Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Superintegrators: Computer Services Firms, Manufacturers and Newspaper Systems Vendors as Integrators

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Superintegrators: Computer Services Firms, Manufacturers and Newspaper Systems Vendors as Integrators

Article excerpt

NEWSPAPERS' RELIANCE ON a single vendor for hardware, software, installation, training, service and support has declined as the complexities of pagination and electronic image and color processing have grown and as vendors shifted to software-only development for standard -- but often different -- platforms.

The emergence of prepress system integrators has added to decisions newspaper management must make.

Can a publishing system vendor supply the desired integration services? Does staff have the needed skills? Does the job merit putting an expert on staff? If an outside consultant or firm is preferred, then which and for what kind of service? Should an integrator be independent of or allied with a system vendor?

Some vendors will take on integration responsibilities -- work they've always done to some extent. Some integrators offer much that often is expected of system vendors -- configuring systems to best serve customer needs, practices and products within the constraints of budget and plant, then handling installation, integration, debugging, training and support.

Depending on the size of the newspaper and a job's scope and complexity, smaller firms and individual consultants often are called upon for equipment selection and setup. For large, complex tasks, those involving new systems, and/or the installation and integration of multiple systems, often across multiple sites, larger computer and computer services companies are being retained to manage projects.

With a client like Dow Jones & Co. Inc. and a project like the Global News Management System, "there's just too much at stake" not to succeed, said EDS project manager Allen Chapel.

GNMS is the Dallas-based computer services firm's first newspaper editorial systems project (see p. 104), which Chapel called "a major foray into the newspaper business" that led to other business with newspapers.

He said that while EDS has performed noneditorial work for newspaper companies, its capabilities with respect to implementing GNMS extend beyond newspapers to the entire publishing industry.

EDS is among the few heavyweights entering the front-end systems integration business for newspapers. It joins Digital Equipment Corp. and Integrated Systems Solutions Corp., both currently at work on several large newspaper systems projects.

(DEC also vied with EDS for the GNMS contract. A longtime major supplier to Dow Jones, it may yet play some role in the GNMS project, although, like other potential suppliers for the project, it is unwilling to discuss its possible contribution.)

Indeed, ISSC executive Peter Ickes last spring compared his firm, a wholly owned IBM subsidiary, to EDS when discussing the just-announced ISSC-CText partnership. And much like the direction taken by EDS and the always-mentioned, seldom-specified potential of GNMS, Ickes said, ISSC is working with newspaper companies as content providers in the new electronic media.

Early this year, Chapel reciprocated, acknowledging DEC's and IBM's similar "aggressive commitments" as integrators. Many customers, he said, believe that perhaps only "a few select companies" can afford to play the role of integrator "in the truest sense of the word."

Some big system suppliers, he said, "may abandon the guaranteed solution" when newspapers seek to integrate a number of products from various vendors "that may not work together all that well without a lot of fine tuning."

Companies such as EDS, DEC and IBM, he said, "have the stability and the strength and the resources to guarantee a solution."

Chapel said a fixed price can be worked up as an "insurance policy" for a project to eliminate concern that its complexity ultimately may triple its cost.

"There is no vendor in the industry today that is so healthy, other than maybe Quark or Microsoft," Chapel said, "that they can be guaranteed to do virtually anything that's required to support these major papers in the future. …

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