CSE Connect Recap: What Editorial Workflow System Providers Wish Publishers Knew

Aries Systems is dedicated to supporting the scholarly publishing community by delivering robust, flexible editorial and production workflow management solutions. As best practices evolve, new business models are introduced, and workflows become more complex, it is critical for technology providers and publishers to remain aligned. To best serve our clients, service providers strive to effectively communicate clear expectations as well as maximize system support and optimization. This priority was covered in a recent Council of Science Editors (CSE) Connect webinar, What Your Editorial System Manager Wishes You Knew: How to Problem Solve Faster, on Tuesday, November 7. The webinar, which was open to CSE members and non-members, provided a platform for editorial system providers to highlight tips for publishers on system use and support.

Elysia Williams, Senior Account Manager on the Aries Client Services team, was invited by CSE to participate as a panelist. When pondering what she wishes publishers that use Editorial Manager® (EM) knew, Elysia organized her insights into two areas of focus – Technical Support and End User Communication. Starting with Technical Support, Elysia advised each of the appropriate steps clients should take when seeking support from their Aries Account Coordinator. In such cases, Aries staff often receive a generic “EM isn’t working” message and cannot proceed beyond blindly checking the journal’s site without more information. Instead, clients should formally document the steps to help Aries reproduce the problem by detailing the issue via email and providing a supporting timestamp and video/screenshot. As video files can be large, brevity is key when capturing the problem, or the client can request an online meeting with their Account Coordinator to screen record the incident.

It is also helpful for the journal to state where they have already checked for help (such as the EMHelp portal, Aries Video Library, Release Notes Archive, etc.), as Aries staff often start at the same resources and can eliminate them early in the troubleshooting process with a heads up from the customer. Noting if the problem has happened before is also critical. For a repeating issue, providing the previous reporting of that issue and any resolutions is helpful, as well as pinpointing when the error started to occur to allow an investigation into the System Administrator audit trail. Elysia noted an example when a customer reported that transfers stopped working, but checking the admin audit trail showed the site was no longer configured to allow transfers and was the journal was able to track down the user who accidentally made the change. Elysia also commented that observing which user is impacted can be a good place to start, as common support tickets originate from issues with the user’s role configurations or instances of merging two duplicate user accounts on the same site.

Shifting to the second focus area – End User Communication – Elysia stressed the importance of being proactive and transparent with communications to the journal’s end users (editorial staff, Authors, and Reviewers). Starting with the largest form of communication from EM, Elysia encouraged the use of merge fields in email letters. System merge fields automatically pull metadata from the system and insert that content into the letter, or can be used to insert deep links to prompt a specific action from the letter’s recipient. For example, a deep link can allow a user to conveniently log into the system automatically from the letter rather than navigating to EM on the web, saving time and boosting satisfaction. Additional Manuscript Detail (AMD) merge fields can be used to collect information upstream that can be used in email letters. If the hundreds of standard merge fields won’t suffice, custom merge fields can be created by the journal to insert customized text such as standard signatures, seasonal announcements, legal disclaimers, terms and conditions, marketing messages, etc.

Taking the time to customize instructional text throughout each EM site in the publisher’s portfolio is often an overlooked and underutilized area of functionality for many journals. Elysia prompted journals to ask themselves “Does your instructional text in the workflow match how your site is configured? If you were a brand-new user unfamiliar with the system, would you have clear and detailed instructions to guide you through the process and take note of any special business policies or requirements?” Elysia encourages her clients to go beyond the default text, as it is an easy adjustment or “quick win” that can have a great impact on end users and their experience with their journal. Examples of miscommunication due to insufficient instructional text reported directly from end users include an incident in which an Author submitted a PDF only to later find out that PDFs are not allowed by the journal, and a manuscript was desk rejected due to a mismatch in the formatting rules provided by the journal. Lastly, Elysia noted that many of Aries’ incoming support queries are from Authors seeking information on their submission, which Aries must then redirect back to the appropriate journal. In response, Elysia advised that journals ensure that their contact information is properly linked in the navigation bar of their EM sites and also recommended boosting transparency with Authors on the status of their paper. This can include customizing manuscript status terms for Authors in EM or proactively scheduling letters to frequently update Author on the status of their paper to cut down on the influx of anxious or confused Authors and demonstrate prioritization of their experience.

When asked what he wishes his clients knew, panelist Jamie McReickel, Director of Operations at eJournalPress, focused on three key areas – Customization vs. Standardization, Automation vs. Manual, and Reporting. Each of these three points carried a common thread encouraging journals to be mindful when making decisions and to ensure that their support requests not only align with the desired outcome, but with the thoughtful, fully-fleshed impact points along the way. When speaking to Customization vs. Standardization, Jamie noted that many customers are quick to assume the standard workflow won’t suit their unique needs and request custom development changes without first vetting all other options. Jamie advised that what may be best for one journal may not actually be best for the entire publisher or society, and often the custom development requested is not the right fix for their needs when the entire workflow is not considered in the decision. This resonated with one of the customers attending the webinar, who stated that EJPress has saved them from investing in expensive custom changes by taking a closer look at the problem and reassessing how to optimize use of the current functionality to avoid costly mistakes in the long-term.

Secondly, Jamie cautioned EJPress customers on automated workflows or tools. Although designed to streamline and simplify tasks, automation adds a layer of complexity to the underlying system and carries risk to processes or quality standards. If an Editor needs to check the results of an automated feature each time it runs to ensure accuracy, then it may be more time consuming than just doing it manually in the first place. Jamie advised journals consider how much time it will take to rectify a mistake due to automation, or if there is another point within the workflow where success of the automation can be verified for you (or by you). Additional risks beyond the obvious should be pondered, such as reputation or user satisfaction. One example noted by Jamie included an Editor that disliked the feeling of being “chased” by the journal though automated email reminders.

Lastly, Jamie touched on the third and final focus area – Reporting. First and foremost, Jamie recommends those new to reporting in EJPress to determine if the report is one to be pulled regularly, or is it a one off, before beginning. Publishers using EJPress are to follow these general rules of thumb – use existing reports to preserve accurate tracking of key metrics, use reports that are “synced” (meaning the criteria for report A yields the same counts as report B), and to request a specific/custom report when the first two options are exhausted. Jamie also promoted a recent shift in mindset at EJPress – encouraging Editors to leverage raw data through external reporting tools such as Excel, Tablaeu, PowerBI, etc. for more advanced and granular analysis.

“Being on the same page with our customers is vital to our joint success. In addition to the collaborative, dedicated 1:1 support, the behind-the-scenes perspective and experience from our seasoned global Client Services team can be a powerful resource to journals,” stated Elysia Williams, Aries Senior Account Manager. “I am grateful for the opportunity given by our partners at CSE to offer publishers helpful insights, tips and tricks, and common solutions from the Aries lens that can improve their use of the system and the subsequent relationships with their staff and end users in turn.”

To learn more about the insights from this session, a recording of the webinar is available. For support, contact your Aries Account Coordinator or get connected with us and fellow EM users. Aries Systems is a proud member and supporter of CSE.