REVIEWER: Jeffrey Polner, senior director of financial systems and analysis for Primedia's Consumer Media & Magazine Group.
BACKGROUND: Primedia is the leading targeted content and integrated marketing solutions company in both the consumer and business-to- business sectors. Primedia's Consumer Media & Magazine Group publishes more than 150 popular magazines that offer targeted information, advice and entertainment. Nearly three-quarters of these titles hold the number one or number two market position, measured by total advertising pages or circulation.
PLATFORMS: Applix TM1 sits on an Intel Xeon Processor with a Pentium 3 chip on Windows NT with 4GB of RAM.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Since its founding in 1989, Primedia has grown its Consumer Media & Magazine Group through acquisition. Over the years, the division grew from 20 media outlets to the 150 media outlets it has today. Keeping track of the financial information not to mention the circulation, manufacturing and distribution information from multiple groups in three separate locations is an enormous task. There is no way it can be done with simple spreadsheets; only an OLAP engine would be able to gather and aggregate the data within the time parameters dictated by the competitive publishing industry. Additionally, each of our three "finance" locations had different general ledger systems, databases, reporting processes and systems for gathering, understanding and analyzing the financial and operational information.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our use of TM1 was driven by the extremely heterogeneous nature of our systems all a result of growth through acquisition. We needed to collect and compile real-time financial and operational data from each location without changing the way the financial analysts' teams worked. With TM1, we were able to build data models for each location and then consolidate them into one "common denominator" model, giving us four different data models with which to deal. From a technical point of view, our company is currently standardizing on Oracle11i as its database. One office is currently using Oracle11i, while the others are using CODA. Due to TM1's ability to interoperate with many types of databases, our database migration plans are not adversely affecting our ability to collect and analyze vital business information. Today, we use TM1 with Applix's TurboIntegrator and IncSight Engine from IncSight for many different aspects of our business: corporate general ledger, publication and circulation statistics, sales commission tracking, and circulation and manufacturing budgeting and forecasting.
STRENGTHS: TM1 allows for real-time consolidation, dynamic variance analysis, elegant handling of hyper sparsity, a familiar operating environment (Excel) with presentation capabilities, powerful rules functions, and application synergy and flexibility. Almost equally important is that it is extremely self-sufficient. Our use of TM1 has required little to no dependence on outside consultants or our internal IT group. It enables us to do our jobs efficiently.
WEAKNESSES: TM1 has a very open architecture, which works well for power users. However, some of our financial analysts would prefer a more template-driven solution. The "empty screen" can sometimes be overwhelming for passive, less-proficient users.
SELECTION CRITERIA: When our division of Primedia had 20 magazine titles, we were able to manage the financials and operational statistics in Excel. Once the business grew, the Excel system became unwieldy. Additionally, we wanted our analysts to spend the majority of their time analyzing data and making decisions not collecting information. We knew we needed a solution that looked and acted like Excel, but that was able to gather large volumes of raw data from numerous sources. After comparing Applix's TM1 with other solutions, we determined TM1 could compile the information more quickly at approximately one-third of the price. Selection of TM1 was a unanimous decision.
DELIVERABLES: We derive a number of reports from TM1, including: a corporate summary P&L statement, a senior- level P&L statement, lower-level detailed reports for business managers, reports by magazine title, and department/overhead reports. With consistent, real-time data with integrity, the varying levels of reports enable each manager to see and understand the information relevant to his or her role.
VENDOR SUPPORT: To implement the TM1 system, we turned to Revelwood, Inc. Revelwood's expertise with TM1 and our industry enabled us to build a system that met our unique requirements. Revelwood continues to work with us directly to address any issues we experience and to develop new applications we need.
DOCUMENTATION: We did not use the documentation rather we gained that insight directly from Revelwood and our own experience with TM1 from previous roles.
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