Case Study of The Harrison-Keyes Publishing Company (from literary books to leading publisher of technical, science and business books)

 Business Management Strategy

Case Study of The Harrison-Keyes Publishing Company (from literary books to leading publisher of technical, science and business books)

(4400 words)

 

Introduction

            Harrison-Keyes was established in 1899. Publishing is the main business concern of the company.   The company overview of Harrison-Keyes was able to provide a good picture of what the company has been able to achieve so far. From the abovementioned information, it can be stipulated that the Harrison-Keyes Publishing Company was able to endure the challenges of the industry for over a century.  However, in recent years the company was faced with a problem whose resolution can prove to be either disastrous or beneficial to the depending on the actions taken. It started making its first profit by publishing the works of known literary authors. At that time, Harrison-Keyes was able to cater to the taste of the reading public. However, the time came when people shifted their interest to technical books from literature.  To be able to maintain the stature that it was able to claim for itself, Harrison-Keyes decided to shift as well. By the mid-1950s, they began publishing business and science related books. The risk that the company took paid off. From that day on, Harrison-Keyes became known as the leading publisher of technical, science and business books.

The changes that swept the publishing industry have taken a toll on the performance of Harrison-Keyes as one of the leaders in the industry. From the late 1980s to the early part of the 1990s, worldwide rationalization resulted to international publishing companies taking over smaller and regionally based publishing companies. This was the result of the market trend of books. Publishing houses that can no longer meet the demands of the markets are forced to merge with publishing houses that are still managing to survive.

Along with this, global consolidation of the industry became a large part of the corporate strategies. Publishing companies extended their scope to electronic media, film library and production, radio, television and databases. In addition, these same companies are also responsible for introducing new technologies into the industry (Lewis, Morkel, Hubbard, Davenport & Stockport, 1999). This gave them more edge in the industry by spearheading new game strategies and thus changing the forces that affect the competition phase. With the growing acceptance of other entertainment media, books have to compete with movies, music and other forms of entertainment in order to maintain there position in the global market.

One of the new technologies that are becoming known in the publishing industry is the publication of e-books. E-books are web-enabled devices that allows the user to read the contents of a book through an LCD screen (Cashman, Shelley & Vermaat, 2002). The information that are being displayed by the device, portable or otherwise, are being downloaded via the internet. A number of people are now opting to use e-books rather than printed books.  According to the Open eBook Forum (2003), sales of e-books by retailers increased in 2003 to 660,991 units or a 40 percent increased compared to the 471, 995 units sold the previous year. The increase of sales by publishers in higher than that of the retailers, which is at 60 percent increase.

In line with the digitizing world, the century old publishing company, Harrison-Keyes, is attempting to make the transition between the traditional printed books to publishing e-books. The new CEO of Harrison-Keyes believes that by offering e-book versions of their printed books, they will be able to survive the changes that occur in the industry. This is believed to be the case since the research that the company found out that the trend in e-book sales is increasing and if the trend continues, it is possible that e-book sales will provide a significant amount in profit for the company.

Since e-publishing is still in its infancy, the move by Harrison-Keyes to initiate e-publishing at this stage indicates that there success may mean that they can be leaders in the e-publishing business. As such, Harrison-Keyes sees the e-publishing initiative as an opportunity for the company to continue its existence well into a hundred years or more. They recognize that in order for them to breakaway from the seemingly stagnant publishing industry, they must be able to heed to the call of the market and at this stage, the world is craving to be digitized.

However, the road to success is not always easy to access.  In the case of the e-publishing initiative of Harrison-Keyes, they found out that there is more to e-publishing than meets the eye. In the beginning of the e-publishing implementation, the company run into a couple of problems that is threatening the whole project all together. These problems need to be addressed immediately if Harrison-Keyes is to successfully venture into e-publishing.

The problems of Harrison-Keyes are centred around the hesitation of some players within the organization regarding the effects of e-publishing on the general operations of the company. For one, the writers are not entirely in favour of publishing their works in digital form. They fear they will loose in the process due to piracy. It is also the case the company is not yet ready to take on the demands of e-publishing. They are not fully equipped to see through the digitization of their books. This implies that they company is not yet digitized to produce books in digital format.

With these problems at hand, the company needs to find a way to overcome the obstacles in order to reach their goal of joining the growing population of the digital community and market. The resolution of these problems will allow the company to experience the promises of the opportunities that they projected. The resolution of these problems will be the focus of this report. The length of the report is aimed at providing the best possible solution for the issues that surrounds the e-publishing initiative of Harrison-Keyes.

 

Definition of the Problem

            It was stated earlier that e-publishing is still in its infancy. This implies that the venture has been studied in-depth to check for harmful implications. It is also the case that the market of e-books is still in the process of being established and stabilized. There is no certainty that the sales increase of e-books will continue long enough for new comers to successfully integrate themselves into the circuit. It is also the case that there are issues that has not bee fully addressed yet. One such issue is the possible looses that companies and writers can incur due to online piracy.

These problems hold back publishing houses from submersing themselves in to the digital age of book publishing. The uncertainty about the future of e-publishing is hindering Harrison-Keyes from taking the risk.  The hesitation is brought about by the division of opinion among the key players in the company. In order for this one obstacle to be overcome, the whole organization must set to rectify any misconception and clear all doubts about e-publishing.

However, before any clarifications of rectifications can take place, company must first identify the problematic areas. This will help them focus on the issues that need to be tackled in-depth. The production of e-books is already lagging and is on the verge of not meeting the set deadline. Therefore, the identification of the major issues and addressing them appropriately and adequately will save the company time and resources. The following pages will be outlining the major issues that is causing the set back in the e-publishing initiative of Harrison-Keyes. In turn, this outline and the end state goals of the company will be the basis of the recommended solution to be presented at the end of the report.

The first problem that needs to be addressed is the objection of the writers in converting their works into e-books. The writers, most especially one of the most prominent writers in Harrison-Keyes roster, Will Harper, fear that they will be loosing hundreds of thousands of royalties if their books were to be converted to e-books. This notion is brought about by the fact that online piracy is rampant and that the battle against has not yet been won by the authorities.

The objection of the writers in the e-publishing initiative posses as a threat since the company will not have any books to e-publishing if their writers refuses to turn in there works or, worst, shift publishing houses. Any efforts of the company to enter e-publishing will prove to be futile if their writers do not believe in the potentials and possible benefits of the move to them.  The problem of objection from the writers block will continue to pursue if the company is unable to convince the writers that e-publishing will not be jeopardizing their interests.

In addition, the problem of writers’ objection is worsened by the fact that the agreement between the writers and the company only covers the digitization of new titles and not backlists. This implies that if Harper and his fellow writer decide to leave Harrison-Keyes over the matter, the company will be left with practically nothing to publish. The position of the writers can also cause the board to doubt the feasibility and benefits of the e-publishing initiative. However, if the writers were to side with the management then chances are the board will be confident in pursuing the digital venture.

Another problem that Harrison-Keyes faces is the perceived inefficient performance of an outsourced company commissioned to do the formatting of the e-books. Based on the attempts of Jan Peters and Meg McGill to contact Asia Digital Publishing, the outsourced company was still unable to meet the set deadlines. As a result, the main office needed to do additional work and thus needed additional expenditures. This means that the inability of Harrison-Keyes to resolve the issue with Asia Digital Publishing will result to doubled expenses despite lagging performance.

At the end of the rope, there hangs the issue of the incapacity of current Harrison-Keyes hardware to support the loads of e-commerce software that will allow them to sell their titles directly from their website. If the problem is not resolved as soon as possible or before the set time of e-book title release, the company will have no other option but to resort to posting or selling their titles through established online booksellers such as Amazon.

This means that the company will once again need to provide the necessary expenditure to pay the third party retailer and to be able to fox the technical difficulty that they are experiencing at the moment. Even though, the option to sell their title through a third party vendor, it is still the case that the expenses for such decision has not been projected prior to the launch of the e-publishing initiative. This can send the signal that a disaster is looming in the horizons.

 

A Peek into the future

            It can be stated that Harrison-Keyes is in a transition phase. They are currently attempting to bring their business into a new age where the traditions that they have been following for the past century needs to be altered. This need is based on the fact that the new age calls for the changing of perspectives and the manner of operation. This suggests that in order for Harrison-Keyes to successfully launch and maintain an e-publishing venture, they undergo changes as an organization first.

According to Gillman and White (2001), having a mission statement helps business in two ways. The first one is that these statements help to communicate both internally and externally.  Through mission statement, employees will be informed about the beliefs of the company as well as how the values that the company aspects their employees to share with them.

Therefore, mission statements emphasize the role of every employee. This means that the introduction of a new mission statement to Harrison-Keyes will result to the definition of the people responsible for overseeing each aspect of the operation and thus clarifying the organizational structure of the company.

The second way in which a mission statement can help businesses is through committing the company to a philosophy. Under this statement, employees and the company itself will be making a promise to themselves as well as to the future of the company (Gillman & White 2001). In a way, mission statements are like cultural glue that will hold the company together and allow it to function as a collective unit (Fahrman 1993).

This means that the mission statement will summarize the dreams that the company wants to realize. However, mission statements must also be action-oriented. It is not enough that the company outlines their objectives. The mission statement must also provide an outline on how the company will be able to realize their objectives. This is the case since mission statements are descriptive (Pearce and Robinson 1994; Ackoff 1987; Peters 1988; Campbell, Devine, and Young 1990; Falsey 1989) as well as prescriptive (Pearce 1982, Pearce and David 1987; Want 1986), whose presence is essential to the survival and growth of the business (Levitt 1960; Drucker 1973; Peters and Waterman 1982).

Mission statements are also being regarded as important in strategic management and planning. According to Pearce and David (1987), large companies that deliver higher performance have more comprehensive mission statements compared to firms that are relatively less successful. The view that mission statements are important in strategic management and planning is suitable to the case of Harrison-Keyes.

Transition phases bring about difficulties to the business (Kazanjian 1988; Churchill and Lewis 1983; Scott 1970), mission statements will be able to guide companies in order to overcome these difficulties. Although, there are only limited empirical support some studies have concluded that mission statements are valuable and they help in increasing a company’s profit (Rarick & Vitton 1995; Klemm, Sanderson & Luffman 1991; Germain & Cooper 1990; Falsey 1989; Pearce & David 1987)

The case of Harrison-Keyes requires a mission statement that will reflect their position in the digital community and market without forgetting the traditions that allowed them to survive for more than a hundred years. The position that Harrison-Keyes needs to take in the globalizing era should be that of a leader. This would reflect that they aim to lead the industry into another era of publishing. In addition, they should be able to express that they will incorporate the quality of the printed books that they have been offering into the digital medium demanded by the current market. Below is a sample mission statement that can be use by Harrison-Keyes

 

Draft Mission Statement

“Harrison-Keyes aims to be the preferred choice for highly informative business and scientific books, printed and digitized, of the international market”

In order to achieve this aim, Harrison-Keyes will:

-continue to quality books as been practiced for more than a hundred years

– facilitate information dissemination to the public by broadening the reach of the information

– heed to the call of the market for changes that will improve the quality of books being published

– ensure the profitability of the company in order to pursue the goal of the organization

 

Alternative Solutions

            This section of the paper will be presenting alternatives that will address the issues that Harrison-Keyes faces. There will be three alternatives presented. This will allow the company to evaluate the best possible alternative to be implemented. The presence of choices will allow the company to effectively evaluate the alternatives since they will have something to compare each alternative with and make the decision based on the alternative that was able to answer the issues at hand.

 

Alternative 1: Postponement of the Launching of the E-books

 

The first alternative being proposed is the postponement of the launching of the e-books. This means that the company will only have to move the deadlines in order to make way for the resolution of the problems. If the company decides to postpone the launching of the e-books, they will be able to make time to contact the outsourced company and discuss and finalize the lay-outing of the e-books as well as other services needed. This will save them resources since they would not have to do the task that should be handled by the Indian company.

The resources saved from the resolution of the external issue can be redirected to the procurement of the hardware needed to sell the titles in Harrison-Keyes own website. Another cost can be eliminated since they will not have to commission the services of third party online booksellers. In addition, the time can be used to convince the writers about the benefits of e-publishing.

 

Alternative 2: Continue the current activities and shoulder all unforeseen expenses

 

In order for Harrison-Keyes to meet the deadline that they have set for themselves, they would have to take full accountability of the mishaps that have been occurring. This means that there should be no room for bickering and pointing fingers as to should be responsible for the shortcomings that resulted to the problems they are facing.  Only then can they go about on picking up where the left and attempt to finish everything themselves.

Priorities must be set. For example, if the outsourced company is not responding to the calls of Harrison-Keyes and internal people can do the job, then they must resort to foregoing with the outsourced company and immediately begin working on lay-outing themselves. After which, they would have to sacrifice more capital to the project for the purchase of the upgrades needed to set up the online store directly into their website. On top of all of these, there must be continuous activities done in order to convince the writers that their interests will be protected once the project pushes through.

 

Alternative 3: Postponement of the implementation of the e-publishing initiative

 

            It is evident that the company was not able to efficiently plan the implementation of the e-publishing initiative. Because of the lack of sufficient planning, the company is now suffering from major set backs that jeopardizes the completion of the transition to digital medium.  With this is mind, it is only necessary that the management and all the parties involved to go back to the drawing board.

This means that a complete planning must take place including the drafting of a contingency plan and risk assessment. This will allow Harrison-Keyes to foresee any problems that may arise in the process and address them even before they take place. Like in the first alternative, the company will be able to sort out things before they push through any activity pertaining to the e-publishing initiative. The difference between the first alternative and the third is that the third alternative will provide more time for the company to ensure that everything is in order.

For example, the case of the writers’ objection to the initiative can better be countered if the management can provide concrete data to the writers explaining how theirs works will be protected under the e-publishing project of the company. They can cite the International standard Book Number, EAN Bar code and digital content Protection Systems as means of ensuring the copyright protection of the e-books (Jay, 2006). Researching and strengthening the defence of these protection systems needs time. Therefore, the argument of the management against the notion of the writers can be more effective with more time for research.

All of the alternatives mentioned affect the management level of the organization. This is the case since the problem sprang form the decisions and actions taken by the management. The resolution of the problems there lays at the hand of the management team by rectifying their mistakes. Although, it is important the subordinate level must also be considered, the corrections made in the management level can result to the flow of information and rectification down to the lower levels of the organization.

 

Assessment of the Alternative Solutions and Alternative Solutions in Relation to End-goals

            The end goal of Harrison-Keyes as stated earlier is to become the preferred source of business and science information of the reading public. In order for this to be achieved, the solution that should be implemented must closely follow a path that will allow the company to be profitable in order to continue on providing the high quality books to the market. In addition, it was also stated that the company it to take upon themselves to broaden the reach of the books being published. One way of doing this is to continue with the e-publishing initiative since the internet is one of source of information that knows no boundaries.

In relation to the alternative presented earlier, all of the alternatives heeded to the call for broadening the market reach of the company since they all included the continuation of the e-publishing initiative. However, the difference between the three alternatives is the extent of profit that each alternative will be able to yield for the company. It must be reiterated that it is also in the interest of the company to ensure its profitability in order to achieve its goal.

This means that alternative number is less likely to become a candidate based on the fact that it will not be able to save the company capital rather spend more than needed. The two remaining alternatives aim to save the company more money in order to push through with the project. The question now becomes which of the two alternatives will allow the company to save more capital and ensure more profit.

Based on the description of the two alternatives, the third alternative will be able to save the company more money since it will be able to address properly the risk management issues. This will allow the company to avoid disastrous business activities in the future. The point is that since the third alternative will give the company more time, it will allow the company to iron out all of the aspects of the venture and ensure that resources will not be wasted. Time constraint are two major factors in the inefficiency of the alternatives one and two. Although, the approach of alternative one is identical to alternative three, it still does not have enough time to complete all of the necessary adjustments and assessment to ensure the

 

Risk Assessment of the Best Alternative

By now, it is evident that the best alternative for the case of Harrison-Keyes is the third alternative or the postponement of the implementation of the e-publishing initiative. This was chosen based on the fact that the third alternative will put an end to financial that Harrison-Keyes is experiencing due to lack of coordination and planning. If this continues, it can be the case that the company will end up with nothing at all.

However, the possibilities that the alternative offers is not enough to be complacent about its actual performance. There is still a need to assess the risks involved in implementing the said alternative since the purpose of the alternative will be defeated if loopholes will cause unnecessary sacrifices on the part of the company. Therefore, it is important to do a risk assessment on the chosen alternative.

In doing a risk assessment, it is important to note that the primary objective is to determine the possible causes of damage. In the case of Harrison-Keyes, the primary cause of risk in alternative three is the length of time that is needed to re-implement the e-publishing initiative. If the time span is too short, there is risk of not being able to address all of the issues that needs to be resolved. This means that there is a chance for the current issues to reoccur.

On the other hand, too much time that the company spends on planning posses a risk that it might be too late for them to secure a spot in the e-publishing industry. All of the aspects may have been tackled and risk assessment may have thought of all the possible by that time, however, the interval may have resulted to newer trends were the plans made are no longer applicable.

In order to counter this, the company must set a time line and realizable deadlines in order to ensure the timely re-implementation of the initiative. In this case it is being suggested that the time would not pass a one year mark. One year is being recommended since new trends usually occur after a year. If the management team is able to re-implement the initiative within a year upon retraction, chances are they will still be able to apply the recommendations based on the trends of the current year and thus no time was wastage.

 

Recommended Solution and Implementation

            The implementation process of the third alternative or the postponements of the implementation of the e-publishing initiative will be divided into three phases. The first phase includes all activities pertaining to the e-publishing initiative to be stopped. This will allow the management to sort through the clutter since they will temporarily do not have to worry about meeting the deadline. After this, each of the people that have been delegated a task previously will have to make a repost as to what went wrong and how it could be have been fixed. The repost will also include recommendations on how re-carry out the business. In order for the reports to be deemed complete there must be a total of three reports including the report about the issues of the writers, the hardware failure and the outsourcing of the lay-outing.

The second phase is the trail and error phase. The recommendations of the reports will be implemented and if they yield positive results then the recommendation will used until the re- implementation of e-publishing initiative. If the recommendations yield a negative result then another alternative will be used in its place. During this point, re-education for all the members pf the organization should be carried out in order to instil the importance and benefits of venturing into e-publishing. Through forums, employees from all level can raise questions or clarifications. By addressing the questions properly, employees will be able to see the point of the management for going through all the trouble just to be able to produce and distribute e-books.

The third phase in the re-implementation of the e-publishing initiative with all the resources in place and the organization consolidated in the aim of providing quality books both in printed and digital format. After all, it is in the collective effort of the members of Harrison-Keyes can they overcome the obstacles that would come their way today and in the future.