With advertising revenues still in decline, and increased investment required in digital, many publishers are having to review their editorial, advertising and marketing costs. The temptation is to simply cut back on pages and editorial content, but this runs the risk of reducing value to readers and advertisers. The situation is further complicated by the need for editorial, advertising and marketing teams to work across print and digital platforms. I believe publishers can learn from manufacturing and service industries, who have been practising lean operations techniques for several years, and using them to prioritise what really matters to customers, identify the wasteful activities and create new more effective processes. Here’s a simple introduction to lean operations thinking for publishers:
1. Determine what is valuable to customers
From the point of view of both your readers and your advertisers, list all the features of your products and services and determine what they value the most.
2. Measure how your staff spend their time now
Map out the activities for each of your teams and work out how much time is wasted between tasks, and also which tasks add little or no value to your customers. This could include creation and design of content for print and web, selling, processing and invoicing ads, running retail promotions and subscription campaigns, financial and administration.
3. Explore how waste can be taken out of the system
Lean operations thinking lists seven sources of waste: overproduction, waiting time, poor ergonomics, transportation, processing, inventory and rework. A simple formula states that capacity=work plus waste; if you can reduce waste you will have extra capacity to deploy on more valuable activities, or you can simply reduce the capacity and therefore your costs. Think hard about each wasteful process and how it could be eliminated by changing processes, staff specialisations, ergonomics or flow of documents.
4. Decide how to best use spare capacity
Once waste is eliminated, you may have spare capacity to apply to tasks that the customer values more highly eg creating extra content, or you could reduce the size of your team, but without undermining the value of your product.
5. Engage your teams in the change process
To get to the right solution, your team will need to be involved, in agreeing what customers value, mapping the process, and inventing ways to reduce waste. You will need to engage them positively to be able to establish and maintain the new processes.
Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital strategies for media businesses.
If you are interested in discussing how lean operations thinking could help your business deliver better value to customers more efficiently, then please contact us to arrange a no-obligation discussion