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Readers Digest Smoothes Global Publishing Operations with

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					Case Studies




Readers Digest Smoothes Global Publishing Operations
with PlanSystem3



The world’s most popular magazine,
Reader’s Digest, sought a unified system
to streamline processes at more than two
dozen editorial and production sites that
create different editions of the magazine.
Since selecting Van Gennep’s PlanSystem3,
Reader’s Digest has replaced QPS while
adding new capabilities that boost staff
productivity and shorten the time it takes to
bring creative editorial ideas to market.




   In Brief                                      Reader’s Digest runs an international operation
                                                 that	is	more	extensive	than	that	of	a	typical	U.S.	
   Challenge                                     magazine	publisher.	In	addition	to	U.S.	editions,	
     •	 Improve	efficiency	of	Reader’s	          RDA publishes 40 international editions of Reader’s
        Digest operations through a global       Digest in 19 languages created by RDA staff in 28
        editorial planning and production-       countries. At the discretion of the editors, each of
        tracking system                          the international editions picks up material from
                                                 other editions, as well as creates its own unique
   Solution                                      content. Sharing of material is encouraged, and
     •	Van	Gennep’s	PlanSystem3                  international Reader’s Digest editors typically pick
                                                 up or translate 40 to 60 percent of their stories from
                                                 other editions.
   Results
     •		Successful	transition	from	manual	
        processes to automated workflows
     •		More	balanced	workload	for	staff         Motivation for Change
     •		Improved	planning	for	editorial,	        To facilitate collaboration and sharing of stories
        art, production and ad sales             among international editions of its publications,
     •		Improved	collaboration,	both	            several years ago RDA developed an internal
        within individual offices and across     global	Manuscript	Editorial	Tracking	System	(METS)	
        international offices                    in	Lotus	Notes.	All	of	the	editorial	offices	use	METS	
     •		Increased	flexibility	regarding	         to find stories published in other editions that
        choice of desktop tools and              might be reused or translated for a different
        location of staff and freelancers        edition. However, the time lag between when a




                      We care about publishing                                                   1
Case Studies


story was completed and when it appeared in               	 •		Improve	planning.	Because	so	many	articles	
METS	meant	that	METS	was	often	incomplete	or	               are shared among different editions, editors
not current.                                                wanted a system that would save them time
                                                            finding relevant material from other editions
                                                            and enable them to plan layouts earlier in the
RDA also faced challenges in its editorial and
                                                            cycle.	In	both	individual	offices	and	across	the	
production cycles. All of the editions of Reader’s
                                                            organization, RDA wanted better coordination
Digest are produced with QuarkXPress, but, with
                                                            and more transparency during editorial and
the	exception	of	the	editorial	and	production	office	
                                                            production processes.
at	RDA’s	U.S.	headquarters,	none	of	the	editorial	
offices had a workflow system that helped them            	 •	Improve	quality.	A	more	reliable	system	
coordinate issue planning with layouts, auto-               would help prevent errors; one that was
matically route material among staff and free-              global rather than local would help the
lancers, and track the status of articles and graph-        magazine be more timely to remain relevant
ics through the publishing process. The lack of             to its readers.
an	integrated	scheduling	system	(METS	does	not	
track	work	in	process)	made	it	hard	for	staff	to	       Technical considerations.
assign and monitor interim deadlines leading up         From a technical standpoint, RDA wanted a degree
to the close of each issue. “We had been working        of openness that it didn’t have with QPS. Factors
hard to shorten the time it takes to bring an idea to   included:
the customer, but at some point it became obvi-
                                                          	 •	Ease	of	integration.	RDA	wanted	a	produc-
ous that we needed a system if we were to make
                                                            tion-tracking system that could be linked to
                           ”
significant	improvements, 	said	Raimo	Moysa,	
                                                            METS	and	integrated	with	RDA’s	MediaBank	
Managing	Editor	of	the	international	editions.
                                                            digital	asset	management	system	and	Impoze	
                                                            (the	production-planning	and	imposition	tool	
In	the	U.S.,	where	editorial	and	production	staff	          used	in	the	U.S.).
used the Quark Publishing System, QPS, there was          	 •	Choice	of	desktop	tools.	The	system	had	to	
a desire for a more enterprise-wide tool that would         support Quark, which RDA is using today,
also support the growing number of remote users.            but it would be a plus if it could also support
RDA decided that at the same time it would also             Microsoft	Word,	particularly	for	the	fact-
look for a system that could meet the needs of its          checkers, as well as Adobe’s editing and page
smaller and geographically dispersed international          makeup tools, which RDA wants the option
editorial and production offices.                           to possibly adopt in the future.
                                                          	 •	Compatibility	with	RDA’s	global	infrastruc-
Requirements.                                               ture. RDA operates regional “hubs” as well
As	it	examined	its	options,	RDA	established	key	            as	smaller	independent	offices.	In	some	cases,	
objectives and requirements. From a functional              advertising sales, production, and editorial
perspective, RDA wanted the system to:                      offices for a single region are located in
  	 •		Shorten	product-development	cycles.	Every-           different	cities.	RDA	also	makes	extensive	
    one agreed that the process of putting an is-           use of fact-checkers, many of whom are
    sue together was taking longer than it should.          independent contractors that work off-site.
    The new system would be measured in part                “Our hub-and-spoke set-up requires remote
    by its impact on production cycles.                            ”
                                                            access, 	explained	Laura	Capasso-Fiorenza,	
                                                            RDA Director of Global Publishing Technology.
  	 •		Improve	productivity	of	staff.	Like	any	pub-
                                                            “We wanted something that allowed us to be
    lisher, RDA is always seeking ways to improve
                                                            collaborative without having to be in the same
    its bottom line by being more efficient.
                                                            physical location. ”




                        We care about publishing                                                         2
    Case Studies


    Making the Move to PlanSystem3
    After developing its requirements, RDA conducted           During the initial implementation, Van Gennep
    a market review of magazine editorial and pro-             helped	RDA	explore	not	only	how	the	system	
    duction systems and selected PlanSystem3. The              worked, but also how best to configure it to make
    vendor was selected not only for the functional-           the staff more productive. As is true at many
    ity of its product, but also for its willingness to        magazines, for years Reader’sDigest editors and art
    meet the specific needs of Reader’s Digest. “Van           directors	have	relied	on	a	manual	“system”	(e.g.,	
    Gennep	was	very	flexible	and	responsive	to	our	            index	cards	or	spreadsheets)	and	a	whiteboard	as	
    needs, which included integration with our other           their primary tools for planning issues and tracking
    systems, 	said	Moysa,	who	served	as	the	primary	
               ”                                               assignments.	In	contrast,	PlanSystem3	calculates	
    business sponsor of the project. RDA and Van               schedules, relative deadlines, and task assign-
    Gennep developed a phased implementation plan              ments automatically, based on actual issue pro-
    for rolling the system out to more than 20 offices.        duction dates and user-defined formulas for how
    Jim	Hirst	-	Global	Publishing	Technology	Integra-          long	each	task	typically	takes.	Configuring	the	first	
    tor at RDA headquarters, was tapped to serve as            installation required RDA to design the workflows
    project manager not only for the first installation,       and deadline structures and estimate times for
    but also for subsequent installations, which RDA                                      each task. That proved
    expected	would	leverage	the	knowledge	gained	          “It’s	been	a	good	             challenging for editorial
    from previous installations.                           partnership from the and production teams
                                                           beginning.    ”                that have never had the
                                                                                          benefit of an automated
    How did RDA select the first site? “We went for        Laura Capasso-Fiorenza         workflow system. As Hirst
                      ”
    the easy win first, said Hirst, noting that he had
                                                                                          later observed, “This is
    had success with that strategy in other projects.
                                                                                          one of the most funda-
    He	cited	several	factors	that	made	the	Canadian	
                                                               mental changes editorial has had to deal with since
    French edition a good choice:
                                                               publishers switched from galley-based paste-up
      	 •	It	was	a	non-English	edition,	which	would	           to electronic pagination.”
        underscore its importance for international
        offices	and	help	Moysa	secure	the	buy-in	of	
        other international editors.                          At the same time that it was reinventing time-worn
                                                              publishing processes, RDA was redefining how its
      	 •		It	was	relatively	close		to	RDA	headquarters	
                                                              offices	would	collaborate.	Unlike	many	magazines,	
        in Pleasantville, NY, where Hirst is based.
                                                              the	editors	of	international	editions	borrow	exten-
     	 •		Hirst	already	had	a	good	working	relation-          sively from each others’ ideas. To be successful,
                         ship	with	the	Canadian	              the system had to support both their shared col-
“We needed to            technical staff, whose support       laboration and the individual workflows of specific
replace or upgrade would be crucial.                          editions and offices.
QPS. For the            •		The	editor	of	the	Canadian	
price of a domes-       French edition, Robert Goy-
                                                              As with any new system, there also were technical
tic system, we          ette, was adventurous and
                                                              issues	to	resolve.	In	this	case,	RDA	was	the	first	
                        willing to give the system a
were able to get                                              deployment of PlanSystem3 that spanned multiple
                        try, yet he also maintained
a global one.”                                                offices connected over a global, wide area net-
                        a pragmatic, even-handed
                                                              work. According to Hirst, Van Gennep rose to the
Raimo Moysa             attitude about the project
                                                              challenge: “Van Gennep worked with us to design
                        that earned the respect of his
                                                              a solution that allowed us to run the system
       peers. “The editors knew that if it didn’t work,
                                                              centrally but distributed storage to local offices
                                       ”
       Robert would not sugar-coat it, recalled Hirst.
                                                              to achieve acceptable performance.   ”




                            We care about publishing                                                             3
    Case Studies


    Once the software was ready and the initial set        The Results
    up, configurations and training had taken place,       Although Reader’s Digest has been live with
    the implementation went from testing to live           PlanSystem3 for only a few months, it has already
    production remarkably quickly. The initial plan        begun to reap benefits from the system. Among
    was to transition the entire magazine to the new       the noticeable improvements:
    system	over	six	months.	The	Montreal	team	cut	
    that in half, moving from testing of PlanSystem3
    for a handful of articles to live production of a      Increased	productivity.
                               complete issue in just      In	Montreal,	which	has	had	the	most	experience	
                               three months.               with the system, PlanSystem3 has eliminated time-
“PlanSystem3                                               consuming tracking tasks, such as the manual typ-
                              Today, the French
has been very well                                         ing up of a 20-column tracking sheet; reduced the
                              Canadian	edition	uses	
received by the               PlanSystem3 to track all
                                                           time staff spend in status meetings; and enabled
editorial groups.                                          work to continue, even when key personnel, such
                              of the articles for each
                                                           as the editor, are out of the office. From his per-
Once people see it,           issue. Working back from
                                                           spective as managing editor of all of international
they get it, and they         the date an issue is due
                                                           editions,	Moysa	summarized	the	impact	that	he	
get	excited	about	it.
                    ”         on press, PlanSystem3
                                                           sees PlanSystem3 making on staff productivity:
                              creates due dates,
Laura Capasso-Fiorenza                                     “Because	we	have	a	much	better	handle	on	pro-
                              workflows and task
                                                           cess, we can free editorial staff to be more creative.
                              assignments for articles,
                                                           We	expect	to	keep	the	same	level	of	staff,	but	now	I	
                              automatically creating
                                                           will	expect	much	more	from	them.      ”
    task assignments for each staff member. Rather
    than pasting layouts on the walls of a room, the
    staff use PlanSystem3 to see how an issue is           Smoother workflow.
    progressing. “The system gives everyone a much         Throughout the monthly production cycle,
    better idea of what’s going on, we have less need      PlanSystem3 helps erase the logjams that were
    to have production meetings just to get updates,   ”   caused by everyone working off final due dates
    said Goyette.                                          instead	of	more	granular	deadlines.	Instead	of	
                                                           material piling up and moving en masse on its final
                                                           due	date	from	one	stage	to	the	next,	articles	now	
    After	going	live	in	Montreal,	subsequent	installa-
                                                           flow more efficiently through the process because
    tions	have	also	gone	well.	The	U.S.	edition	went	
                                                           staff members see their own subtask to-do lists and
    shortly after that with production of the September
                                                           interim milestones. “The power of PlanSystem3’s
    2004	issue.	Managing	Editor	Lawrence	McIntyre	
                                                           PlanControl		module	is	that	you	see	if	there’s	a	
    contrasted the new system with that of QPS:
                                                           bottleneck and can use the system to help you
    “Deadline management is much, much easier to
                                                           change your process. Now we have a smoother
    implement. PlanSystem3 presents a more visual
                                                           flow, and a greater portion of each issue is com-
    way to see deadlines; it gives us configurable
                                                                                                 ”
                                                           pleted earlier in the production cycle, noted
    views [lists sorted alphabetically, by type, by
                                                           Goyette.	In	Montreal,	for	example,	for	the	most	
    calendar, by relative dates, etc.], with on-screen
                                                           recent edition, instead of almost half the issue
    warnings that everyone can see. We have a bird’s-
                                                           being top edited and dropping into production
    eye view of the publication that makes deadlines
                                                           in bulk by mid-month, 30 percent had already been
    so much clearer. ”
                                                           cleared ahead of time. The net result is that be-
                                                           cause more material that is less time-sensitive
                                                           is completed in advance, the production staff is
                                                           better able to respond to late-breaking changes
                                                           and last-minute requests from editors.




                            We care about publishing                                                        4
Case Studies


Better	planning.	
The	PlanMaker	module	of	PlanSystem3	builds	an	
electronic book dummy as an issue progresses,
which helps both advertising and editorial groups                                           Robert Goyette,
anticipate potential problems and coordinate                                                editor of Reader’s
responses to changes coming from either group.
                                                                                            Digest French
For international editions, which do not use
                                                                                            Canadian edition.
Impoze,	PlanMaker	will	help	the	production	staff	
plan printing forms. A third benefit is that because
it is implemented as a global system, PlanSystem3         Robert	Goyette,	editor	of	the	French	Canadian	
will enable editors of international editions to log      edition of Reader’s Digest, described the obsta-
in and see articles and graphic layouts underway          cles that RDA international offices faced prior to
at	other	editions	in	other	offices.	In	effect,	they	      implementing	PlanSystem3.	“METS	is	a	good	data	
can preview what’s coming in other editions, days         management tool for sharing content, but it was
or even weeks before they will receive the final          cumbersome as a tool for planning issues, and it
printed copy.                                             doesn’t track day-to-day progress of work-in-pro-
                                                          cess, such as articles that are sent out for transla-
                                                               ”
                                                          tion, 	explained	Goyette.	Goyette’s	solution	was	to	
Improved	quality	and	system	reliability.
                                                          devise	a	“planning	system”	that	consisted	of	a	box	
Because	it	automatically	saves	versions	of	issue	
                                                          of	index	cards,	each	card	color-coded	to	indicate	
components and layouts, PlanSystem3 makes it
                                                          the subject of the article.
easier for the staff in international offices to try
out different variations of layouts and designs,          Though effective for reshuffling articles among
without the associated effort and risks of manually       different	issues,	the	index	cards	had	distinct	limita-
saving files under different names on a file system.      tions.	“I	had	to	tape	cards	for	three	months	of	
With PlanSystem3, the editorial and production            issues to my wall so that people in my office could
teams always have the latest version, and they                                     ”
                                                          see	what	was	going	on, 	said	Goyette.	Even	so,	no	
can easily roll back to a previous iteration without      one else could find out the status without either
calling	technical	staff	to	help	them.	In	the	U.S.,	       checking with Robert or stopping by his office to
PlanSystem3 has eliminated the troubles caused            see the cards. When he was traveling, Goyette
by lost or corrupted files. “We have a much more          could not update the cards on the wall back in his
stable	system.	In	three	months	I	haven’t	lost	a	file, 	
                                                     ”    office without relaying messages to staffers. As
observed	McIntyre.                                        a	result,	the	time	and	effort	expended	on	status	
                                                          tracking	was	a	chronic	issue	in	Montreal,	one	
                                                          shared by the other international offices, especially
                                                          those that handle multiple editions.
Looking Ahead
Since	going	live	with	the	French	Canadian	and	
U.S.	editions	this	year,	RDA	has	been	busy	bring-         Today, with the contents of each issue, including
ing PlanSystem3 to other international offices.           translated articles, tracked in PlanSystem3, “every-
Australia was installed in September 2004 and                                            ”
                                                          one	can	see	what’s	going	on, 	said	Goyette.	“I	can	
Mexico	is	underway.	The	focus	for	2005	will	be	           make changes while traveling simply by logging
rolling it out in some Asian offices and across           into	the	system.	.	.	.	No	one	has	to	wait	for	my	fax	
Europe.	Eventually,	RDA	hopes	to	use	the	system	                                 ”
                                                          from	the	hotel	room. 	Best	of	all,	Goyette	can	now	
for	specialty	products	and	books	as	well.	“Many	of	       share updates to his issue plan without inviting
our books are compilations of articles prepared by        everyone	into	his	office.	“I’m	thinking	of	replacing	
different	authors	and	editors, 	noted	Moysa.	“We	
                              ”                                                                  ”
                                                          the wall of cards with a nice painting, Goyette said
know they would benefit from this system as well. ”       with a smile.




                         We care about publishing                                                        5

				
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