Managing communication in outsourcing: What tools are available to publishers?

As outsourcing becomes the norm in publishing there is a demand for tools to help manage the communication between in-house staff and their freelancers. This recent whitepaper from Just Content in collaboration with BookMachine explores the options available to publishers along with the issues surrounding communication itself:

Communication is key to ensuring that projects run smoothly, on time and to everyone’s expectations; whether it is a publisher communicating with a project manager at a packager, or the flow of discussion between an in-house editor and their freelancer. Whilst managers should avoid micromanaging freelance staff, it’s crucial that everyone keeps up the lines of communication. Without this, decisions get made and stakeholders can be left out of the loop.

It’s a good idea to build a communications routine into your schedule. In the start-up world, developers use ‘stand ups’ to keep communication regular and ensure that everyone in the team is supported. The typical format is limited to 15 minutes and is often conducted over video call using services such as Skype or Google Hangouts. During those 15 minutes, each team member reports on what they did the previous day, what they plan to do that day and what impediments are in their way. Many publishers are starting to hold such stand-ups to iron out niggles promptly and address questions between team members, many of whom might not be on site. It isn’t a traditional project run-through meeting; rather the goal is to keep everyone accountable and committed to each other as a team. It is seen to be preferable to longer, infrequent meetings.

The tools available for communicating across various locations are far more advanced that they once were. Skype, Slack and Gmail chat allow for much quicker answers to questions. Project management tools such as Basecamp or Trello allow for effective task management. No longer are lengthy email chains required for communication. However, it is worth remembering when using these tools, that IP is hosted outside of company control. Systems like Microsoft Office 365 have guarantees on ownership and privacy that some of the newer software providers don’t.

Astrid deRidder Head of Business Development, Education Reform Division, at Cambridge University Press comments, ‘I have a few colleagues across the Press who are investigating tools like Slack, Smartsheet, or Trello. They are useful, but it is important to remember that they are just tools – the key to communication is in the people, not the product’.

So, whilst collaboration tools do have their place in enabling good communication between in-house staff and freelancers, publishers are also not losing sight of the value of verbal alongside virtual communication. This too has its place and indeed is critical in certain circumstances as explored in the whitepaper available now for download here.