Tuesday 17 March 2020

The partnership that built a platform fit for 21st century publishing

In the run up to the ALPSP Webinar Series, Case studies in collaboration: the next wave of platform hosting initiatives, Harriet Bell (Emerald Publishing) and David Leeming (67 Bricks) discuss their alliance.
Back in 2017, all of Emerald’s journals, and most of their books and case studies, were stored and managed by Atypon on the Literatum platform. But Emerald lacked control over their customer data and user experiences; and there was no flexibility to innovate - essential in the new digital era. How does a small publisher hold their nerve to digitally transform?

What were the key issues behind moving from a vendor platform?

Harriet Bell: The ability to innovate was paramount. User needs are dramatical
ly changing and they expect personalised, digital products, tailored to their own needs, as standard. We were keen to take back control of our customer data and offer new products, but our vendor platform was holding us back. We wanted to build something ourselves but it was too big a task. We thought: why not find a technology partner who can help us do the best of both - build something tailored to our users needs whilst buying in the best of the latest flexible technologies that are already out there - and take a ‘partner’ or ‘hybrid-build’ approach?

What is a hybrid-build approach?

David Leeming: The hybrid-build approach is all about flexibility and getting closer to the customer. Today’s developers and architects have taken the best lessons from the monolithic platforms of old and are now creating smart, flexible frameworks built to interact with other systems and to create opportunities to build business-changing assets that will age gracefully. Taking a hybrid-build approach means selecting and using the best of breed components that are out there, and combining these with your own specific architecture,design and development. Your partner can provide upgrades to the service in real-time, with little or no disruptions to the service or the other systems with which they are interacting. Other features and applications can also be added to the architecture fairly easily.

What is unique about the partnership between 67 Bricks and Emerald?

Harriet: 67 Bricks really got our overall goals around digital transformation and going beyond academia from the start. They helped us bang the drum internally, and win hearts and minds. This level of commitment helped build mutual trust; it never felt ‘them and us’. The other key ingredients? 67 Bricks were, and are, unafraid to challenge us. Their role as ‘critical friend’ is an essential one for us. We want to push the boundaries in publishing - and we need to be challenged sometimes to do that. For example, when user requirements ran into the thousands, 67 Bricks were not afraid to push back and call on us to focus.

If publishers are considering a new digital platform, what three top tips would you leave them with?  

1. Select the appropriate partners to help
2. Run a focussed and phased implementation that builds out capabilities whilst delivering business value
3. Last but not least, prioritisation is key - don’t try and do everything at once.

To join the webinar on 6 May email Susie Brown or visit the ALPSP website.

About the Speakers

Harriet Bell
Harriet Bell, Marketing Director, Emerald

Harriet Bell has worked in academic publishing for over 20 years and is now a Board member for Emerald Publishing which is an independent social science and humanities publisher. Harriet is responsible for global marketing and product development for Emerald at a time of exciting opportunity and change, moving towards innovative content formats to more broadly communicate research findings, supporting open science and above all looking at the role publishers can play in supporting research impact.

David Leeming, Head of Client Services, 67 Bricks
David Leeming

David is Head of Client Services at 67 Bricks Ltd a technology company that is leading the evolution of content and data capabilities at scholarly publishers. At 67 Bricks he oversees consultancy and software development projects and has taken a lead in exploring how technologies like AI and machine learning can deliver value in the information industry. David is a regular speaker at publishing events, having delivered talks at several industry events. He brings practical experience of the use of these technologies on real projects at 67 Bricks and an in-depth publishing knowledge of over 20 years working for scholarly publishers.

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