Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Why train? Why online? Pippa Smart explains how ALPSP blended learning came about...

photo Pippa Smart
I run quite a lot of workshops for ALPSP and other organizations, and I love the immediacy of meeting people in different companies, with different experiences and viewpoints. It is a luxury to be able to travel and meet people and learn with and from them.

However, pressures of work, costs of travel and problems of timing make physical meetings problematic – just today I had to plead off a meeting and video-in because of workload.

We work in an exciting industry where you could be speaking to people from USA, Germany, China, and Japan all in a day, and physical workshops are just not practical in such an environment – nice as they would be. This is why, about 5 years ago, there was a loud buzz about "distance learning" and I was involved in writing several courses for different organizations. They were all seeking to resolve the same problem – how to reach people anywhere, anytime. However, many of them were not successful because the model they relied on was – in effect – simply providing an online handbook for people to read in their own time.

However, there has been a recent resurgence in the idea of providing remote training opportunities with larger publishers looking at video conferences, virtual meetings, and online training resources for their staff – those in the office and those who work from home.

The new approach takes into account the following important factors, learnt from earlier experience:
  • There must be a set time for the training – a start and finish time, because people are very good at procrastinating -  anything that is not "urgent" and time-limited won’t get done
  • There must be an opportunity for discussion – contributing and sharing
  • There must be some interaction – simply reading or watching is an ineffective way to engage people.
And all this must be added to the right content – what do people NEED to know, and what is the best QUALITY that can be delivered to them?

ALPSP has been repeatedly asked about providing its training to a wider audience, and face-to-face workshops are – for all the reasons above – not scaleable (or economical).

So, when I was asked to help develop an online version of the Introduction to Publishing course we agreed that there had to be quality content delivered in an interactive, time-limited and focussed way. And so the "International Primer - Introduction to Publishing" was born. Taking all the lessons learnt, we have structured it as follows:
  1. A comprehensive handbook for reference (you can't get away from needing content!).
  2. An interactive webinar – discussing issues raised in the handbook and allowing for discussion and contribution.
  3. A quiz – to help participants check understanding of what they read and watched and discussed.
  4. Follow-up access to the trainers – for questions, comments and reactions.
We ran the part one at the end of 2016 and part two (there is a lot to cover!) runs on 24 April this year. We had some interesting discussions last time and (learning from that) we are going to devote more time to these in part two – do join us, it should be a fun event!

Pippa Smart and Simon Linacre will be presenting Introduction to Journals Publishing 2: An international primer on Monday 24 April, online, 10am EDT (New York); 3pm GMT (UK); 4pm CET (Central Europe).  You can find out more here.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Why is the business technology side of eJournals so unnecessarily complex? Tracy Gardner reflects...

eJournal technology is an essential part of the scholarly publishing industry. It is also the topic of one of our most popular training courses. Here, we spoke to Understanding eJournal Technology co-tutor, Tracy Gardner, about the challenges of keeping up-to-date in this area.

"One of the biggest challenges publishers face is making sure their content can be easily found in the various discovery resources readers use to find journal articles, and then to ensure the steps between the reader finding the content and reading it are seamless and without barrier. There are so many potential pitfalls along the way, and this issue therefore concerns people working in production, IT, editorial, sales, marketing and customer service.

The pace of change is fast, technology is evolving all of the time and the driver for much of it has come from the libraries. Libraries are keen to ensure their patrons find and access content they have selected and purchased and by keeping them in a library intermediated environment they feel they can improve their research experience overall. Ultimately the library would like the user to start at the library website, find content they can read and not be challenged along the way.

Simon Inger and I have been running the Understanding eJournal Technology course two or three times a year for ten years now and we have never run the same course twice - it constantly needs to be updated.

Those working in customer facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service may not fully appreciate how much library technology impacts on the way researchers find and access their content. Many people are surprised to learn that poor usage within an institution is often because something has gone wrong with the way the content is indexed within the library discovery layer, how it is set up in the library link resolver, or issues with authentication.

For those in operational or technology roles, the business technology side of eJournals can seem unnecessarily complex and, especially for those new to the industry, the way the information community works can seem counter to the way many other business sectors operate. What makes sense in classic B2B or B2C environments will not make sense within the academic research community.

By helping people who work in publishing houses understand how the eJournal technology works and how they can most effectively work with libraries to maximise discovery and use of their content. Many people who have attended our course have not been aware of the impact some of their decisions have had and our course has helped them understand why they need to work in certain ways."

Tracy Gardner will tutor on Understanding eJournal Technology in March and November 2017. Book your place now.

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.