Build or buy?

Open Access (OA) publishing has brought with it so many new elements – new business models, new expertise related to Article Processing Charges (APCs), new relationships, and new support systems – that publishers are rethinking how they go about creating an integrated streamlined workflow. This dilemma is essentially whether they can deliver what is required by using existing systems (build) or by working with an outsourcing partner (buy).

As shoppers, we expect an Amazon-style experience in our online transactions; authors are no different.

Both pathways have benefits – building offers competitive advantages; buying helps minimize risk and is sometimes more cost-effective. But what does this choice entail in the context of managing author fees? According to an article by McKinsey & Company, the answer lies in a brand new approach to managing the customer-decision journey. This approach focuses on capabilities in three stages: Discover, Design, and Deliver.

Discover: At this stage, publishers gather as much information as possible to understand the customer profile fully. Besides finding out about the author, the manuscript, and publication, publishers are also under pressure to collect and share industry-standard metadata. Therefore, existing systems holding such data must work alongside external systems that can draw on this data. Legacy systems, however, are not generally known for their interoperability. Nor are they generally able to cope with the author transactions now being processed in high volumes and in real time. The most author-centric solution might be a unified set of internal systems (both legacy and new); yet such a set would cost both time and money. As a result, a more practical solution could present itself through outsourcing.

Design: Many publishers recognize customer satisfaction is central to the success of OA. This stage is all about creating a streamlined experience for the author that draws on the data already gathered. Authors are no longer removed from billing and payment processes. As shoppers, we expect an Amazon-style experience in our online transactions; authors are no different. Systems should be intuitive, innovative and driven by sophisticated algorithms. Get it wrong, and an author’s esteem for the publisher might wither.

Deliver: Agility and flexibility are key in this stage. For publishers, this means more collaborative, cohesive relationships among editorial, production, finance and operations teams. Processes such as pricing, discounting and compliance reporting should be fully supported and allow publishers to respond to demand.

The decision to buy or build will differ for each organization, but will often be clarified by potential ROI. Publishers should not only carefully evaluate the investment required to develop in-house systems, but also carefully consider the cost and performance of any external partners.

To buy or to build? That is the question. What’s best for your company?

Author: Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is the Director of Rightsholder Relations, where he runs the account management program for CCC’s publishing partners. Prior to CCC, Matt was Director of Corporate Sales for Elsevier’s Science and Technology Books. Matt majored in theatrical arts, and put his education to good use as a costumed museum interpreter at Plimoth Plantation. 
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