Case Studies

Pearson Case Study

Ixxus was enlisted by Pearson to define, design and implement a custom content management and collaboration platform for Pearson’s global English Language Teaching (English) division.

Under an aggressive timeline of just 4 months and working across two continents, Ixxus successfully delivered a working system on time and on budget, carrying out configuration, testing and training. This was provided as part of the company’s wider strategic engagement with Pearson, which focussed upon designing a conceptual global architecture to align with the organization’s business needs and overall content strategy.


Pearson is the world’s leading education company, providing educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to teachers and students of all ages, operating in over 70 countries. The organization is also a leading provider of electronic learning programmes to educational institutions, corporations and professional bodies around the world.

In May 2013, Pearson announced a new organizational structure in order to accelerate its push into digital learning, education services and emerging markets. The restructuring also supports the decoupling of the Penguin consumer publishing business into a separate entity with Random House, forming Penguin Random House – the world’s largest consumer book publisher.

To accelerate the move towards digital content creation and delivery, and to meet increasing market demand for digital content, Pearson introduced the Transforming Product Development (TPD) program: an initiative dedicated to leveraging new technologies and developing innovative models of working for the digital era. 


As part of the TPD program, Ixxus was engaged by Pearson to design a global architecture which would align with the organization’s business needs and overall content strategy.

Following the success of this project, Ixxus was then invited to carry out an in-depth Discovery Phase across three of Pearson Education’s global divisions (English Language Teaching [“English”], Schools and Higher Education).

Discovery was carried out over an initial period of a month with Pearson users from White Plains, New York (US) and Harlow, Essex (UK), and consisted of an intensive phase of requirements gathering via face-to-face interviews and workshops. These were held with a range of stakeholders, including editors, designers, audio and video editors and project managers.

Ixxus was then engaged to implement and deliver a content management and collaboration solution, initially to be rolled out to Pearson English. Pearson English’s products are typically highly-designed publications, requiring complex and collaborative production and editorial processes.

Frequent meetings between the dedicated Ixxus Discovery team, Pearson management and other key stakeholders ensured that captured requirements could be reviewed closely to confirm understanding at both a pragmatic, granular level and a holistic, strategic level.


Ixxus developed an integrated digital platform built upon Alfresco’s powerful content management technology, which is designed to meet Pearson’s end-to-end editorial and production needs. It will act as a centralized global content management and collaboration system (CMS) across all of Pearson English, integrating with the organization’s existing platforms and technologies to provide enhanced content collaboration, production and dissemination.

The platform has three core purposes:

  1. Support the transition from print to a “digital-first” way of working

    As part of the ongoing TPD initiative, Pearson is seeking to migrate its content supply chain to digital-first workflows and standardize this across the business. This makes working more streamlined and consistent, while also future-proofing existing content for the rapidly-changing digital age.

  2. Enable global collaboration across distributed teams

    Pearson’s globally-distributed presence meant that much existing content was stored in a series of siloes, making it difficult for the organization to derive the full value from its assets. Moving to a globally-accessible centralised system enables content reuse and allows users to collaborate with each other remotely, improving working processes and lowering production costs.

    Pearson English also includes a significant rich media output, produced by audio and visual editors around the globe. However, existing collaboration processes involved emailing large attachments back and forth, or – in some circumstances – burning DVDs and sending them via the postal service. Integrated tools for annotation and mark-up of media files mean that editors can collaborate on media online in real time, vastly improving cost and efficacy of working.

  3. Automate workflows to gain efficiencies, enabling content reuse and new product development

    Alfresco’s powerful out-of-the-box functionality provides automated workflows and versioning, streamlining operations and making it easy to trace and audit day-to-day working processes. This allows for shorter, more efficient proofing and review cycles.

    The new platform will enable Pearson to make content centralized, discoverable and readily available no matter where a user is based, simplifying collaboration and content reuse (such as creating derivative products for different markets).

Technologies used

  • Alfresco
  • MarkLogic
  • Custom ICL components (DMA, IDH)

Ixxus Publishing Modules

Ixxus Publishing Modules (IPM) are a collection of pre-developed components which can be combined or slotted together to suit an organization’s specific publishing and editorial needs. Inspired by the challenges commonly experienced by publishers as they transition to digital, the IPM library is specifically designed to reduce cost, risk and time-to-market.

IPMs incorporated into the Pearson solution:

  • Ixxus Digital Media Annotator (DMA)
  • Ixxus InDesign Hub (IDH)


 Digital Media Annotator (DMA)

The DMA provides powerful annotation and editing functionality of media files, allowing users to collaborate and provide structured review feedback, annotated visually on a frame or image. This allows editorial and production staff at Pearson to carry out digital proofing of spreads. As current practise involves annotating and distributing physical proofs using the postal service, this will make working processes far more efficient and cost-effective.

With the DMA, editors have an interactive online tool allowing them to play, review and visually annotate media files. As Pearson vendors are often globally dispersed, the ability to collaborate together in real-time on both static and rich media – for example, synchronizing video then evaluating specific frames – is invaluable.

Advanced functionality includes:

  • Multi-format capability: images, video, audio, vector graphics, Adobe PDF, Microsoft Office and Open Office files
  • Powerful comment and comment filtering functionality
  • Pause any video for synchronised review and draw directly onto the frame
  • Mobile and tablet compatible, giving freedom to users

IDH-imageIxxus Design Hub (IDH)

The Ixxus Design Hub (IDH) allows users to automatically generate fixed layout EPUBs from InDesign directly from Alfresco, in a manner that is fast, simple and streamlined. Designed to allow production teams to work with familiar design tools, it is perfect for creating image-heavy publications with all the benefits of EPUB3’s flexibility, open standards and rich-media support.

Advanced functionality includes:

  • Single EPUB can be created from multiple InDesign documents
  • Individual pages can be suppressed
  • Interactivity can be added to the pages, including hotspots that activate simple messages, audio clips and any custom Javascript-based interactive widget.

IDH is a MarkLogic-based application, standalone or integrated into Alfresco which works by interrogating the XML structures within an IDML (InDesign Markup Language) document in order to transform them into various outputs, including enhanced XML, EPUB3, and HTML representation of original page layouts.


Under an extremely aggressive timeline of just 4 months, delivered on time and on budget, Ixxus:

  • Gathered requirements from Pearson business stakeholders for an enterprise content management and collaboration solution
  • Designed a logical and conceptual architecture built upon Alfresco ECM
  • Developed customizations to Alfresco and ICL components (eg. DMA, InDesignHub)
  • Configured the new infrastructure
  • Deployed and tested software
  • Developed custom user guide and training materials
  • Carried out user training for around 60 users in multiple locations

Benefits of the platform include:

  • Significant reductions in production time and cost
  • Speed time to market by producing reusable content that can be packaged to suit multiple delivery platforms
  • Derive the most value possible from the organization’s unique digital assets by enabling content reuse
  • Allow for a high-level view of content use across the organization, simplifying audit trails
  • Support creation of new products and realization of new revenues and markets
  • Enable creative collaboration across globally distributed teams
  • Standardise practises, future-proof content and support the transition from print-based to digital ways of working

“Ixxus is a company that I’ve known for three years now, and what appealed to me about Ixxus was the fact that they had industry-specific knowledge; they understood the publishing process and the challenges that modern publishers face going through their transformations, and were able to overlay that industry knowledge with highly-specific technology expertise. I spent lots of time with other vendors explaining to them what the issues were that we as modern publishers face, whereas Ixxus got that quite quickly and were able to respond and empathize – and that was something that inspired confidence in me.”

Ernst Kallus, Director of Platform Strategy at Pearson

Date Published : 18th of November 2014