Remove the obstacles created by disparate technologies, conflicting requirements, and tight budgets, and IT gets a lot easier. Today, companies can overcome many of these traditional IT challenges by using cloud-based solutions based on Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Server.

Take for example, HarperCollins Publishers, one of the world's largest publishing companies. It needed to empower global employees with increased insight into the changing ways that consumers were discovering and buying their books. To do this, the company had to take over data gathering and analysis from third party consumer research firms and deploy a new, enterprise-wide, business intelligence (BI) solution to store and visualize the vast consumer data they designed and gathered themselves. David Boyle, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insight at HarperCollins Publishers, explains, “We paid a lot of money for consumer third-party research, but the focus was on the being in the room for the presentation itself. We needed to focus on data and making it available on people’s desks day in and day out.”

Rather than building a traditional onsite system, HarperCollins developed one using SQL Server 2012 in Windows Azure Virtual Machines.  Because the solution integrates easily with the larger Microsoft technology platform, HarperCollins could get the job done faster and gain greater flexibility. For example, engineers used built-in tools in SQL Server to quickly create automated processes that compile, clean, and store customer data in the warehouse, and then present it in six visually rich, multilayer reports. They also created a web-based application that streamlines access to BI using Microsoft Visual Studio Professional 2012 and Microsoft .NET Framework 4. At any time, engineers can quickly modify reports, add new types of BI, and migrate all or part of the solution from the cloud to an on-site datacenter. 

Using this approach, HarperCollins created an effective, easy-to-use BI solution in just two weeks.  Boyle explained “We chose Windows Azure rather than in-house servers or technologies from other companies because we could get a BI solution up and running on the Microsoft platform very quickly.”  Ease of adoption of the solution was critical, and because business employees were already familiar with Microsoft tools the learning curve was minimal. As well as saving time, the solution is more cost effective. 

Rather than consumer insight influencing decisions via third-party, quarterly presentations by outside agencies, employees can now access proprietary insight data themselves in seconds. Those most in need of the data – editors and marketers with years of experience in publishing –can now access and interpret this data easily to help inform their decisions without having to rely on a centralized team.   

Watch a short video on their solution below and if you want to read the full story, you can find it here.