Client name . Alastair Sawday Publishing (ASP)
Sector . Publishing
Summary comment . Russell Wilkinson, Senior Systems Developer
"As our business has grown and evolved, we've needed a database system that would grow with us and with the work we do, collating, editing and publishing an increasingly large and complex volume of data: our writing, photographs, reader feedback, contact and accounting history and more besides. It's a tall order to deliver a fully comprehensive system that would be able to cope with all this and still have room for some nice bells and whistles and some timesaving routines along the way."
Alastair Sawday Publishing (ASP)
Alastair Sawday Publishing Manages 'Special Places to Stay' with FileMaker
Alastair Sawday Publishing (ASP) is the company behind the well-known and highly respected 'Special Places to Stay' travel series. The books are a collection of travel guidebooks covering over 5,000 B&Bs, hotels and self-catering places in Britain, France, India, Italy, Ireland, Morocco, Croatia, Spain and Portugal, plus an expanding collection of Green Places to Stay. The creation and maintenance of these guides and their accompanying website, www.sawdays.co.uk, is administration-intensive. Information on each place is gathered from ASP's inspectors, editors, readers and from the owners themselves and compiled into a database that has to remain aware of the content crossover between the guides too; for example, an owner of a B&B may also rent out self-catering accommodation, perhaps in another country. It's a complex picture to paint in one system.
Alastair Sawday's travel guides include a wealth of information. Managing this mass of data is complex and time consuming. Keeping the costs down, integrating and refining the process of publishing these books is a challenge by anyone's standards.
ASP's needs have evolved at about the same pace as the development of FileMaker itself. Whenever there has been a new requirement for the business, FileMaker has been precisely that step ahead, ready to meet the need just when it's arisen.
- FileMaker provides central store of data for the complex interrelated information used to create ASP's unique and trusted travel guides.
- The highly versatile system constructed at ASP has all been about joining things up: accounting routines, contact management, exports for print and web publication, all under one roof, neatly housed in FileMaker.
Alastair Sawday, who started the company in 1994, needed a database for each guide that would allow the editor to customise their fields and layouts to almost create a sketch of their brain. From that sketch the company produces an elegant book, packed with accurate, articulate information – and genuine personality.
Russell Wilkinson, Senior Systems Developer at the firm was given the challenge of establishing and developing the system in pace with the ever-expanding and diversifying needs of the company. He'd been using FileMaker previously and knew the advantages and benefits of using such flexible database software. He set about building the integrated FileMaker system that would be needed to handle ASP's content management.
Wilkinson explains: "We started using FileMaker more than ten years ago and our use of it has developed as we have grown and as our work has evolved. Demands for a more elaborate and competent database system have never ceased and FileMaker has been able to meet these challenges at every step, thanks to its versatility and ability to store complex, interrelated data. In some ways it's like a synthesis of the entire office software suite: a spreadsheet, a database, a letter-writing, mail-merge and layout application all in one!"
Alastair Sawday Publishing has found itself devising solutions for new areas of its business using FileMaker too. Wilkinson adds: "FileMaker does a lot of our work for us, but we keep finding new uses for it all the time. For example, it's such a useful layout tool that we've even had people drafting out mock-ups for web pages in it! We're now integrating what we publish online with our offline content management systems too, which is another huge challenge and an important one for any publisher. It's becoming increasingly necessary for our content to be managed, edited and produced for publication both online and in print, so the need to integrate with our online publishing systems is now vital."
"We publish lively, changing content, so it's important that we have a system that will grant us the freedom to keep coming up with new ideas that we can integrate with our existing content management. We keep finding more and more ways in which FileMaker helps us do exactly that. It's like a treasure trove of capability and as our publishing expands to include new places in new destinations with new quirks and features, we keep on discovering new ways to use FileMaker to cater for them."
"We have a running joke in our office now; whenever there is something new that needs to be done or recorded, we'll just make another database for it!"