Rand rvlcNally Maps Out a Trip into a Digital Future
In 1856 William Rand and Andrew McNally founded a small printing shop in Chicago which they called Rand McNally. The company did not begin printing maps until 1916, but it has been the leader in maps ever since, credited with creating the mapping conventions for our current numbered highway system. In 1924 Rand McNally published its first Rand McNally Road Atlas. The various versions of this atlas have sold 150 million copies in the years since, making it the all-time best selling map product from any publisher. Today Rand McNally has 1,200 employees, mostly at its Skokie, Illinois headquarters.
Through the following decades the company continued to develop and maintain its position as the most well-known and respected publisher of geographic and travel information. As recently as 1999 it sold 46 million maps, which accounted for more than half of all printed maps sold in the United States. Of course Rand McNally also produces many other products such as globes, a widerange of geographic educational materials, travel-planning software, and products for trucking fleet route planning and optimization. Its products are currently sold through over 46,000 outlets, including 29 of its own retail stores.
As the digital economy developed at the beginning of the 1990s, Rand McNally's strength still resided in its printing technology, and like so many other companies at the time, its management did not understand the full impact of the new Internet and other computer-related developments. The company did respond to changing business conditions by producing travel and address location software it then sold on CD-ROMs. It also established a modest Web site in 1994 in order to support its customer' use of its CDs. However, the Internet soon offered many other opportunities, and Rand McNally failed to maintain its leadership and pioneering spirit. The company had become conservative.
AEA Investors purchased Rand McNally in 1997 in expectation
technologies such as the Internet. Despite new ownership and unwilling to take risks, apparently due to fear of losing money. interested," observed Jim Ferguson who later became director "Management had not adapted to the n~w-economy model."
of the company modernizing itself through the use of new
leadership, little changed as the company remained staid and "We proposed putting maps online, but senior management was not of product management for Rand McNally.com. He added,
When they realized that nothing was changing, the investors intervened and in July 1999 appointed Richard J. Davis as President and CEO. Davis already had 25 years of experience in management of emerging high-tech companies, including seven years with Donnelley Cartographic Services and GeoSystems. (GeoSystems was the company which established MapQuest, Rand McNally's chief competition in the new online environment.) Davis said his goal was to develop technology solutions and corporate growth rising above the historical 5 to 6 percent range.
Davis immediately brought in Chris Heivly to head up the recently created RandMcNally.com group. Heivly promptly put Rand
McNally maps and address-to-address
driving directions online. Prior to the arrival of Davis and Heivly, management had feared that putting the company's maps online would undercut the sales of the company's traditional paper maps, something MapQuest, then still known as GeoSystems, had risked doing in 1996.
The most important goal of the new management was to transform Rand McNally from a map company advisory service so that it would not become obsolete. Management plans included:
into a travel planning and
Making Rand McNally's Web site indispensable to travelers.
Updating map products for the fast-growing Net environment.
Link the company Web site and products to other services on the Net. Generating more brick-and-mortar
store business from Web...