By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
It was not so long ago in the history of books – 1936 – that publisher Allen Lane started Penguin Books Ltd. in what would be the first major successful attempt to print and sell cheap but high-quality fiction and nonfiction books on the mass market. Today, the advent of iPads, Kindles, and e-books coupled with the availability of cost-effective, efficient, and scalable cloud computing technology is creating another shift in the publishing industry. Valid environmental concerns about electronic publishing aside, cloud computing seems to be spurring on trends in publishing world such as self-publishing, which can entail additional effort from authors but can also get more books to market faster, cheaper, and on a larger scale. Besides Amazon’s self-publishing technology there are others such as Lulu and Mimeo that are latching on to this trend – Author Solutions saw 50%-70% cost and time reductions with cloud-based publishing workflows.
How are publishing houses dealing with this paradigm shift? Are many of them adopting and using cloud computing as part of their business growth strategy? With physical book sales shrinking, both in stores and on the Internet, it looks as though traditional practices will co-exist with newer publishing trends. There seem to be many open opportunities for cloud computing entrepreneurs in the rapidly changing world of publishing. Sramana and Paul Wilcox, CIO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, explore some of these questions.
Paul Wilcox is senior vice president and chief information officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). He joined HMH in 1996 as a director of business information systems for the company’s former School Division and moved through several leadership positions before being appointed senior vice president and chief information officer in 2007. Previously, Paul held senior management positions at BayBanks Associates, Bank of New England, and Bank of Boston.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, based in Boston, dates back to 1832. They are a global publisher addressing education’s challenges through individualized content, innovative technology, and a holistic approach to learning. HMH’s combined revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. The company publishes pre-K–12 educational solutions ranging from research-based textbook programs to instructional technology to standards-based assessments and educational software. The company also publishes an extensive line of reference works and award-winning literature for adults and young readers. HMH education products and services are used by 57 million students in all 50 U.S. states and 120 countries.
SM: Welcome to the TLCC series, Paul. For the benefit of our readers, would you describe the scope of your organization, primarily the scope of the IT problem; the size of operations; the complexities you or the business deals with; and the workflows you have? Then we can drill down with that context in mind.
PW: Actually, the complexity of our organization has changed a lot in the past couple of years. We have merged two of the largest publishers: Harcourt [which traces its roots to early 20th-century Manila and later published authors such as Sinclair Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and George Orwell] and Houghton Mifflin, the largest educational publisher. So, that has certainly added some challenges for us, especially for the IT group. We have about 200 internal folks in IT and another 170 who are in application development and maintenance contracts with Cognizant. So, we have both internal and external managed services that we deal with in IT.
SM: What is the size of your business after the merger?
PW: The size today is around $2 billion in revenue.
SM: How many employees do you have?
PW: About 4,000, or maybe a bit more. About 4,200 employees overall.
SM: What is the geographical spread of the enterprise and the people involved?
PW: We have our major office in Dublin, Ireland, Boston, Massachusetts, and Orlando, Florida. We have other hubs in Evanston, Illinois, and Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The Rolling Meadows location primarily represents our assessment group, and the rest are editorial or in the sales hubs. We are pretty diverse and geographically spread across the United States, Dublin, and in Chennai, India. With our Cognizant partnership, we have people in Chennai and Hyderabad. We have an advanced development group working with our publishing operations based out of Hyderabad, and the primary location of our technology support is in Chennai, India.
SM: So, Cognizant is your primary IT outsourcing partner?
PW: For our application development and maintenance efforts, yes. We also use Capgemini to host our SAP implementation. SAP is our ERP provider, and I think it was about two and a half years ago that we started hosting with Capgemini.