What is the true cost of an editorial system?

By Eva Grimm, consultant at Gothia ADB.

Original article
Gothia ADB

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This issue concerns both those who already have an editorial system and those who are considering introducing one – no matter if it is a system for magazines or one for newspapers.

I have noticed that many people don’t take into account all the costs involved and initially don’t consider all the costs over time. For that reason, evaluations of different systems and comparisons between them may not always be completely accurate.

Earlier I have written a blog entry on how to create a good requirement specification (in Swedish). There I describe how to sum up and record the needs, i.e. the requirements, your organization has.

The next step when considering a new system is to evaluate the replies from the different suppliers. When evaluating offers from suppliers, aside from the most obvious aspect which is to consider how the needs of your organization are met, you should also look at the costs of the system from different aspects.

The initial costs

The obvious thing is of course to look at the initial costs:

  • The cost of the editorial system, i.e. the license cost
  • Hardware cost
  • The cost of any consultant hours needed to configure the system. The time involved could vary a great deal between different systems.
  • The cost of adjusting the system, i.e. adjustments needed for the system to work in your organization.
  • If needed, the cost of upgrading client computers
  • The cost of other software to use with the system you purchase. With an editorial system it usually means InDesign and InDesign servers. With an advertising system it may involve systems handling advertising material from agencies and customers.

Costs over time

Offers often, but not always, include an upgrade agreement at an annual cost of about 20% of the initial license cost.

However, the upgrade agreement doesn’t include the consultant hours to carry out an upgrade. Remember to ask the supplier how often there are new versions and how extensive a normal upgrade is, i.e. how much time it usually takes. Will the supplier use external partners for the upgrade or will they themselves carry out the upgrade? Also bear in mind that if new hardware is required for the new versions of the system, there may be additional costs.

As a general rule the initial costs usually equal the costs of the following three years.

If a supplier decides to no longer support the systems which its solution initially was integrated with, there will be extra costs for the customers. The customers may have to purchase new software (and as a result maybe new client computers). They may also need to organize staff training which, apart from the directly related costs, could involve extra costs for substitute staff.

This type of decision is often made because few customers use the systems which no longer will be supported. It is likely that the customers affected would have needed to change systems in the near future anyway, maybe because few of the temporary staff is familiar with it or because it is no longer available in their country.

However, if the supplier makes the decision for us, we as customers cannot decide when the change will happen. This could mean costs will be higher than they would be in more beneficial circumstances.

Running costs

It is hard to say something general about running costs. Even if you have your own data center maybe the solution should be placed with and run by the supplier.

There might be several benefits concerning support responsibilities, but this depends on several factors. Evaluate if this is an option for you.

Support costs

Support costs can vary a great deal depending on what service level, Service Level Agreement, SLA, you need.

My recommendation is that you define your support needs already in your requirement specification where they could be taken down as non-functional requirements. Daily newspapers require solutions operating 24/7 whereas magazines publishing a few issues each year are not very sensitive early in the process when working on a new issue.

Review work procedures

In my blog entry Don’t change systems to solve your problems! (in Swedish) I say that a new editorial system doesn’t solve all your problems. The system only provides support. When introducing or switching to a new system you should take the opportunity to review all work procedures in your organization.

A lot of work is carried out outside the system based on policies, meetings, etc. A project to review procedures is as large an undertaking as the actual introduction of the system and should precede it.

Finally, if you are open to changing work procedures, it can make a noticeable contribution to keeping costs down. Adjusting the system often tends to be quite a large cost item.

By finding out all the costs mentioned in this entry you will know the answer to the question “how much is an editorial system?”

Unfortunately, I know of several organizations which introduced systems only to realize later what the total cost is. A hard-earned and unnecessary experience which many users have to pay for – make sure you avoid it!