Production Perspectives: 6 Keys to Successful Outsourcing
Crafting a long-term solution to the depressed economic and publishing times we're in requires tough and often unpopular decisions. Outsourcing is one example. It was the topic of a lively panel discussion at the Publishing Business Conference, March 8-10, in New York. Panelists and attendees shared stories of the urgency to squeeze efficiencies out of their processes and how best to achieve their goals. The conclusion: Outsourcing—using an off-shore vendor or an outside partner—is an unpopular, often painful decision, but a viable option for major cost savings, especially in desperate times.
Research, planning and joint oversight by the management and production teams can help ensure success. The process can go terribly wrong without proper project management or if base savings assumptions are unrealistic.
Printing: The Core Outsourced Function
Production departments are accustomed to outsourcing printing. The production manager sends the advertising and editorial files to the printer along with the print order instructions. The production and circulation teams do not have to take a leap of faith that the issue will be printed and mailed correctly, as the process is a time-tested and well-oiled machine.
Outsourcing other publishing functions can be done well if the same process management is applied.
Small, medium or large publishers can outsource any or all of these publishing components: composition, editing, proofreading, page production, inventory control and circulation, newsstand, IT, human resources and print buying, among others. Hiring outside partners can provide access to expertise, best practices and innovative ideas. Vendors have experience working with other publishers—a key factor in workflow success.
Also important is providing vendors with specific budget information and business goals, and including vendors in staff meetings and making sure that the printer considers these individuals as part of the publishing team.
John Blanchard, vice president of operations at Reed Business Information (RBI), says that his outsourcing sucess is due to careful planning and managing expectations. Prior to outsourcing, Blanchard and his team centralized and consolidated the production and creative departments, and automated as much as they could. During the due diligence process he learned that the outsourced and offshore partners had more sophisticated software solutions and a deep understanding of magazine publishing processes. His team educated the selected vendors about RBI titles' unique requirements and expectations. The planning, testing and implementation process took a year and a half before the outsourced functions went live.