Leading distributor of books, videos and music products brings about cultural change to decision-makers

Ann Arbor, Michigan, January 09, 2001 -- Comshare® Inc. (NASDAQ: CSRE) announced today that privately owned, North Carolina-based Baker & Taylor Inc. (B&T) has chosen Web-based Comshare software for management planning and control (MPC) to revolutionize the way it does business. B&T is completing the first phase of a multiphase plan to empower decision-makers by centralizing information that has been housed in a variety of independent applications, spreadsheets, and data repositories. The company is using Comshare’s Web-architected MPC software and Microsoft SQL Server database technologies to get the job done.

“Our long range goal is to have a single, centralized management reporting and analysis system using Comshare software for the entire enterprise,” says James Sharrett, financial analyst/systems administrator for Baker and Taylor, “combining general ledger information and sales information in one place. By bringing all that information together, our managers will have immediate access to a single version of the truth and our detailed sales information will always tie back to our reported financial information.” Comshare is the leader in Web-based solutions for management planning and control, which comprises planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial data consolidation, management reporting and analysis.

The Challenge
In business over 170 years, Baker & Taylor is a leading full-line distributor of books, videos and music products to Internet and traditional retailers and to library customers, with approximately 500,000 titles in inventory and over 2.0 million available for order. Baker & Taylor’s corporate headquarters are in Charlotte, NC, with operations and distribution centers across the United States, including Reno, Nev.; Momence, Ill.; Commerce, Ga.; Bridgewater, N.J.; Denver, Colo.; and Contoocook, N.H.

“The Microsoft Excel spreadsheet solution we’d used for years had just become unmanageable, but it is the most familiar interface to our data,” admits Sharrett who is responsible to upwards of 80 users who depend on his expertise to get them the information they need to plan, budget and forecast. “We were at the point of trying to coordinate information flow between users and 30 to 40 large spreadsheets that were linked together. Some spreadsheets were five and six megabytes in size. Whenever we needed to make even the simplest change, it was a major undertaking. We spent as much time verifying that all the spreadsheets were actually linked together properly as we did anything else in the budgeting process,” explains Sharrett. “We have had some last-minute requests that took five or six people a day or two to accomplish.” The time had come for an information management revolution at Baker & Taylor.

The Solution
Sharrett and his team set out to find the best solution technology could offer. “We looked at Comshare and software products from three other companies. All but Comshare were eliminated,” says Sharrett. “One product used a proprietary database, and required the purchase of additional tools and databases to access and manage the data, thus raising the cost,” says Sharrett. “With Comshare, we access only one central database that is easy to understand and administer. Instead of buying multiple packages to get what we wanted, we chose an integrated MPC solution from Comshare.

“A second product was severely lacking in reporting capabilities from a presentation standpoint and the system looked maintenance-intensive. Its maintenance tools were more text-based, much lower in quality than Comshare’s, and would be more difficult to maintain.”

Comshare won hands-down against the last of the competitors, according to Sharrett: “The big thing we didn’t like about the third product was a lack of direct control over the application. The vendor would build the application and send us the result. If we had any modifications, we had to continuously go back to them. Comshare’s open architecture and ability to use Microsoft Excel for data entry gave us the freedom to easily adapt the new MPC system to our needs.”

The Benefits
From Sharrett’s perspective, Comshare won Baker & Taylor’s business because it ran on a central, non-proprietary database and had presentation-quality reporting capabilities, in a single package that would be easy to maintain. In Sharrett’s first phase of the implementation, the Comshare solution was deployed to all budgeting users who used to struggle with spreadsheets. “We fully administer the application within the finance department and use no IT support at all, other than to maintain the network portion of the server,” says Sharrett.

But Sharrett does not rest on his successes with his company’s management planning and control system thus far. He has much more to do: “After the next budget cycle in July, we will deploy our production reporting over the Web. In addition, we want to take advantage of the business intelligence (BI) capabilities, such as exception reporting and alerting already built into to the Comshare MPC software.” These capabilities will eliminate redundant and often paper-driven analysis according to Sharrett.

“In addition, we want to view data at a detailed customer level for other types of analysis beyond budgeting,” says Sharrett. “Our goal is to give more users, such as our sales and marketing people and our service center operations managers, the ability to go online to do detailed ad hoc analysis so they can better manage the business. The Comshare MPC solution, running on a Microsoft SQL Server database, will allow us to that all that.”

Making information available to people who have the tools to access it empowers them to answer their own questions. “If we can provide users with direct access to detailed information, we can eliminate all the intermediate steps that we currently go through to get the answers they need.” What Sharrett describes is more than a cultural change at Baker & Taylor — it is a cultural revolution.

About Comshare
Comshare Inc. is the leading provider of e-business software applications for management planning and control (MPC), which comprises planning, budgeting, financial consolidation, management reporting and analysis. Comshare’s MPC applications deliver business-critical information over the Web that can be used to make sound planning and management decisions. In business for nearly 35 years, Comshare is one of the top independent software companies, with customers around the world, many of which are Fortune 500 and Financial Times Top 1000 companies. Comshare is a Microsoft Data Warehousing Alliance Platinum Partner, an IBM Business Partner, an Oracle Business Alliance Partner, a Software Partner, and an Hyperion Alliance Partner. For more information on Comshare, call 1-800-922-7979, send e-mail to or visit Comshare’s Web site at

Comshare® is a registered trademark of Comshare Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

Sandy Ellinger
Comshare Corporate Communications