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April 3, 2017

Improving publishing workflow with a strategic partner

As the world of publishing moves further into digital as well as printed products, publishers that lack the right systems or workflows to meet changing demands can find themselves falling behind in the marketplace.

Growing consumer demand, especially in digital platforms like mobile, PDF, and eBooks, creates increasingly complicated, multichannel workflows that are stretching publishing teams (and budgets) beyond their capabilities to produce great products on time.

This figure illustrates the modern publishing workflow required to deliver both digital and printed products.

Multichannel publishing workflows as a hub system

Workflow hub diagram

It looks simple, but each node on the hub also has its own unique workflow that must be optimized without sacrificing the efficiency of the other nodes. Everything must work together.

How can you meet the demand and manage industry and technology changes, all while staying within your budget? One answer might be to enhance your in-house efforts to support all aspects of a modern workflow.

But that can be expensive, and requires the addition of new processes, training, and staff with skills that are not easy to find.

Strategic partnerships vs. outsourcing

Our view is that most publishers are better served meeting these new challenges by developing a carefully managed strategic partnership with a third party that is expert in areas their in-house teams are not.

If this sounds like outsourcing, it’s not. When you outsource parts of a job to a vendor, that’s all they do. An answering service, for example, takes calls and relays messages. No more, no less. Thus, with outsourcing, you’re responsible for defining the solution and managing the vendor on specific tasks.

But a true partnership with the right company gives you the opportunity to leverage your team’s strengths while minimizing weaknesses. By shifting the mindset from “outsourcing a commodity” to “creating a value-added partnership,” you can leverage the relationship to reach your goals better and faster.

What to look for in a publishing partner

To choose the right partner that will expand your publishing team in ways that help you stay competitive, meet schedules, and still have a home life, first assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current workflows and team. What does the in-house team excel at? What are the areas that could use support in improving publishing workflows?

For example, maybe your team handles acquisitions and copyediting, but regularly gets stuck in too many correction passes, which drags down production time and increases costs.

In such a case, you’ll want a partner that has a proven track record in streamlining editing workflows and increasing first-pass acceptance rates using an XML-first workflow. A partner that brings XML code expertise to the relationship would also spare you and your team from having to learn that skill.

A true partnership with the right publishing partner gives you the opportunity to leverage your team’s strengths while minimizing weaknesses.

During its growth phase, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) was faced with such a challenge. The world’s largest open-access publisher of scientific journals couldn’t handle the dynamic editorial and production changes necessary to accommodate increasing submission volumes. The publishing team struggled with circuitous workflows, expanding costs, and schedules that threatened to make articles obsolete by the time they were published.

To solve these issues, with our help PLOS implemented ProTrak, our web-based management tracking platform, and XML-first workflow. These changes reduced per-article production costs by 25% and increased first-pass acceptance rates to 85%.

Or perhaps you’re so bogged down in day-to-day issues that you struggle to focus on the big picture. Crucial information and time routinely get lost in endless email strings where one missed “reply to all” causes confusion, frustration, and last-minute changes that destroy the schedule and budget.

If that sounds familiar, then a partnership with a company that specializes in single-hub project management technology would make sense. Your partner can provide support in managing and using the technology without you having to become an expert in it.

Your partner can provide support in managing and using publishing technology without you having to become an expert in it.

In the early 2000s HighWire Press – a leading provider of ePublishing platforms and services that help dispense more than 1,800 books, journals and scholarly articles every year – was experiencing record-breaking publisher engagement. Highwire needed to scale up quickly while continuing to provide the high-quality customer service essential to the company’s mission.

After extensive analysis and preparation, our global resource team fully integrated with HighWire’s existing support operations to provide an expanded customer-service team that could accommodate new business without gaps in service or customer support. This partnership allowed HighWire to achieve a 100% open-to-close ratio for support queries and improved customer satisfaction.

Publishing is by nature a collaborative experience. If you’re looking for ways to stay competitive and manage industry and technology changes while keeping a reasonable budget, consider stretching your publishing team with a strategic partnership rather than going through the cost and creation of more in-house teams.

To learn more about how to analyze and improve the workflow in your publishing organization, download our whitepaper, “A Management Guide to Workflow and Keeping Up With the Industry.

About Greg Suprock

Greg is Head of Solutions Architecture at Apex. He has over 20 years of experience in XML workflows, content management, web application development, and prepress. Greg excels at collaborative efforts to achieve project and business goals. He has developed XML workflows for the Public Library of Science, HighWire Press, The Library of Congress, and many more.

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