Hurry and you might still be able to catch the webinar on Encryption and Decryption of Credit Cards at 11:00 a.m. EST on March 17. Having a good understanding of this functionality is vital to maintaining compliance and providing proper organization of credit card data in Advantage. Philippe Rowland will be presenting on this topic. If you are interested in this topic but missed this time period, please contact Doug Moore.
SQL Reporting Services with Advantage is another popular topic back again this year. On March 25th, Levi Hyssong will demonstrate how to develop reports, create report models, view reports online, export and distribute these reports, and much more. He will be demonstrate this through the use of SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio and SQL Server Reporting Services Report Manager. Don't delay this topic fills up fast!
Offering access to online content and digital products is a little different from selling and managing print publications. The digital format allows you to offer your customers tremendous flexibility in their subscription start times, lengths and conditions, but with that flexibility comes the need to track and manage their purchases differently. That's where Advantage's Access Management and Billing (AMB) module can help.
AMB is a fully integrated solution for tracking, managing, and charging for access to online content that may either complement your print subscriptions, or be offered as its own product line. With the AMB module, you can:
- offer access agreements of flexible lengths
- record the valid participants and their authentication information
- price the access through a variety of means that include rate codes, discount overrides, and markup percents
Once the agreement has been finalized, you release it in Advantage, which creates access ("on-off") records that you provide to the content host. With the AMB module, you do not directly host the content from within Advantage, but rather fully manage and charge for the access.
AMB supports the flexible pricing and discounting models often needed for marketing online access. You can discount certain parts of the content (called "access points" in Advantage), or discount the overall agreement. Or you can provide override prices at any level---such as when you negotiate a set price with a customer for online access. AMB can be used to service agreements of any size, from single-user access to multi-site agreements with many participants, such as a large consortium.
With the AMB module, you can offer access agreements as part of a normal Advantage order---combined, for example, with a CIR subscription, a PRO product, or a CEM conference registration. Access Management and Billing is integrated with Advantage Web capsules, so that customers can self-service at your website. In addition, AMB access agreements can be offered as items on a promotion, as well as included in inventory packages.
AMB includes functionality that supports the subscription aspects of online access, including renewal efforts, auto-renewal, trial terms, and gracing. However, the module also offers features that are unique to online access products. These include agreements that charge per use (i.e., "n" downloads), administrative-only participants who service agreements for their site but do not receive access to content, and the ability to record acceptance of an end-user license agreement before access is granted.
The AMB125 upload process can be used to create fully loaded access agreements with all participants and their authentication information. The process can be used to supplement online order entry, or as a tool for converting or loading agreements that were created outside of Advantage.
Whatever your access management needs, the AMB solution is the ideal tool for any Advantage user, and the perfect fit for your integrated Advantage environment. For more information, contact your ACS account manager or email Ken Nemerovski.
Ask Bob about his new clock. Bob Thornton celebrated his twentieth anniversary at ACS early this year, and so received a lovely Howard Miller clock of his choice, engraved with his years of service. Bob came to ACS in February 1989 as a combination support analyst and account manager. In his two decades here, he has done almost everything, with the exception of programming. Bob worked on a number of implementation projects for Advantage clients large and small, and has done training, consulting and even some sales work. Yes, for one Advantage client, Bob not only did the original software demonstrations for them, but also handled the follow-up sales process tasks.
Bob likes the fact that he can build long-term relationships with clients. For instance, he worked on the original 1992 implementation at NAMG (North American Membership Group) in Minnesota, and serves as their account manager today.
"I've worked with Bob since sometime in 1992 when we started planning and testing for our conversion to Advantage," says Lana Carnahan, Information Manager at NAMG. "Between the time he spent in Minneapolis and the time we spent on the phone working through test plans, conversion prep/issues, (which seemed to be every night for months) I've gained an enormous amount of respect for Bob and his values. He is always patient, understanding and willing to do anything he can to help someone out. If he doesn't know the answer (which is rare) he will make certain to find it out."
Lana goes on to say: "I'm proud to say that through all these years, I do also consider Bob a friend."
Another long-time client is José Garcia of Health Communications, an Advantage client since 1994. "I've known Bob for a good number of years," says José, "and it's always been a pleasure. Bob has always been there for us in any capacity that we've needed. I've had him as a trainer, installer and now as our account representative and he's always been someone that I enjoy working with."
Currently a senior account manager, Bob is responsible for close to a dozen clients. He says that although his plate is full, he is able to juggle it all. One of his favorite aspects of his job is teaching clients how to use the software and how to use it more efficiently. He really enjoys "figuring stuff out"getting questions from clients which cause him to dig to find the solution. Asked which part of the job he enjoys least, Bob respondednot surprisinglyinvoicing and account maintenance. He prefers to deal with people rather than paperwork.
"Bob is very customer oriented," says his supervisor, Greg Stout, VP, Client Services. "Plus, he has an acute knowledge of Advantage functionality. This combination of skills positions Bob well to understand his clients business concerns and help them take full use of Advantage features. He is a very effective trainer and a great resource for providing input for new Advantage enhancements."
Bob travels to each one of his clients at least once each year for a "wellness" visit. As opposed to identifying modifications or an operations review, which have specific goals to be accomplished, he maintains that his number one priority on these visits is "to listen." He is there at these times to deal with issues involving such topics as the overall software, the client's future plans, or the relationship between ACS and the client.
"We look forward to our visits from Bob," says Andy Wright of Oxford University Press. "He's one of life's Good Guys--always cheerful, always helpful. His all-around system knowledge comes in handy whenever we are introducing a new business model."
Scott Simerlein, VP of IS at NAMG, feels this way about Bob: "He is one of those rare people who represents his company as a consummate professional, yet always makes you feel like your concern is his personal concern, too. A true gentleman and Advantage scholar, Bob has provided a consistent and valuable connection between ACS and NAMG."
Bob was born and raised in Minnesota and attended college there at St. John's University in Collegeville. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in government and political science, he moved with some friends to Michigan and took a job working for an interdenominational religious organization. During his tenure there, he spent a year working and living in London, England. Bob met his future wife, Rosemary, a few years later and they married and settled in the Ann Arbor area to begin raising their family. Bob and Rosemary have four daughters, ages 14 to 21, and Bob is proud of the fact that, despite two of them being in college and with the difficulty of coordinating everyone's jobs and activities, they have always managed to schedule a week-long family summer vacation. That includes this year, when the six Thorntons plan to rent half a duplex on the ocean in North Carolina, one of their favorite spots. Another favorite spot is the west coast of Michigan along Lake Michigan where they have enjoyed using their pop-up camper.
Bob's Minnesota roots are very evident in the winter months, when even hardy Michiganians are pulling out their scarves and hats and gloves and he is in a light-weight, unzipped jacket, saying: "Cold? This isn't cold!" It must be that warm heart that keeps you from getting cold, Bob!
by Tim Zapawa, Vice President of Client Services
There are a multitude of options, tools, and programs available for analyzing and reporting on your Advantage data. Deciding on and then implementing an optimal solution can be challenging for many organizations. And as companies and datasets get larger, the importance and impact of these decisions on data analysis increase as well. I'm often asked questions about how the data is accessed and what type of reporting tools should be used. In this article, I will briefly describe and compare some of the software programs available for data analysis and reporting. In the next article, I'll discuss some of the options for how data can be accessed.
Most of our clients use some combination of Advantage user-defined reports, Excel PivotTables, SQL Server Reports, and Crystal Reports for their data analysis and reporting. Each reporting tool has some benefits and drawbacks that should be considered.
Advantage user-defined reports provide an excellent means for novice users with simple reporting requirements. Report columns can be easily selected and labeled from an array of predefined tables that are linked to one another in what we refer to as a virtual file (note that virtual files are the equivalent of a SQL view; both are just a means of tying together multiple tables into one). For organizations that do not use external software programs for analysis or reporting, the Advantage user-defined report tool is ideal, as IT Operations staff does not have to be concerned about learning and supporting programs outside of the Advantage system. However, like most graphically-designed report writers, the reporting development tool provides only basic report development functionality. We offer more advanced courses for organizations that want to write the reports using our Tools language and this can be a good option for companies that want to maintain all their reports within Advantage.
Excel PivotTable reports are probably the most popular option being used at our client sites. It's not surprising, as PivotTable reports are extremely powerful, yet easy to use. Moreover, most users already have Microsoft Excel installed on their computers, so there is no additional licensing expense. And users are generally already familiar and comfortable with Excel. Building expertise with PivotTable reporting can generally be accomplished with minimal training and practice. Microsoft also continues to enhance the reporting tools in each new release of Excel.
Crystal Reports also provides some powerful tools for report development and analysis. It's also integrated with Advantage, so running a Crystal Report is no different than running an Advantage report. Run-time parameters, such as beginning and ending dates, can be specified and passed to the Crystal Report when requested. However, unlike Excel, Crystal Reports is not as pervasively installed. And while licensing costs are fairly nominal, becoming an expert with this software generally requires more training and practice. This program is also ideal for creating business forms--I don't know of any software that even comes close to matching its capabilities in the same range of software licensing cost.
SQL Server Reports is a relatively new player in the report development marketplace. It provides a lot of the same reporting tools as Crystal Reports, although it cannot hold a candle to the business form development tools in Crystal. However, there's no additional licensing cost if you already have SQL Server installed; it's simply a SQL Server component that needs to be turned on. And like Crystal Reports, SQL Server Reports can be run directly from Advantage. We're making extensive use of SQL Server reports in our Business Intelligence module, as there are so many web-enabled options that provide easy-to-use tools for users to view, subscribe-to, and run their reports through a web page. If you attended any of our BI sessions in the past year, you've seen this impressive program in action.
Most organizations opt to use Excel, given the range of development tools and ease of use. One PivotTable report can easily provide the equivalent of hundreds of comparable reports in Advantage, Crystal, or SQL Reports. However, Excel does not have the same level of web-enabled options as SQL or the powerful form programming tools of Crystal. Of course, you need to weigh multiple factors in choosing the best report solution for your organization.
In the next article, I'll discuss important considerations for implementing reporting and data analysis tools within your organization. Contact me at TZapa@AdvantageCS.com or your ACS representative if you'd like more information about these reporting tools and how they can be best implemented at your company.
Editor's Note: Tim Zapawa is the author of Excel Advanced Report Development and Excel 2007 Advanced Report Development, both published by Wiley.
This month, Customer Portrait presents The Pacific Press Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho. Pacific Press joined the Advantage community in 1997.
The Pacific Press® Publishing Association, established in 1874, is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and publishes books and periodicals with Christian themes, for both children and adults. Specialties include books for Christian women and books and magazines in foreign languages, including Spanish, French, Afrikaans, and even Samoan.
Their monthly magazine called Signs of the Times, has been in continuous circulation since the Press began in 1874. Pacific Press publishes other periodicals as well, and also produces many of the materials used in Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath Schools and churches. In addition, they distribute easy-listening and inspirational music through their Chapel® Music division, as well as producing a variety of media, including software to spice up church presentations, videos, and DVDs.
Their beautifully landscaped and maintained two-story building is located in Nampa, Idahoclose to Boise and surrounded by scenic mountains. In addition to housing the editorial, customer service, sales and marketing and other publishing employees, the building contains the printing plant where much of their material is printed. So much mail goes out of their printing plant every day that they even have an onsite post office.
At the time Pacific Press installed Advantage in 1997, they were looking for an integrated book and magazine system, expanded marketing and promotion capabilities, improved customer service functionality and the latest Windows technology. Nearly 12 years later, they have realized all those goals and more.
Ed Bahr, the IT Director at Pacific Press, has this to say about Advantage: "This software has served our needs well here at Pacific Press. Because our business model is somewhat unique, Advantage has provided the flexibility and customization we need for an efficient workflow."
Stu Pottle, tech support person for the Advantage system, just retired after 14 years at Pacific Press. He was there through the original conversion and all the upgrades since then. He has been training his replacement, Rick Johnson, for a while now. Although he is looking forward to retirement, Stu will miss his coworkers, and also his friends at ACS. "I've enjoyed working with ACS peoplethey are always willing to help out with a question or concern," says Stu.
Bill Pinard was the ACS project manager in the original implementation. He says: "As the PPPA project manager, Stu did an outstanding job driving the many aspects of the project to completion and learning all about Advantage. Stu was trained in Advantage's Tools programming language and went on to develop PPPA's forms and custom reports. He made it his business to understand the users' needs and how they could be met with Advantage functionality. He was a real champion for Advantage within the PPPA organization and he will be greatly missed."
Account Manager Ev Acton agrees with Bill. She says: "Over the years, Stu has really "owned" the system. There has never been a question of that. He's worked side by side with his end users and has been able to walk through any issue he has reported to Advantage. When you talk with Stu, it's clear he understands not only their business but he also understands how the processes work etc. I've always thoroughly enjoyed working with Stu."
Rick has a background in networking, programming, and technical support. His main duties at Pacific Press will be administering and facilitating use of the Advantage system at Pacific Press. Rick says (about Stu), "I've never worked with someone who has such a complete understanding of the system he is administering. On top of that, Stu understands nearly every aspect of the user interaction with Advantage and can help them understand how their jobs mesh with Advantage."
Editor's note: Rick, you have some big shoes to fill, but we know you will do a fantastic job. Stu, best wishes on your retirement! It's been great working with you and we will miss you.
In addition to flowers and sunshine, Spring means the publishing trade show season is getting underway. This year, ACS is exhibiting at the SIPA (Specialized Information Publishers Association) International Conference and at the Audience Development (formerly Circulation Management) Conference.
On Monday, June 1st at the SIPA conference, Dan Heffernan will participate in a panel discussion entitled: "Renewal Capabilities of the Top Fulfillment Systems" along with representatives from other industry vendors.
Information on the conferences is listed below. Plan to stop by the Advantage booth - and Dan's panel discussion at SIPA - if you attend either or both of the shows. We hope to see you there!
SIPA 2009 International Conference
"THRIVE in the Now. NAVIGATE in the Future."
May 31 June 2, 2009
Audience Development 09 Conference + Expo
"Your Roadmap for Growing and Managing Audience Across your Entire Platform."
June 7 9, 2009
Hyatt Chicago Riverwalk
by Greg Stout, Vice President of Client Services
"An educated consumer is our best customer." That was the long-time advertising slogan of a local retailer in the area where I live. It also correlates to one of ACS's key philosophies - that our most knowledgeable Advantage clients are the most satisfied ones.
Advantage is a comprehensive, feature-rich marketing and fulfillment package designed to help you operate most effectively. In addition, Advantage is updated three times per year to add more and better features that you can use when you upgrade to the latest revision. So, how can you keep up with all the new features and know that you are taking full advantage of all the functionality? Advantage training is one of the best ways.
The ACS Training Program has three components:
- The annual Advantage Training Week
- Customized training
The ACS webinar program began in earnest in 2008. During that year, we presented 30 webinars, most of which were an hour long, with a total of 371 attendees. This type of training is very effective because it is focused on a particular topic, is time and cost effective, and very popular among our clients. Webinars are a particularly beneficial training option, especially in these challenging economic times when many companies are restricting travel and education budgets.
The 2008 webinars received very high marks from attendees. As a result, we are expanding our webinar offerings for 2009. Again, we plan on offering at least 30 webinars, but some of them will be presented as a series. These series will be offered in 2 or 3 sessions, some of which may be longer than one hour. This will allow us to delve into topics that require a more in-depth study. In addition, we will be able to include exercises that will help you put your learning into practice. Based on feedback we have received, we expect that these webinar series will meet a very real need.
Advantage Training Week
Historically, Advantage Training Week has been a week-long event, hosted by ACS in our Ann Arbor office, providing a dozen training classes and various types of group events. Training Week gives you the opportunity to pick and choose training classes that most interest you, and to network with other clients with similar interests and challenges. In addition, you have the chance to meet many of the ACS staff you may only know by telephone or email contact. We at ACS love to host our clients whenever we get the chance; Advantage users are simply the best!
For the past couple of years, we have limited the size of Training Week to four or five classes over three days. This shortened approach seems to work better in conjunction with the annual Advantage User Group conference, which ACS fully supports. The AUG conference also provides training opportunities, including presentations by ACS clients and roundtable discussions co-hosted by ACS staff. In addition, at the AUG conference, ACS has the opportunity to demonstrate new features contained in the latest release and to present our plans for future software enhancements. Options for 2009 Training Week are currently being considered.
Customized training is always a popular offering. ACS can provide tailor-made training to your staff, focused on the subjects you need, when you need it, at your site or ours. Your account manager can work out the specifics directly with you.
The bottom line is that "an educated client is ACS's best customer". Advantage training is important to us, and we welcome your input on potential training topics and suggestions for improvement. You can send them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAUKESHA, Wis. How about some good news from the magazine-publishing industry? Kalmbach Publishing Co. of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2009 and still going strong.
This independent, niche publisher produces the world's best-selling magazines for model railroading (Model Railroader), scale modeling (FineScale Modeler and Scale Auto), beaded jewelry making (BeadStyle and Bead&Button), astronomy (Astronomy), and railroading (Trains).
Kalmbach publishes 15 magazines and a host of special-interest publications. Its book department produces 35 books annually. Kalmbach maintains nearly 30 Web sites, and it produces the world's largest jewelry making show, the annual Bead&Button Show in Milwaukee.
Collectively, more than 1 million enthusiasts worldwide read Kalmbach print publications, not to mention the tens of millions that visit the company's online properties. In 2008, the company generated more than $50 million in sales for the sixth year in a row.
Albert Carpenter Kalmbach founded A. C. Kalmbach and Co. in 1933, one year after graduating from Marquette University. In January 1934, Al combined his two passions of publishing and model trains when he introduced the first issue of The Model Railroader magazine. By July of that year, the magazine's paid circulation surpassed 1,000.
From 1943 to 1989, Kalmbach grew from two magazines Model Railroader and Trains (both still in publication today) to 15 magazines.
In 1989, the company moved to its current location in Waukesha. In the 20 years at the Waukesha location, Kalmbach has doubled its sales, from $26 million (1989) to $54 million (2008).
Throughout its 75-year history, Kalmbach has maintained its founder's core business philosophy: Put the customers first.
"The customer is the real boss of us all," Al once wrote. "Not a cent can be paid out for payroll unless it comes in from the customers, and not a one of us would have a job for long if we didn't please the customers."
Al's commitment to extraordinary customer service was ahead of its time, and his principles remain the foundation of the company's business practices today.
"We're proud of the fact that customers that subscribed to Model Railroader in the 1950s remain loyal subscribers to this day," Kalmbach President Gerald B. Boettcher said. "That tells us that we're keeping true to Al's editorial and service standards."
In addition to its editorial properties, Kalmbach produces the annual Bead&Button Show, the world's largest consumer bead event.
About 15,000 jewelry-making enthusiasts travel to Milwaukee's Midwest Airlines Center to attend this weeklong event that features more than 500 classes and workshops, an international marketplace, silent and live auctions, and a chance to mingle with the world's foremost experts on the craft.
Kalmbach Publishing Co. plans to continue to grow by actively monitoring trends and looking for opportunities to acquire existing products and launch new ones.
ACS is proud to have provided software and services to Kalmbach for almost 27 years.