Program Assessments | Operations Reviews | Pricing | Open Access Strategy | Financial Modeling | Governance
Publishing programs must be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are delivering the outcomes an organization requires. A key aspect of this type of review is financial: How is the program trending, and how does that map against the current planning projections? Program assessments are best conducted against the backdrop of the marketplace, where a particular publisher’s program is compared to comparable programs from other publishers (benchmarking). Within our company knowledgebase we have a great deal of information that can be brought to bear upon a publisher’s programs, enabling careful analysis of strengths and weaknesses, which can lead to the pursuit of new opportunities or to exiting underperforming parts of the program
Publishers have to look under the hood to make sure that their operations are efficient, effective, and built to purpose. This is not only for financial reasons, though reducing costs is a never-ending activity, but also to optimize certain aspects of the organization. For example, a more efficient workflow can speed up the time it takes to review manuscripts, which will be appreciated by authors. An operations review begins with a mapping of all aspects of workflow and is both qualitative and quantitative. After findings are tabulated, recommendations are likely to include templates for management reports that enable the organization to continue to track performance on its own.
Pricing is among the most difficult challenges for academic and professional publishers today, as it is both a market signal (how much is this product or service worth?) and an element in an organization’s branding strategy, with pricing, especially high or above-average pricing, prompting vigorous discussion within the academic community. Evaluations of pricing also must address the increasingly multifaceted nature of distribution, developing pricing across multiple offerings (individual titles, packages of titles) and geographies. The development of a pricing strategy begins with a careful financial analysis of a publisher’s portfolio, which in turn is mapped to the business environment. Pricing strategy is best viewed as a form of scenario planning, where the flexible business modeling tool is designed to test a number of “what if” scenarios.
Open Access Strategy
All scholarly publishers need to have an Open Access strategy; and if they have such a strategy, they must review it regularly, as the Open Access ecosystem is nothing if not dynamic. An OA strategy must survey the various forms of OA (Green, Gold, Platinum, etc.) and map these forms against the publisher’s existing product portfolio. An OA strategy must all be built around the realities of mandates issued by funders, which impose restrictions on where and how researchers can publish. In developing such a strategy, the first step is to identify the terms of funder compliance, but the goal of any such strategy ultimately is to manage OA publications for the financial and reputational success of the publisher.
Financial modeling is more than accounting. A successful organization will have a firm grasp on its finances and a strategy to finance new investments and to get the organization through downturns. A robust financial model is a tool that enables the management to perform “what if” analyses. Creating such a tool begins with the actual quantification of an organization’s operations and then projects the performance—revenue, expenses, cash flow—into a number of potential future environments. Modeling is essential for making any large new investment. A successful modeling project will leave the organization with the tools to conduct additional modeling on its own.
The success of any organization requires good governance. That means having a Board of Directors that is fully engaged with the organization and a management team that reliably provides information on operations, risks, and opportunities. Assessing governance is an important process, which is likely to involve a series of confidential interviews with Board and management members, a review of the organization’s by-laws, and a review of Board decisions and actions and the forecast outcomes. As governance cannot be imposed from without, it is often useful in a governance exercise to conduct workshops (whether in person or virtually) in which Board and often management representative debate programs and policies.