When Advantage moved to .NET in 2012, it paved the way for Unicode. Unicode is a computer industry standard that enables the use of other characters in addition to Latin, such as Cyrillic, Hindi, Japanese or Chinese. In its recent upgrade to 2016.0, Bayard took "Advantage" of these new capabilities to address the needs of its Hong Kong Subsidiary, Bayard Asia. For the first time, thanks to Bayard, Chinese characters are displayed on Advantage user screens. Awesome!
Bayard has had a presence in Asia since 1977, operating mainly from Hong-Kong. There, it publishes 5 magazines in traditional Chinese (Little Toy Car, Little Red Apple, Little Red Panda, Red Apple and White Antelope), and also markets 6 publications in English, from the "Box" collection (Story Box, Adventure Box, Discovery Box) and Bayard Canada (Chirp, ChikaDee and Owl). Its customers are individuals, but it works closely with schools. Customer addresses and names can be in English, traditional or simplified Chinese. Sometimes, the address even mixes two of them. Sales are made mostly through reps, but eCommerce and other channels are also used. On top of that, payments need to be accepted in multiple currencies.
Finding a viable option for subscriptions
Bayard Asia's previous subscription system was no longer supported, and in late 2017, it became urgent to find an alternative. After a check of the regional market did not identify any workable options, Bayard Asia asked for help. They met in Paris with Emmanuel Chevalier (Bayard) and Philippe van Mastrigt (AdvantageCS) in December 2017. The idea of using Advantage for the Asian business was quickly raised as a potential viable option. It would be run on a separate instance switched to Unicode, but on the same server as Bayard used in Paris. Bayard Asia employees would be trained to run the various processes, and to perform order entry and customer service with English screens; the Paris team would provide support and back-up for any issues they would face. Go live would be planned for July 2018.
A proof of concept was definitely needed before Bayard Asia could commit to going down this path. Alexis Berniot, head of the Advantage administration team at Bayard, initiated a testing phase with John Hughes (AdvantageCS). After setting up a new Unicode-set instance of Advantage, Bayard loaded up a set of customers and subscriptions, ran labels and reports, and did several data entry tests. After some tuning, and allowing for the learning curve on Chinese keyboards, the result was considered satisfactory. Time to step into the project phase.
Running a blitz project
As time differences and distance were challenges, and resources were limited, Bayard chose a creative approach for training and knowledge transfer. It hired a smart intern for 6 months who was first trained in Paris, and then moved to Hong-Kong to perform the team training and setup there. In parallel, the new area was finalized, and data converted through a simplified upload. Alexis Berniot and Marie-Christine Yuksel did a great job in tackling all the issues, while continuing to be active on everything they had to manage for Advantage in France.
On July 9th, 2018, the area went live. Since then, order entry, customer service and distribution activities have started in production and the transition is going smoothly. At AdvantageCS, we are proud to have our first Chinese addresses handled through our application and grateful, as always, to have a great client to work with. Well done Bayard!