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Cambridge University Press prepares for digital age with global SAP platform

Derek du Preez | Nov. 20, 2013
The publisher is in the throes of implementing a new strategy

Cambridge University Press (CUP), the oldest publisher in the world, is overhauling its enterprise applications in a bid to keep up with how people consume content in the digital world.

Established in 1534 by Henry VIII, CUP has more than 50,000 titles in its back catalogue and produces more than 2,500 titles a year. However, like many other publishers, it is having to reassess its business model to accommodate a shift from pure print to a combined print and digital future.

Part of this requires a consolidation of its back-end systems to adapt to new revenue models. Computerworld UK spoke to John Rimell, chief architect at CUP, about the global transformation project.

He explained that CUP is moving from having 10 disparate financial, procure-to-pay systems around the world - based in locations including New York, Japan, Brazil, South Africa Australia, Singapore and Spain - to one single, consolidated SAP platform.

"From a back-end financial systems perspective, we can already handle having books on pallets in warehouses and shipping them around the world, but we now need to be able to handle digital assets, sales, and all the new sales and costs models that come with digitisation," he said.

"Leaving aside the cost benefits of having one system instead of 10, along with the simplification we get with support, we will really be in a position to adapt to these new models that are coming through in digital publishing."

He added: "For example, we have a print book that is stocked on a shelf, but then we have a website that we sell 12 month subscriptions on, which you then need 12 months' revenue recognition on.

"Being able to do a single order for all the different types of products and have a back-end that can handle the taxation, revenue recognition, fulfilment across digital platforms, be completely automated, will really open the gates to sales and product and development teams."

New strategic direction
Rimell explained that the 'strategic business transformation' happening at CUP led to IT selecting SAP to replace the 10 different finance systems, which had consisted of a variety of products and vendors.

CUP's approach was to go live with SAP's Finance and Controlling (FICO), Materials Management (MM), and Accounts Payable (AP) modules in the UK and US first - which went successfully went live on 7 January this year - and then roll out Sales and Distribution (SD).

Once FICO, MM, AP and SD are live in the UK and US, which represent most of the publisher's cost base, it will then take this complete procure-to-pay and order-to-cash platform to other countries across the world.

However, Rimell explained that he had three options when deciding how to best migrate CUP's data across to the new SAP platform from its previous finance systems. He said that he was presented with the following options:


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