|in a turnaround in sales and growth. | |
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|Ask Don Linn to describe the stateof IT at Consortium Book & Sales Distribution Inc. when he acquired the company in 2001 and he |
|gives a tart three-word answer. It was, he said, "a whole morass." |
|That's apparently quite an understatement. As the nation's largest distributor of independent book publishers, Consortium, of St. |
|Paul, Minn., hadlimped along for 17 years with an IBM mainframe to apprise publishers of which titles were selling or not. |
|By the time Linn arrived, the rickety old database could barely muster up sales figures 30 days late—which, in today's online world of|
|book retailing, might as well be shelved in the out-of-print section. |
|"Itwasn't a threat at that moment, but it was pretty clear that if we couldn't give [publishers] timely information, perhaps somebody|
|else would," Linn said. |
|In his new role, Linn said he immediately became worried that the poor state of IT would become a strategic disadvantage, as|
|competitors were already gravitating toward more interactive systems. And so the ex-Wall Street banker and longtime bibliophile began |
|a new chapter in Consortium's operations. |
|"I thought that if we could be the firstest and the mostest, we could at least position ourselves to maintainour clients and maybe |
|get some new ones," Linn said. |
| |
|Consortium had been using two Pick systems—Unix databases developed by IBM during the Nixonadministration. Linn said they employed |
|closed data structures unable to interface with modern spreadsheets or CRM (customer relationship management) software. The result: |
|Sales reports sent to publishers were often paper-based and printed monthly. New reports required up to two weeks of custom |
|With 70 clients publishing about 12,000 titles, Linn said he quickly realized that the overhaul would have to go well beyond |
|installing new servers and software. He needed to map out Consortium's business processes, from dealing with customers to employees |
|talking among themselves to get tasks done. Once he had such an...