In 1998, the emergence of desktop publishing, digital printing and the Internet created an unprecedented opportunity for authors: self-publishing. Author Solutions was at the forefront of this pivotal change in the publishing industry and continues to be a global leader in self-publishing. Its imprints have helped more than 225,000 authors realize their dreams of publishing and have brought more than 310,000 new titles to market.
When COVID-19 hit and everyone was sent to work from home, Author Solutions was able to move all of its domestic U.S. employees home and have them fully operational very quickly. CIO Joe Steinbach credits that to important work Author Solutions had already done with its partner, Advantage Communications Group.
"On the U.S. side," explains Steinbach, "we moved everybody to the work-from-home situation in three days. We got everybody out, everybody moved, and that was because of the work we had done with Advantage on our phone system and some of the communication platforms prior to to the pandemic hitting."
Author Solutions locations in other areas around the world were a more difficult challenge. With spotty connections and poor bandwidth for many of those employees, the company adopted a hybrid model of satellite offices that were still socially isolated.
"We have a lot of people who want to want to stay remote," says Steinbach, "and we've worked out a lot of the the initial issues. It seems that, of my direct reports, the only people who really want to come back to the office are the ones who have kids at home."
Steinbach then observes, "We're definitely in a different world order. Before this happened, the concept of work-from-home environment or not having people directly in the office and all the misconceptions that are tied to that -- that people don't work unless you're hovering over them and all that -- has been dispelled and there's a lot more of an acceptance, and there's a lot more openness to staying in a work-from-home or a remote environment. The things that were more difficult were how do you deal with the the isolation and the mental health effect of people being separated."
Steinbach credits the creative community at Author Solutions for coming up with virtual happy hours and other activities that went a long way to resolving these difficult issues.
Steinbach appreciates the opportunity to work closely with the team at Advantage. He describes how they took him through the various options available to him when Author Solutions was upgrading its communications.
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"We didn't just change the the phone system," he notes. "We actually changed the whole way we interact. The new phone client allows us to now have group meetings, to have chat, and to do a lot of things that became absolute necessities, in a remote workforce situation." Those things have improved processes and increased responsiveness throughout their enterprise, including service operations and human resources management.
Sam Riegel, director of enterprise sales at Advantage, recalls that Author Solutions' original request was to integrate its phone system with contacts in Salesforce to eliminate a great deal of manual work being done to reconcile and update various database issues. He points out, "If you have up-to-date interactions and you're working across multiple teams, multiple time zones, just having a single source of truth where it's regularly up and available, it gives you a lot more power and flexibility to get those updates out quickly."
Steinbach expands upon this, adding that the process improved their security posture, providing secure systems and allowing them to share business information with various resources remotely with superior security.
Riegel observes, "The desktop matters more and less than ever before. If you're running virtual desktops, you've also got to take into consideration that you're doing voice and video in real-time communication. The flexibility of users using their own device is also greater than ever and can be done in a way that is both secure and functional."
As of this writing, Author Solutions has stabilized its operations with a remote workforce that is completely prepared to get the job done for the foreseeable future, thanks to its partner relationship with Advantage.