PLATFORMS: Windows 95, Windows NT.
BACKGROUND: From the founding of Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., now includes 14 broadcast networks, nine entertainment-related subsidiaries and seven major Web sites.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our sales force often lacked up-to-the- minute information on advertising inventory that would maximize Web sales revenue and coordinate Web sales with those for Turner's cable networks during negotiations with advertisers. The sales division also lacked the tracking tools to conduct comprehensive analysis of its Web sales success and to determine opportunities for growth. The division relied primarily on printed and faxed reports to communicate advertising status to the managers of each advertising supported site--not the best solution for an environment that depends greatly on instantaneous information. To manage this business challenge, Turner's Broadcasting Sales' Information System Group instituted a process designed in house, based on Microsoft Office 97, in which ad invoices and inventory reports are generated from data entered into a Microsoft Access 97 database.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Prior to the intranet sales-tracking solution, credit checks, inventory, rate cards, presentations and contracts to secure advertising space were generally processed manually. Now, the intranet (used in conjunction with Office 97, particularly Excel 97) has been implemented to handle everything from rate cards to ad placements and invoicing. Turner Sales can now view a credit application for approval. As soon as an ad order is approved, updated inventory information is available in an Excel active document for real-time analysis. In addition, trafficking system data is sent to the SQL Server, where it is available for downloading via remote automation and ODBC into a Microsoft Excel active document spreadsheet for real- time analysis. Meanwhile, inventory is tracked and hits for each ad are matched to the ordering information to produce post-run analysis. The Microsoft Excel and Word forms are analyzed and instantly shared via the intranet with all appropriate Turner personnel as needed.
STRENGTHS: Office 97's enhanced communication and collaboration features, particularly Excel's capabilities for shared workflow, have been a huge benefit in helping us achieve a common workflow solution. We can now have users from different divisions all working on the same document, updating the parts that pertain to their particular division and track the changes without having to merge spreadsheets.
WEAKNESSES: In order to use this intranet sales-tracking solution, a user's machine must have Office 97 installed on the hardware.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The number one benefit was the speed and low cost of developing the solution. We were able to take advantage of the enhanced Office 97 functionality with Visual Basic for Applications, create a solution in house and implement the resulting solution with our existing hardware.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Microsoft provided Turner Sales with all the back-end tools it needed for our intranet sales-tracking solution. We looked to Microsoft Corporation because of the well-integrated, easy-to-use applications provided by the Office 97 suite and the ability to customize the applications easily with Visual Basic for Applications. We needed a desktop infrastructure and toolset that were just as intranet-savvy as our back-end servers. Microsoft has allowed us to capitalize on this technology with a suite that fully complements the power of these back-end servers.
DOCUMENTATION: Our intranet sales-tracking solution is very intuitive with a low learning curve mostly due to Office 97's ease of use and discoverability features that have allowed everyone in the division to begin using the product immediately.
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