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Media and entertainment executives always saw the Internet as a distribution channel, but it's behind the scenes where the Web is having its most transformative impact. Companies as diverse as Electronic Arts, The New York Times, and R.R. Donnelley & Sons have learned to use Web-based collaboration as conduits to customers, partners, and suppliers.
What a difference a year has made for Electronic Arts, a $1.7 billion video-game maker. This time last year, online collaboration "wasn't even on the horizon," CIO Marc West says. Today, the company is using collaborative tools to automate order processing and demand forecasting. It's also managing the creation of new games. The benefits? A deeper understanding of operations and less coding when changes are made within applications.
The Times has turned to customer self-service extranets. One provides the newspaper's 38,000 retailers and wholesalers with 24-hour access to their accounts and cuts newsprint waste. Previously, CIO Michael Williams says, "there was no way for those retailers and wholesalers to manage their business with the Times" without picking up the phone. A second portal that lets advertisers access media kits, reserve ad space, submit digital materials, and check production status has been something of a surprise. It was expected that advertisers primarily wanted a transactional engine, but the most popular uses have involved collaborative matters (such as meeting production schedules) that had required the involvement of sales representatives. "The more we can rely on digital processes, the less we depend on human production," Williams says.
Meanwhile, R.R. Donnelley has begun to use real-time collaborative tools to work with customers in developing customized outsource services. The $5.3 billion printing house has seen demand for bundled services grow among smaller companies that don't want to manage multiple vendor relationships, senior VP and CIO Gary Sutula says. R.R. Donnelley uses customer-facing applications to host digital-asset libraries and help shepherd materials through every part of the production process, essentially becoming a de facto supply-chain management vendor.
Says Sutula, "That's the secret sauce of supply-chain management -- looking out for each other's best interests."