Monday, 30 January 2017

Introducing Content Enrichment as a strategic publishing capability

photo Sam Herbert
In this post, Sam Herbert discusses the benefits to be gained when publishers introduce content enrichment to their business processes as a strategic capability.

Content enrichment is the application of modern content processing techniques like natural language processing, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to add structure, context and metadata to content to make it more useful to humans and computers. It is a key enabler in the array of techniques, skills and know-how needed in order to successfully complete the transition to digital, data driven organisations. In the digital environment, content enrichment unlocks the potential to get the best out of all parts of the publishing lifecycle.

So far, most publishers have only dabbled in using modern content processing tools or they have implemented spot solutions for specific needs that do not deliver value across the organisation. We have seen that when content enrichment projects are done separately and in isolation in different parts of the business, even though some of them prove to be very successful, very few leverage the success from previous work or build a capability that can be reused. Isolated projects often also use different technologies to achieve similar results and because there is little coordination between the projects there is wasted effort, unnecessary repetition of work and little shared learning. Therefore, these initiatives do not take the business forward.

To maximise the business benefits of content enrichment, it should be introduced as a strategic organisational capability comprising people, processes and technology. When implemented strategically, rather than as individual features within single products, content enrichment delivers multiple benefits. For example, introducing the capability to create semantic fingerprints for pieces of content can deliver a peer review recommender tool, but it can then also deliver other features like a relatedness feature, a smart notification feature etc.

Our work with publishers has identified benefits from content enrichment in every part of the organisation (editorial, content production, product development, IT, sales, marketing, and finance). Implementing content enrichment as an organisational capability ensures that any investment delivers value across the whole organisation as well as delivering more value to customers.

To remain relevant, increase efficiency and deliver new revenue streams every publisher should be developing a plan for how they will utilise modern content processing techniques and tools.

For more information about how to take a strategic approach to building your core content enrichment capability and how to use it to achieve strategic business objectives, take a look at our white paper, Content Enrichment: an essential strategic capability for every publisher.

Sam Herbert is Client Services Director and co-founder of 67 Bricks. Founded in 2007, 67 Bricks is a software consultancy specialising in content enrichment.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Challenges of Outsourcing Part Four: Supplier selection (top tips 6-10)

photo Lorraine Ellery Matthews
In this post, Lorraine Ellery Matthews continues to share feedback from leading scholarly publishing professionals focusing on practical advice and further top tips (Tips 6-10) to consider when selecting a supplier to outsource your product or service.

The first post in the series identified 10 key drivers to outsource and the second post outlined Stakeholder Engagement.

Part three identified five top tips for selecting a supplier

1. What impressions do you have of a supplier?
2. Ensure effective communication
3. Forge positive relationships
4. Engage in early collaboration
5. Look under the hood

In this post, she outlines top tips 6-10:

6. Consider time and resources

"When moving suppliers you need to have built in sufficient post-implementation time to ensure that the quality of the core service is at least as good as it was before the change. The call on time and resources and the resultant loss of momentum should not be underestimated - you want to be able to reassure your customers, and ideally involve them in the ‘live’ test phase." Daniel Smith, semi-retired Publisher and Consultant, previously Head of Academic Publishing at The IET

7. Obtain recommendations and feedback

Requesting references from a supplier should be a given and once received, ensure you ask for feedback from different roles within the organization that deal with the supplier, including those that deal with the day to day communications. Ensure you ask the supplier’s customers how their transition went and their current experience.

Obtaining recommendations from a trusted source of your own can also provide you with a more in-depth insight than relying on those references supplied alone.

In conversation with Simon Laurenson, Operations Manager at Bioscientifica about the switch to a new eCommerce supplier, Simon shared some helpful advice:
"It's important to speak to other publishers and get as much advice as you can, with lots of society owned publishers our size we have the opportunity to exchange notes." 

A word of caution, however. When talking to another publisher/organization you need to consider that at the time of talking with others, they may have been optimistic so it's best if you do not rely on this feedback alone.

All the publishers I spoke to will provide clear feedback if asked by the suppliers once the RFP/Tender process has ended, recognizing the time and effort invested by the supplier and to aid continued improvement. At the end of the selection process do also ask suppliers for feedback from their perspective too. For example: How did your RFP compare to others they have seen and what other questions could have been asked?


8. Expect the unexpected 

Expect the unexpected cartoon of jack in the box


Even with good planning, it's hard to know exactly what to expect back from a supplier.

Ove Kähler, Director Product Management & Global Distribution at Brill speaks about proposals he received back from suppliers:

"We didn't expect to get responses back that were close to 150 pages long. Also, the diversity of proposals and different aspects of pricing made it difficult to compare them. We tried to prevent this by providing vendors with the Excel version of our requirements. Even though they filled in the sheet and highlighted what was in scope and what wasn’t, it was still a challenge to get a good easy overview of how the proposals compared."


9. Quality assessment

In discussion with Jeremy MacDonald, Director of Technology at Pharmaceutical Press, quality assessment was raised as a key undertaking when developing an APP and he emphasised the importance of selecting a supplier that can get the data right first time:

"There are multiple internal challenges that arise when trying to present data that needs to be clinically correct. People are using this data to make important decisions about other people including children so there is a high level of responsibility for you as the publisher to get it right. When developing an APP, you are having to create your content set in different media so have to ensure quality assessment has been undertaken before presenting the data.

Getting an App to work across different platforms is a challenge with the different versioning of devices e.g. IOS 5 and IOS 10 - things evolve forward and therefore you need to ensure the App can continue to work with different devices and platforms. Upgrades are open to error and we have to continually test and modify the code base."

Testing partners
It's not always possible to test different versions of iPhone for example within your organization. Therefore, the publisher found test partners who were able to undertake the testing for them. Everyone in-house at the publisher runs Windows 7, therefore a SaaS partner was also needed to test their browsers and Apps on different desktops.

10. Planning

Finally, if things do NOT work out it can be really painful so it is important to ensure you have agreed on a project plan with you supplier that is prepared for every contingency. A good project plan will allow you to monitor the stages of a project development, make adjustments where necessary and maintain a momentum with your supplier through to implementation and beyond.

Daniel Smith, in discussing hosting services noted "A properly formulated project plan would allow at least 6-12 months of post-implementation activity to ensure that the service is fit for purpose and where it is not, there is time and resource to put it right."

It is important to be realistic with your timelines. If you have to change supplier at short notice, you need to be accommodating in terms of what you expect of the new supplier. If you are pushing a tight deadline on them, you need to be aware this may cause longer term problems.

Effective communication and forging good relationships will go a long way to ensuring a successful project and outsource partnership. However, to avoid frustration, don't forget also to plan for the expected as one publisher suggested: "Everything can stop for Christmas!".

cartoon illustrating everything stops for Christmas

Do you have any further tips or thoughts on this topic that you would like to share?

Join Lorraine Ellery Matthews who will be chairing the Outsourcing Challenges workshop at the forthcoming Research to Reader Conference in London on 20 and 21 February 2017.  The workshop poses the following question to the wider community:

Which aspects of the scholarly communications process can be outsourced, how can risks be mitigated and how can outsourcing be most effectively managed?

Register here for the 2017 Research to Reader Conference.




Friday, 20 January 2017

The Challenges of Outsourcing Part Three: Supplier selection (top tips 1-5)

photo Lorraine Ellery Matthews
In this post, part three of the Challenges of Outsourcing, Lorraine Ellery continues to share feedback from leading scholarly publishing professionals focusing on practical advice and tips to consider when selecting a supplier to outsource your product or service.

This follows the first post in the series identifying 10 key drivers to outsource and the second post outlining Stakeholder Engagement.

1. What impressions do you have of a supplier?

You may have already undertaken an early RFI (request for information) from a supplier, carried out your own research or commissioned a competitor analysis of the supplier landscape. However, to really get a good impression of the supplier, you need to consider how they are positioned and what they can bring to your business. You may find you need to engage in a more formal RFP (request for proposal) or tender process.

The RFP/Tender process should provide a framework that allows you to obtain a clear impression of the supplier; the product and service offering they provide; how they will address and meet your requirements and a clear indication of how they stand out from their competitors. The following key questions need to be answered before reaching an outsourcing agreement with a supplier:
  • Can they understand my business? 
  • Can they meet my requirements? 
  • Can they offer service reliability? 
  • Customer service, can they carry through on their promises?
  • Budget and ongoing costs, are these visible and agreeable? 
  • Have we agreed on critical value objectives
  • What is their value proposition, is this measurable?
  • What is their track record in servicing similar organizations?
  • How will their location affect me and my organization? (onshore or offshore) 
  • Do they have the ability to communicate effectively? 
  • Will I have Insight into their product/service roadmap? 
  • Are there signs of instability? 
  • Will our external auditors accept them?

If you are happy with your current supplier then you may not wish to spend time in going out to tender (unless you are obliged to do so) or in progressing with a formal RFP process. It is, therefore, advisable to first consider the opportunity cost involved!

2. Ensure effective communication

It is very important to mitigate against misunderstanding and incorrect interpretation usually caused by poor communication.
Cartoon illustrating importance of effective communication


I asked "is stakeholder engagement key to effective communication?" in my last post and wish to add that it is advisable to ensure you have agreed a clear project scope and selection criteria with relevant stakeholders before you reach out to suppliers. Whether this is before embarking on an informal or formal tender process, the preparation will take time, but this investment will ensure your objectives, goals and requirements are clear, assist you in managing expectations, provide a frame of reference and help take the emotion out of the supplier selection decision.

Clear expectations
Caroline Burley, Journals Operations Manager, Publishing Services & Production at the Royal Society of Chemistry shares her thoughts:

"Suppliers may say “yes we can do that” straight away without taking the time to fully understand what we are asking them to do. To ensure the supplier fully appreciates our requirements we try to make the documentation we provide as clear as possible and work through examples with them, providing feedback so that they can understand exactly what we are asking for.

If everyone is clear on the expectations and in agreement, then you should be able to work with the supplier to agree a realistic timeline to deliver the service. If they are not clear on what you are asking them to do, they may have to do additional last minute work that they were not anticipating which may affect the delivery time. Or if, as the customer, you are pushing for a fast delivery, it may be the case that they can't do all of the preparatory work before you go live.

You may need to be accommodating in terms of what you expect of the new supplier if you have a tight deadline, but be aware this may cause longer term problems once the motivation to finish the preparative work is removed.”

Agree to a SOW (statement of work)
The Head of the Journal program for a large medical society which completed several transitions to new vendors in 2016 recommends:

"Publishers and the selected vendor should agree in a SOW (and in great detail) what will be delivered and when with compensation or penalties for non-delivery. This is especially important for key workflow processes and functionalities.

Ideally, the consultant and client staff should document or record meetings with vendors during the RFP process and make sure that all parties are in agreement on what was presented and discussed to minimize disagreements and differences in interpretation at agreement and transition stage."


3. Forge positive relationships

"There is a lot to say for a relationship that is a positive one, and where you and the supplier are clear about your expectations both ways. Not just in a contract or agreement, but in terms of the actual interaction with the people you are working with. As the sales cliché suggests 'people buy from people first', there will be relationships that are particular to the organization and not every publisher is looking for the same thing." Director of Publishing, leading UK society publisher

4. Engage in early collaboration

Collaborating with consultants:
Collaborate with consultants to help distill information and facilitate discussion to allow stakeholders to talk through their frustrations - this feedback can strengthen the value of the final offering.

A consultant can ensure you select and retain the partners that best fit your organizational goals, provide advice and manage all or specific components of the RFP/Tender process, including the following:
  • Early research e.g. Competitor analysis 
  • Project management and advice
  • Support and assist in management of the selection process including creation of the RFP/tender documentation; evaluation of responses received, selection and brokering of agreements
  • Create and manage the implementation of contracts and SLA’s 
Matthew Cianfarani, Director International Business Development, Mark Allen Group collaborated with a consultant when outsourcing their hosting platform. Matthew suggests
"Use a consultant early to shape the whole thing – if you don’t have a large IT team who understand academic publishing you need an outside view of what you do, to communicate to potential vendors."

Early involvement of technical experts  
Sometimes you will find that you are dealing mainly with the commercial staff at the supplier end and it is not until an agreement is signed that the hand over to technical experts begins.

"Involvement of a technical person earlier in discussion provides continuity." Helen King, Digital Strategy Lead at BMJ

4) Look under the hood

Cartoon illustrating Look under the Hood


Before buying a car, you would look under the hood, before buying a new outfit you would preferably try it on. Therefore, why not apply this common sense when outsourcing?

It can take commitment of both time and finance to try a service before you buy, however, it can certainly be worth the investment as Helen King, BMJ found: "Working with a potential supplier to test their services before you decide to move platform can provide you with a large amount of qualitative information about the service and if it will be a good fit."

Sign up using your email to receive blog posts in this series, post four will highlight a further 6-10 tops tips to consider.

Lorraine will be chairing the Outsourcing Challenges workshop at the forthcoming Research to Reader Conference in London on 20-21 February 2017: Which aspects of the scholarly communications process can be outsourced, how can risks be mitigated and how can outsourcing be most effectively managed?

Register here for the 2017 Research to Reader Conference

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Why is everyone talking about Rights Management? Clare Hodder explains...

Suddenly, it seems that Rights (Acquisition) Management has become a ‘thing’.

It is a topic at conferences, systems have been developed to support it and even new kinds of jobs are now dedicated to it. But why? Hasn’t the publishing industry always had to manage its rights? Aren’t rights fundamental to the very existence of publishers?

Well, yes, but it turns out that, by and large, we were somewhat relaxed about managing our rights when the world was based on paper, and digital (as with every other aspect of publishing) has made it all much more complex. In order to publish anything, we have always relied on an agreement with the person who created it (or those they had agreed could license it on their behalf), be that an author we commissioned, an in-house writer under an employment contract, or a photograph whose rights were secured via an image library.

Agreements were fairly standard and usually granted publishers a broad range of print based rights which would last for at least the edition’s lifetime, if not the full term of copyright. The likelihood of anyone straying too far from what was enshrined in these agreements was small, and the impact, if they did inadvertently exceed licensing terms, minimal. Consequently, most publishers did not worry too much about it, as long as they had an agreement with the main contributor, and had obtained (or got the author to obtain) permission for any 3rd party content, they had done their job, documents were filed, end of story.

However, as publishers have innovated in the digital space the range of rights they demand from rights holders has increased – seeking more rights, to cover more products, for longer periods of time. Rights holders have understandably responded cautiously, wanting to protect their revenue (and future earning potential), reputation and, importantly, control over how their content is being used. Publishers are not simply getting the rights they are asking for, or are getting them on more limited terms, and this poses some problems.

Add to that, the fact that all this innovation in the content that publishers are putting ‘out there’ means it is not just author contracts and a few permissions agreements to worry about, but you also have to get rights agreements with the person who shoots your video, records your pod-cast, the users who contribute user-generated content, the freelance writers who write your blogs, the software developer who created your app, and many, many more creators who have been engaged to deliver content. More rights in more content from more people = a bit of a headache!

How do you know who has given you what rights, for how long, and with what restrictions? You can no longer assume that everything you might want to do with the content is covered by the agreement you put in place several years ago, the big issue now is that you actually have to check. And you do actually have to check, you can’t bury your head under the duvet and hope it will all go away because ‘we’ve never had to do all this before’.

There is now a very real chance you will be sued if you get it wrong, or at least have to deal with a time-consuming settlement for an eye-watering amount of money. Suddenly, having the author manage some of those agreements or shoving everything in an archived, paper, editorial file doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It becomes necessary to think up front, before you even commission a project about what rights you will need to make the project viable and whether you are likely to be able to get them.

Time taken to acquire the rights and budget needed to pay for them needs to be factored into the process and the product needs to be monitored post release to ensure that all of the licences remain valid and re-clearance arranged (and paid for) where necessary. Documents and data about rights acquired need to be collated and stored and new workflows need to be established. And, so Rights Management as a ‘thing’ has emerged, with staff and systems and blog posts to boot, and it’s a ‘thing’ we all need to get to grips with, and quickly.

Clare Hodder, is a copyright and licensing specialist at Rights2 Consultancy. She will take part in the ALPSP and PLS webinar Effective Management of Rights on Monday 23rd January. Register now to secure your free place and find out more about how to manage rights management in your organization.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Challenges of Outsourcing Part Two: Stakeholder Engagement

In this post, part two of the Challenges of Outsourcing series, Lorraine Ellery Matthews continues to share feedback from leading scholarly publishing professionals. In her interviews she has asked about the involvement and engagement of stakeholders in the decision making process of outsourcing, what was planned and what was unexpected!

This follows the first post outlining the 10 key drivers to outsource.

Formalizing the process

One organization were lucky enough to have a specialist, qualified procurement team in place reporting to the Director of Operations. The team are responsible for all contracts with a value through its lifetime of £150,000 and over, this includes everything in terms of production work including the typesetting and printing.

However, engagement of outsourcing as a service hadn't always been managed in this way and started with just one person, albeit someone who came to the organization with a high level of industry experience working with both off-shore and on-shore suppliers. Fast forward several years and now with contracts for all suppliers and best practise from start to end in place the organization has certainly seen the benefit of having the process formalized, even if there are occasions when they have been challenged internally regarding the costs involved!

Should it be left to one team to reach decisions?

Many organizations will not have the benefit of a dedicated procurement team and instead will utilize the members of the relevant department or create a temporary cross departmental project team to manage the process. Decision making is varied, and much is dependent on the complexity of the required outsource service. Some teams had the relevant skills and resource to reach a decision without having to reach out to others in their organization. Other's had clear policies in place to ensure the decision is overseen and agreed by a committee or management team or both.

Although the final decisions maybe undertaken by a small group the input from start to finish was in most cases (although not always) widely sought.

Is stakeholder engagement key to effective communication?

Accountability is of course important as despite good intentions and best laid plans put in place to ensure that a partnership is successful (supplier relations will be discussed in my next post) there is always a risks that things don't go to plan. It is therefore important to ensure that internal stakeholders outside your team are approached early and invited to input their thoughts and provide feedback as these individuals are then more likely to support your decisions in moving forward (partners in crime). Obtaining buy-in from others will allow you not only to share the projects success but also accountability in the event of any problems down the line, reducing the risk of receiving "if only you had asked me first" comments when it is far too late.

Facilitating discussions to allow stakeholders to talk through their frustrations can strengthen the value of the final offering.

The feedback that derives from engagement also helps when considering if you have taken all the risks into account and to stop and ask if you are making the right decisions.



One platform manger took a unique and possibly risky approach when it came to external engagement which worked in his favour:

"My biggest success was not to have found the right platform vendor but to get the management board on side."

The manager was approached by a scholarly publishing organization committee looking for a keynote speaker for a conference with a theme based around "how to manage different content types". The manager had a solution, a vision for their own organization that had continued to develop into a wider vision in parallel with their request for proposal (RFP) process that was underway at the time.

The keynote presentation took place before the developing vision had been fully approved internally. The manager received positive comments and support for his vision from the industry delegates attending and these comments also directly reached the organization's management team. This approach may have been risky but one that was not regretted as subsequently the internal buy-in was significantly supported by the external buy-in generated by the industry delegates present.

To engage or not with customers?

The interviewees were asked about the level of engagement with their communities and customers during the outsourcing process. The response was mixed and some key factors for consideration emerged:

1. Whether people feel attached to the system or not!

The quality of feedback is more likely if people feel an attachment to the system. Attachment is less likely for production systems than it is for say peer review or hosting solutions.

For example, editorial board members may have to interact with the system on a regular basis, acting as academic editors as well as overseeing the peer review process. The authors and reviewers will have a lot of experience using various systems too, especially given that there are only a handful of major suppliers in the market.

The same is true with hosting platforms, even though people may not realize they are experiencing them they often have strong views about how they see things and how things are presented online.

2. Concerns over alerting customers to change

Some expressed that although they engage with their customers throughout the year they would not necessarily inform them before the decision to change suppliers was made and in some instances not until after implementation. They felt that through ongoing continuous engagement they will already have built up a good picture over time of the customers requirements and do not see the need to alert them and risk the cause for unnecessary concern.

3. Is the supplier set up to engage with the customer?

The customer is a critical partner and large publishers are likely to have user groups, focus groups and advisory boards in place to support ongoing engagement with customers throughout the year. However, a smaller publisher may not yet have these forums in place and therefore, as one interviewee recounted, was able to benefit from the supplier's ability to engage their customers directly to provide feedback on their system.

4. Engage only with a select group of customers

To ensure quality feedback you may decide to take the middle ground and obtain feedback from a select group of customers that you know you can rely on. As one publisher interview stated "if you are brave in the process you may also want to invite one or two customers in the testing of the system."



Supplier engagement

A key aim when considering outsourcing or moving to a new supplier is to establish a long term partnership.

Forge relationships early so that when you are looking to outsource or move supplier you already have trusted relationships in place.

  • Suppliers may develop new technologies, or form strategic partnerships to provide an improved or new solution for their service that you may benefit from, therefore, it is advisable to keep abreast with their developments.
  • Understand the competitor landscape and what options are available to you, even from those outside of your own industry.
  • Communication is much improved if you match relationships at various levels within both the supplier and your own organization.
  • Feedback will help the supplier develop their solution further and is important at all stages of engagement, including following an RFP whether the supplier is selected as your partner or not.

Sign up using your email to receive blog posts in this series, the next will be focusing on The RFP Process & Supplier Evaluation.

Lorraine Ellery Matthews will be presenting The Challenges of Outsourcing sharing further recommendations from leading publishing professionals on Wednesday 7 December at 2.15 p.m. on Stage 1 at the London Info International exhibition. Attend and join in the discussion – booking available here. Exhibition visitors can register for free.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Challenges of Outsourcing Part One: 10 Key Drivers to Outsource

An organization outsources many different services and processes to experts and those who offer specialist tools and systems to support their requirements. In the first of a series of guest posts, Lorraine Ellery Matthews outlines what the key challenges are when thinking about outsourcing. In this post, she considers what the key drivers are for a company that can lead to outsourcing. These articles are based on interviews conducted with experienced scholarly publishing professionals in 2016.


1. Strategic

Ask yourself, are you are a technology company or are you a publisher, library, etc? Do you want to be both or do you want to be one; what’s the balance, what’s the return on investment?

The key reasons for outsourcing for the first time can be a strategic one, based around where you wish to continue to invest your time and money and if you already have - or not - the necessary resource and in-house expertise to provide a quality service to your internal and external stakeholders.

You may still decide that there are strong competitive advantages to developing your own custom solution, however, in weighing up the pros and cons you may decide that it makes sense for your organization to focus your time and effort on your core business and therefore will seek a trusted partner that you expect to deliver a cost-effective quality, scale-able and timely service.

2. New technologies

The potential that changes in technology can provide will prompt a review into previous decisions. You may need to re-work you platform, re-work your strategy, remain flexible and re-invest.
APIs and open technologies create new opportunities: it is no longer necessary to host all your content on one platform as independent silos and systems can be integrated and meaningful content relationships created.

However, as one commercial publisher I spoke to who undertook a supplier review when their current hosting agreement was up for renewal, found that if you have already invested heavily and you are happy with your current supplier then despite the advantages that new technology may bring the potential up-front cost of decoupling your content and migrating to a new platform, particularly if you have specialist content hosted in a monolithic system may act as a major barrier to change.

3. New entrants

When you have already settled on outsourcing a services you may find that players in the space change over time, new entrants come into the market or there are other approaches to now consider, this can lead to the need to review that space and the cost of moving suppliers.



4. How much time and resource do you have available?

Consider whether you have enough experts in the organization to cover everything at once. Sometimes it is not just a cost based issue, but how much change you can manage, in how many places, and how many resources you have internally from an expertise perspective. The lack of availability of resource is a key driver when reaching a conclusion to outsource, particularly if you are heavily involved in a large in-house platform project.

5. Forced to move

The verdict to review and select a new supplier can sometimes be forced upon an organization, for example, through mergers and acquisitions. The time constraints associated to implementing changes in policy or the undertaking of an acquisition can provide huge challenges. The planning normally invested in the process of outsourcing is dictated by the situation rather than by you and more often than not will come at a time when not all stakeholders are available to provide their input into the strategic and tactical decisions that need to be agreed before deciding to enter into the process of evaluating and selecting a new partner.


6. Stability of your supplier

If there are signs that a supplier is becoming unstable, it is good business practice to undertake due diligence to ensure you are informed about the issues concerned and are fully aware of the options available to you if in the event you need to re-negotiate or exit your contract.

7. Breakdown of relationship

You may decide to review your options if you increasingly find that your supplier is no longer in tune with your business goals, are unable to communicate effectively, unwilling to consider your requests or are not delivering the agreed service level. The supplier may no longer offer an appropriate value proposition, may make promises they do not keep, or are not developing their service offering to keep up with market developments and requirements and standards. A combination of or even just one of these scenarios will be challenging and may even lead to a breakdown of relationship that is not always recoverable.

8. Company policy and/or best practice

You may have been with your current supplier for a number of years and would like to ensure you are aware of what the competitors offer so that you can be confident that you continue to receive value for money. Many organizations will have a company policy in place to ensure there is a constant review of all suppliers and the services they provide. This may happen every year or every two to five years depending on the complexity of the service and the organization’s internal policy.

9. Ensuring you are offering a good service to your customers

Many decisions are usually motivated by the desire to ensure you are offering a good service to your customers. In one example, a publisher was tasked with looking at their publishing set up, the systems and processes they were using currently, and over time, with the main objective to consider how these could be more efficient and how the organization could offer a better service for their authors and reviewers. Once their board approved the recommendations, they reached an agreement to look at their peer review systems, production systems and other related services.

10. Adopting a hybrid approach

You may decide to continue holding onto the reigns and not to outsource, but to develop your services in-house. You may also decide to in-source additional skills and technology components by partnering with specialists in their field. Rather than outsourcing this allows you to develop a hybrid solution and to share the cost of ongoing development for your service offering with your chosen partner.


Lorraine Ellery Matthews is the Proprietor for Ellery Matthews Consulting. She is writing a series of posts on The Challenges of Outsourcing on the ALPSP blog; the next will focus on The Process of Outsourcing. Sign up using RSS or email above. You can also read them on the Ellery Matthews Consulting blog.

Lorraine will present on The Challenges of Outsourcing sharing further recommendations from leading publishing professionals on Wednesday 7 December at 2.15 p.m. on Stage 1 at the London Info International exhibition. Attend and join in the discussion – book your place here. Exhibition visitors can register for free.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Using ethnography to understand user needs and behaviours

Paul-Jervis Heath is a Designer and Innovation Consultant at Modern Human. At the Digital Marketing Skills for the Future seminar he explained how ethnographic design research gives us a way of developing a deeper understanding of our users.

You need to find out what users really need, not what they think they need. Design is a set of modes: Immersion, inspiration, imagination and invention.

Shadowing is one of the key design research methods. It allows you to observe real behaviour. By directly observing participants they are able to get a deeper understanding of their needs. There is covert shadowing where you hide and watch, controlled shadowing where you give people a task, and participatory shadowing where you go along with someone when they do something.
Other techniques including using interviews or following people for the day. There's a nifty tool, a narrative clip wearable camera, that takes a photograph every 30 seconds. If you tap it, video is recording. It's a great way of capturing time lapses to supplement notes that are made, but also for showing stakeholders in the business.

Diary studies record experiences to capture what they think and feel across. Modern Human used this approach to work with researchers who were choosing a journal and submitting a paper. They captured the emotions, the comments, and crucially, deep insights into experience of publishing and the behaviour of early career researchers with DSCOUT (Mobile Diary Study Platform).

Other ethnographic research methods include:
  • contextual interviews
  • expert interviews
  • direct experience immersion
  • analogous experiences (e.g. taking librarians into restaurants to see service plans)
  • guided tours
  • cultural probes.

None of these techniques cost a huge amount: it's more about allowing time for them. Often, the best tools for analysis are a big stack of post it notes and coloured pens.

Ethnographic research typically looks for workarounds: quickly seemingly efficient solutions that address the symptoms of a problem, not the root cause. People's values play an important role in their motivations. Inertia shows situations in which customers act out habit. How can you leverage or break that inertia? Take into account should versus want: the tension between things people crave in the moment and things they know are good for them (you want to eat healthily, but you like to eat cake). Consider how can you help people move from where they are to where they want to be?

Design for goals rather than tasks and you create things that are meaningful to people. You need to capture everyone's observations and understanding of the research. A good insight is intuitive not obvious, generative and sticky. You then need to turn insights into models.

Four modes of human-centred design

You can see this approach in scholarly communications with the development of a knowledge chain (as a pose to a supply chain). The academic system is characterised in a similar way. Ideas are the raw material - driven by institutions, researchers, funders, people, publishers. The lab is the method of production. It turns ideas into knowledge. Knowledge is cyclical and can be recycled (e.g. papers being cited).

At Modern Human they developed behavioural profiles for academics. These were like personas, but helped develop archetypal profiles. They turned them into something that looks like a person to make it easier for designers to bring to life. They used it to create and Research and Publishing map and a framework of discipline publishing cultures. Interestingly, they discovered that disciplines are more similar than they might want to admit!

Paul-Jervis Heath is Principal at Modern Human consultancy, a design practice and innovation consultancy that works with clients to create new products, services and experiences. He spoke at the Digital Marketing Skills of the Future seminar held on 8 November 2016 in London.