Setting The Pace at Prima Publishing
The company ultimately built an information system, dubbed Power Publisher, around a Microsoft SQL server database. Prima received a Global PERT Practices award from Arthur Anderson for the development of this system. (PERT stands for Performance Evaluation and Review Technique. It is not used just for performance evaluation, as its name suggests, but is a project planning and management method developed in the 1970s and used today by many types of organizations, from manufacturing and construction companies to military groups.)
Prima Publishing insists that all staff members use its Power Publisher system for collecting, tracking and modifying core company data. To encourage that and to discourage small departments from devising their own independent databases, the system has been made as comprehensive as possible--it facilitates budgeting, financial forecasting, paper inventory management, Web content delivery, royalty payments and commission calculations. Job scheduling, from editorial management to design project planning to press scheduling, is also included.
Now up and running, the database is an important aspect of the company that helps it operate efficiently and publish and ship its books in market-responsive ways, says Carleson. It has also helped the company avoid being overwhelmed by its steady double-digit growth for the past few years.
But really, can any system do everything? "It's widely acknowledged in programming and IT," says Carleson, that "the more information you give people, the more they are going to want."
To discourage departments from investing their time to create desktop databases or spreadsheets that are not tied into the main database, Prima has included as many variables as possible to allow users to create custom queries and custom reports, and to download subsets of data to play with. Users are expected to use the main system and encouraged to ask for modifications from the central programming department when needed.