For any media house with a print component such as newspapers, the biggest operational headache is ensuring that millions of items that can be sold only on the day they are published are delivered in time for those sales to be made.
The challenge is massively compounded if this requirement is regional as well as national and when customers are spread across such diverse outlets as retailers, individual subscribers' homes, offices, airports, and hotels.
The ramifications for the bottom line of non-delivery go far beyond the operational discipline of logistics. Invoicing of advertisers, operation of call centres, subscriber, single copy, and publisher settlement, demand planning, sales forecasting, national and local display ads, agency debtors, retail debtors, classifieds creation and sales, and incentives for sales representatives are all impacted.
The ripple effect is felt even in big data projects focused on improving products, in customer engagement, and the long-term ability to grow the business.
Theoretically, the use of technology to streamline distribution processes and operations seems like the logical way of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness. But, not all technology solutions in the media sector are equal – and not all implementation partners understand the sector.
A media house with hundreds of millions of printed items to be picked and distributed every year decided to move from what had turned out to be an inadequate standalone distribution solution to a full ERP solution that included SAP IS Media to enable the company to integrate and, therefore, streamline all its print activities.
This was particularly important in the light of the print industry being under enormous pressure from online and digital alternatives that are causing print circulations to decline and established markets to shrink. The company's priority was, therefore, to minimise wastage and, in other ways, to reduce costs so as to keep margins reasonable.
Obviously, achieving this at least cost entails precise planning and execution by the various publications involved. Less obviously, at a broader group level, there is also a need to holistically manage a wide array of inter-related activities, including cut off times for products to be printed, returns processing of expired publications, subscriber liability accounting practices, and management of the full range of payment methods, including cash collections, EFTs, and credit cards.
Britehouse's client understood that simply addressing distribution of its print products would not deliver sufficient benefits. The company's long term sustainability was dependent on ensuring that every process related to its print activities was pared down to its essential components and that duplication in the operations related to publication production and distribution was eliminated.
The company decided to integrate its publication operations from a process and technology perspective and, in addition, to integrate is print operations with the rest of the business, so as to obtain an enterprise wide view of the business. This would enable further optimisation of processes across the enterprise, boosting sustainability for the business overall.
Having done international site visits to see SAP IS Media in action at some of SAP's 145 media clients, the client put together a team of implementation partners in order address the full spectrum of its technology needs. The solutions considered included SAP ECC, SAP IS Media Subscriptions and Single Copy Sales, SAP Contract Accounting, SAP Business Warehouse and Business Objects.
The project's objective was to optimise the company's distribution network, which covered a vast area, remove duplicated overheads, and centralise customer engagement.
As implementation partner, Britehouse helped the client found its new operations on a modern approach to CRM, exploiting the data in SAP IS Media to gain more benefits from outbound channels, more effectively segment its markets based on subscription contract status, automate recurring marketing campaigns, and better direct traffic to the company's website.
In days that started at 07:30 and ended when the work was done, hundreds of thousands of contracts were cleansed, migrated, and linked to the CRM system. Almost as many addresses, including GPS co-ordinates, were verified.
Single copy distribution capabilities, including forecasting and allocations, publication distribution, debtors, and publisher settlements, were implemented in under twelve months.
Four major projects related to advertising – ad booking, classified ad creation, debtors, and incentive compensation - were carried out in parallel.
All the media-specific project elements were also integrated into the overall SAP ECC implementation, which had been completed before the media projects were initiated.
The business wins
So carefully and tightly integrated were the new SAP systems that go live was achieved in a single day across multiple plants nationwide .
Millions of publications have been delivered directly from the SAP system since day one.
All customer documentation, including debit and credit notes, collection notes, and statements, were automatically issued by the system, also from day one.
Distribution activities and all business processes triggered or influenced by them within the SAP ECC, SAP CRM, and SAP HR and Payroll systems have been seamlessly integrated, giving the company a real time, 360 degree view of its operations.