SIMON & SCHUSTER PUBLISHING CONTROL SYSTEM: CLIENT/SERVER INFORMATION ACCESS
Creating a System for Information Sharing
Before the advent of PCS, the marketing, editorial, production and business management departments were technically separated from one another, unable to share information, such as financial statements and title data. The PCS project was originally initiated to allow departments to reduce manual and paper processing by creating a shared information source. Because PCS provides easy and efficient access to this shared information source, daily tasks, such as forecasting the profitability of new text books and other educational materials, analyzing and consolidating business unit financial forecasts, and generating and transmitting purchase orders to third-party vendors, have become completely automated.
PCS was designed with a strait-forward client/server architecture to provide both Macintosh and Windows users with on-demand access to a centralized data store. The centralized data source ensures data integrity because information is entered only once into the core database. To create this client/server application, Simon & Schuster's developers wanted a development tool that could support the current PCS specification as well as future changes and revision to the system. The development group looked at one other product, but decided in favor of OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS, which provides a powerful and stable cross-platform user interface tool with support for more than 35 platforms. OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS' architecture allows client user interfaces to be developed independent of the server portion or other elements of an application.
Designing and Refining Client Application Interfaces
In the initial phase of the project, Simon & Schuster's developers documented the requirements of each department in the Higher Education Division through interviews with select individuals. These interviews were followed by a series of server/data modeling design sessions in which developers used entity relationship diagramming techniques to build the system's core database.
With database model determined, the development team began to design the flow and structure of the client applications. The development team used OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS' Browser Widget to create a home base, or central starting point, for many of the PCS subsystem applications. In addition, the Browser's architecture allowed developers to create parent/child relationships between the home base Browser and related Browser windows. For example, using the Browser Widget, PCS developers were able to model the relationship between text books and text book supplements, such as overhead slides for classroom sessions and annotated teaching texts.
Once the initial user interface paradigm was created, the developers began an iterative design process to refine the client applications' interface. OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS enabled developers to quickly build prototypes and work with users to revise applications to suit user needs. Working directly with users, Simon & Schuster's developers built a system that users really like.
OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS also provided tremendous productivity benefits to the company's developers, enabling them to deploy the first application of the system in one year, instead of the expected two. The company began deployment of PCS in June of 1992.
Reengineering Performance of Daily Tasks
PCS transforms the editors and production directors perform their daily tasks. These employees can now capture product information in a meaningful way, as it is created, and spend much less time developing product sales and cost forecasts or preparing consolidated financial statements. The system includes a core database and several subsystem, or client, applications, which include Publishing Planning System (Editorial Department), Cost Commitment Tracking (Finance Department), Project Tracking (Production Department), Cost Estimating (Manufacturing Department) and Demand Forecasting (Inventory Planning and Control Department).
These applications are tailored to individual department needs. For example, the Publishing Planning System is used by editors to analyze and maintain publishing opportunities from financial and market perspectives. Using this application, editors can easily consolidate all the financial information for a new book project, experiment with "what if" scenarios, and then select the best publishing scenario and submit it as part of a proposal to an editor-in chief. The application is also used to create and approve new book proposals. Instead of filling out paper forms, editors now submit on-line proposals directly to the editor-in-chief.
PCS has made information sharing a reality for the Higher Education Division. The system puts information literally at the finger tips of editors and production managers. Before the system was deployed, this same information took days to gather and was often never even retrieved because it was so hard to access. Editors now spend much less time on administrative tasks, allowing them more time to concentrate on publishing text books and other educational materials. Production department employees spend less time confirming book titles and author names.
After two years of success with OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS, Simon & Schuster will soon begin integrating other component's of Neuron Data's Elements Architecture into PCS. Specifically, the company plans to use C/S ELEMENTS' Data Access Element to improve data access from client applications and SMART ELEMENTS' to model business rules capabilities its demand forecasting system.
Quote: "PCS made information sharing a reality, putting information literally at the fingertips of editors and production managers."
Enterprise-wide, client/server information access application with 175 clients.
Environment: OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS, running Macintosh and Windows client applications,
linked to Sybase database server running on VAX 4100.