Whilst working for APN News & Media, I worked on the ASX+ development and support team. This is not to to be confused with the Australia Stock Exchange of course, but instead is the internal system used for managing Ad Tracking for the company. The team consisted of 2 main developers, myself for the front end and another for backend progamming, however both of our roles interlinked. The initial framework was Joomla! 1.0 which manages the 1000+ users and associated ACL’s. Daily users include sales executives, managers, sales support services, advertising production operators, image operators and Creative staff.
The majority of user screens were hand coded the match the needs of the business.
The ASX+ system manages the entire lifecycle of Ad creation, from inception to being placed on a page of a newspaper. It works in with several other established IT systems running at the company including Atex Media Command booking system, pre-flighting tools and CCI Newsdesk. When an ad enters the system it contains detailed information with everything an ad designer needs to produce it and steps through the various departments that need to work on it. All ads are managed by a complicated deadline system that eliminates any late ad creation, an issue which has always been quite prevalent within the industry.
Sales representatives at remote sites are able to submit jobs and upload all required files and details straight into the system. They are able to keep updated on the status of any job and quickly and easily demonstrate the finished product to clients for approval.
When an Ad Builder wanted to start a new Ad, they would be presented with a screen to select the next ad and have all of the information they need. They click the start button which assigns the ad to them and copies all of the files to their local machine and starts up Adobe Indesign with the project. A series of shortcuts and job finishing buttons at the end of the creation move all the required files back to the bulk store and it moves into the next queue for Quality Assurance.
The Creative Department has its own workflow within the system. This team produces all the artwork required for Ad development. Similar to the Ad Production workflow, it steps a Creative project through steps and ensures that it is produced in the quickest possible time and within deadlines.
A comprehensive reporting system completing with up to the minute graphing and excel exporting features allows managers to keep up to date on the performance of all staff. All work performed by staff are monitored and the incentive program uses this for monthly payments.
Some 1400 ads are produced through the system on a daily basis. This includes ads used for all types of medium including newspapers, magazines, billboards and online digitial content.
A year after starting the project and with the 2nd major release under our belt, we submitted the project for the PANPA Awards (Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association) for Innovation. We won. Well we didn’t just win but we blitzed every other entry in the category. I was pretty proud of that moment. Not everyone gets a trophy for programming.
Integrated within the system is a complete digital image library. It allows operators to efficiently search and use hundreds of thousand of images in their ad production.
The system runs on 2 primary load balanced web servers . It also has 1 master database server, supported by 3 slave database servers. The development area contained a dedicated web server with mysql server. Backups occured daily with incremental backups of files and database every 5 minutes. The backup system and Disaster Recovery system spanned multiple sites at Hamilton and Yandina with the longest downtime being only a few minutes over the course of 4 years of development.
After 2 years of development the project had reached a stage of having 500 000 custom lines of code across the various programming languages.
A small custom module in the top left corner gives a up to the minute visual rundown of the state of each of the queues. All production staff users within the system can get an instant understanding of where efforts are required to keep everything working on track and keep deadlines in check.
A custom theming component allows the system to change themes based on dates so help users get into the festive spirit for Christmas, Australia Day, St Pat’s day and every other day of significance in between.
ASX+ is estimated to save the company over $2M per year in wages alone. This doesn’t include the increased revenues by higher efficiency of staff all around.
Unfortunately the project is an entirely internal project. For security purposes it can’t be viewed for demonstration purposes.
The video is what was submitted for the awards, so it doesnt show all the features of the system but it gives a pretty good overview.