Penguin Random House
Book and Periodical Publishing
Advise, Design & Build
Penguin Random House is the world’s largest trade book publisher with more than 10,000 employees globally across more than 300 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses. Their mission is to ignite a universal passion for reading by creating books for everyone.
The merger between Penguin and Random House presented a clear opportunity to review and align the central technology systems of Penguin Random House (PRH).
The task of the Data Team was to optimise the central technology systems in such a way that empowered the company to become more data-led in its decision making. After defining a data strategy, this work was initiated by migrating the organisation’s data capabilities from physical to cloud infrastructure, following in the footsteps of its US-based counterpart.
An early, critical aim was to provide a single source of authoritative data that explained market performance, aggregating disparate sources into an easily accessible set of consistent, reliable information. This was achieved by creating a specialist Data Engineering function to deploy the modern data stack toolset, working alongside a robust Data Governance team, and bringing this together through an expert Data Visualisation team. The results have ensured commercial trading decisions are based on better, faster insight of the market.
Andreas Arnold, Technology Director, PRH UK (CIO / CTO), says: “As well as becoming a cloud-based enterprise platform, one of our primary objectives was to take advantage of modern, automated tools to provide a single place for any person in the organisation to go to for data insights. In making our data accessible and understandable for employees across the business, we knew we’d enable smarter, faster decision-making.”
Ultimately, this was considered central to PRH’s overall mission – to maximise the visibility of our diverse authorship base in both local and global markets.”
After identifying its requirements for cloud adoption and data optimisation, PRH set about choosing a partner for its transformation journey. Having worked together on successful projects in the past, PRH chose Cynozure as its partner to support the implementation of a new cloud data warehouse using Snowflake as the data platform and DBT as the integration tool.
Pete Williams, Director of Data and Online: “One of the main things that stood out for us about Cynozure was the team’s belief in the business and willingness to be part of the conversation before signing on the dotted line. It felt like they were energised by, and invested in, the project from the very beginning, which made our respective teams feel unified when it came to responding to the task in hand.”
The project lasted 12 months, during which time we worked incredibly closely with the PRH team to design and build its new enterprise data platform. As part of this, Cynozure also:
• Contributed to the transformation communications and activities, helping to engage stakeholders across the organisation and promote data literacy levels.
• Implemented ‘agile’ product development and working practices across teams.
• Created frameworks for data ingestion and provision.
• Delivered early use cases to show value from the new platform and identified future use case opportunities for data product development across Marketing, Finance, Operations, HR and other Publishing Groups.
With every project, we aspire to bring not just our expertise, but also the openness, honesty and humility needed to make a partnership really click.
Speaking of the working relationship, Williams attests: “The Cynozure team’s commitment to delivery was unmatched. Whatever it took, they put themselves out to make sure they delivered on what was promised, and that continued until the very end of the project.
“While each team member was enormously technically competent and skilled, it was hugely valuable to have an open channel of communication directly to the most senior members of the Cynozure team, should we need it.
“The team also represented us brilliantly in conversations with vendors, challenging where needed to ensure the tools were brought to life in way that benefitted the organisation as a whole.”
Powered by Snowflake, the new enterprise data platform at Penguin Random House is highly scalable, and able to grow in line with the business to meet its ever-evolving needs. It is also delivering significant time savings, as Williams explains: “As well as unlocking new capabilities and building a robust, accurate data pipeline, we estimate that we’ve already saved about 5,000 hours per year by automating data capturing and processing. This has freed up our team to focus on analysing the data and extracting operational insights that will benefit the business.”
The first opportunity to flex the new platform and scale beyond the previous limit of the data team was the creation of products to deliver in-house performance marketing dashboards, based on collection and aggregation of digital marketing channel data to understand the reach and effectiveness of advertorial spend. The dashboards have enabled PRH to drive increased return on ad spend by having better access to insights.
Arnold adds: “This project has fundamentally changed the perception of what data can bring to the organisation. It’s given us the opportunity to meaningfully collaborate with a much wider cross section of departments and as a result we’ve seen data trust increase significantly across the business.”
Building on the foundation established, the PRH team has gone on to set up the Data Value Group (DVG), which regularly brings together senior leaders within PRH to discuss the latest activities in data and set priorities for upcoming work. Of the DVG, Williams says: “A data strategy is nothing without the buy-in of the business. To truly succeed in our data maturity journey, the business – especially senior leaders – need to understand and engage with data. Our work with Cynozure on this project has been a major contributor in helping us to achieve exactly that.”
Arnold, summarises the partnership: “It was a great partnership between the two teams – we achieved an incredible amount. Cynozure’s support, expertise, and pragmatism, as well as tuning into the team and leaning into what the project needed to be successful, into this have been great. They made an invaluable input into setting PRH up for a successful data journey forward.”
Jason Foster, CEO and Founder of Cynozure, comments: “We loved working with the PRH team on this project. Seeing an organisation reach a level of data maturity where data is positively impacting business outcomes is incredibly rewarding, and not something many businesses can claim to have achieved. We are incredibly proud to have been a part of that journey and look forward to seeing PRH thrive as its data capabilities continue to evolve and grow.”