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Recovering a Publicity Application for Macmillan, simplifying processes and leveraging the Salesforce platform.


Macmillan is comprised of a group of independent publishers offering a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction, adults and children’s books in a range of formats.

There is a publicity department within each of the publishing divisions and each have commonalities but also differences in the way they work, additionally, some data is shared across all divisions and some data is private. The publicity system did not meet requirements across the divisions and there were a number of issues and concerns that led the business to seek an improved solution.

““I’m happy to report that we seem to have both a system that works beautifully and a group of satisfied users, everyone is very happy with the developments, and we really appreciate all of the work Ribbonfish put in to making this such a successful project. Working with Ribbonfish really was a pleasure – thank you for all your help!” 

Hillary Scarbrough, Senior Director of Business Systems, Macmillan

The problem

The project and implementation of the incumbent Publicity application had not gone smoothly. The project delivery team had not been consistent, the expected timelines were not met, the vendor had a limited understanding of the publicity processes within publishing and this was manifest in the technical solution. The design and development had fallen short in several areas resulting in the system being complex and cumbersome to use, and data quality had been compromised.

This had led to many disgruntled publicists and the following issues were highlighted during Ribbonfish’s interviews with key stakeholders:

  • Data quality was compromised with many duplicate records, duplicate information and inaccurate data
  • Some data needed to be shared across the teams whilst some remained private to individual publishers. Access to the private data was neither intuitive nor streamlined
  • Creating, accessing, honing and cherry-picking lists was convoluted, or there were too many ways of doing the same thing or worse some basic list building activities were not possible or worked inconsistently
The Solution

Macmillan engaged Ribbonfish to initially carry out an audit of the incumbent Publicity App to ascertain the problems and where the system fell short in delivering the requirements and business outcomes. Ribbonfish interviewed the Publicity directors and key staff and identified:

  • User problems, and provided solutions
  • Proposed new features to encourage adoption of the system
  • Re-engineered the app to better exploit core Salesforce Technology
  • Prioritised the enhancements to provide most value

Ribbonfish then set about advising on data cleansing and remedying the application to not only make it usable but to ensure the publicity teams positively wanted to use it!

There was a requirement to store private data per division as well as shared data across all the departments. The private data could not be seen at a glance or via generated reports, so the applications was re-engineered to ensure this data could be easily viewed in context.

Managing lists was key to a successful solution: that is the ability to easily create lists, see members from a previous list, create new lists from existing lists by cherry picking a selection of contacts from one list and adding them to another. Cherry picking is a key element of honing a list, but this was a major area of frustration across all the users. This functionality is at the heart of what publicists do day in and day out and the existing system was not very good at it. Ribbonfish re-developed this, the cornerstone of the application, to be responsive, dynamic and well-designed, providing the ability to effectively manage lists from creation to mail merge, all with the ability to cherry pick specific records for use.

The outcome

Ribbonfish have re-developed the Publicity system for Macmillan. It now has “form” and “substance”. It looks great, it’s well crafted and it facilitates the business processes, it saves time and leverages the Salesforce platform. User adoption and satisfaction ratings have increased dramatically. All divisions are using one solution allowing the decommissioning of legacy systems, data is shared where appropriate saving time and effort across the group and data is private where necessary enabling competitive advantage. Day to day administrative tasks are simpler and quicker and lists are more targeted.

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