As one of the world’s largest publishers, Penguin Random House does business in six continents with headquarters in New York City. The company was looking to better understand customer reading preferences and decided to update its data and analytics capabilities. In partnership with Microsoft, we deployed Microsoft Azure Analysis Services, Azure Cognitive Search, and Microsoft Power BI.

Challenge

Penguin Random House’s business model might seem simple: sell books. But the data was surprisingly complex, since each book has its own international standard book number (ISBN), and the number varies in each country, making it challenging to track.

Penguin Random House sells its books through its 200 imprints and has 1.2 million titles, including books it publishes directly and those to which it acquired rights. The publisher previously used a mix of disparate legacy business applications and different types of reporting, so it took a long time to track sales, inventory, and point-of-sale data. Yet given the competitive publishing landscape and the relatively long time it can take to produce a book from concept to sale, Penguin Random House needed the ability to look at this information in one unified view. 

Solution

Penguin Random House created various dashboards throughout 2019 using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search and Azure Analysis Services. Penguin Random House receives various datasets about its consumers and retailers plus the sales from its own books and retailers across the market. Azure Cognitive Search performs text-based search through Microsoft Power Apps to index data in its database. Through a connection to Power Apps, the data is visualized on dashboards in Microsoft Power BI

The publisher now analyzes huge datasets—almost 3 billion rows of data using 55 gigabytes of tabular storage space—and evaluates sales data across locations and subsidiaries. To accomplish this project, Penguin Random House collaborated with a cloud solution architect (CSA) from Microsoft on the solution architecture, and the publisher receives ongoing technical guidance and expertise. We helped in connecting Azure Cognitive Search and Power BI.

Results

Due to faster, easier reporting capabilities and streamlined development processes, the publisher’s employees now have time for more valuable tasks; analysts can spend more time analyzing data rather than gathering it. “By using the visualizations in Power BI, we can plow through billions of rows of data to quickly find the handful that are meaningful to our business,” says Edward Dulinski, VP, Technology at Penguin Random House. “We no longer download static data, format it in Excel, and then email it to our global colleagues. We can share reports with our global divisions in a highly secure way, making them available anytime, anywhere, on any device with near real-time live interactive data.” 

The publisher ensures that employees can easily access reports by using Azure Active Directory to manage and help secure identities. David McLaughlin, VP of Technical Architecture at Penguin Random House, adds, “Being able to rely on our Azure Active Directory service to make this reporting available globally, in relatively little time, is also an incredible value-add to using Azure services.”

James Cush, Director of Business Intelligence at Penguin Random House, adds, “Before, staff spent several days each month downloading and assembling data to show sales reps. With Power BI, we’ve removed the need to manually pull data and freed our staff to focus on more interesting aspects of their jobs than data wrangling.”

Impact

Previously, if a department requested a project, the information would remain localized to the application, making it difficult to include in other reports. Now that the IT team is consolidating data, it can develop solutions and create reports much faster and promptly share them with other departments.

And people appreciate the capabilities the team provides—for example, 1,000 unique users regularly access various dashboards and reports. “We combined datasets that traditionally were standalone silos and are now integrated into a single view of our business, so we spend less time on infrastructure and more time on solving business problems,” says Dulinski.

“We have changed the perception of our IT team throughout the entire organization by implementing this blend of Microsoft technologies,” says Josef Richberg, Senior Data Architect at Penguin Random House. “Now we can produce projects for departments in weeks instead of months. We pride ourselves on being an efficient team of application and solution development.” 

Continues Richberg, “People can now see data they need in the blink of an eye, thanks to Azure Analysis Services, and their enthusiasm is incredible. We wanted to empower staff to quickly access data and have the best experience possible, which we achieved—no small feat with a dataset of 3 billion records.”

Concludes Cush, “With Azure and Power BI, we can now better see trends coming, and act upon them, which is a competitive advantage.” 

Find out more about Penguin Random House on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. By using the visualizations in Power BI, we can plow through billions of rows of data to quickly find the handful that are meaningful to our business. 

Learn more about our Data & Analytics capabilities here.

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