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cSubs: Bringing Content and People Together
by
Posted On September 17, 2019
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Potential users can go to the cSubs website to create a username and password, and cSubs sets the application up for them. The only requirement is that the computer be internet-accessible.

Ariba Network Ecommerce

In 2005, cSubs launched an ecommerce site with SAP Ariba, creating a PunchOut catalog that allows individuals to place and manage orders and renewals through the cSubs website. The PunchOut catalog is a hosted catalog of whatever the collections are that are currently being purchased by an organization.

The Ariba Network is a cloud-based portal that has millions of buyers and sellers. Many medium- to large-sized companies use Ariba as a procurement platform. According to SAP Ariba’s About page, “On [the] Ariba Network, trading partners from more than 3.6 million businesses, operating in more than 190 countries, discover new opportunities, collaborate on transactions, and deepen their relationships.”

SAP Ariba helps buyers automate commerce to connect with suppliers. It provides for easy invoice processing and allows buyers to collaborate more effectively with suppliers. When cSubs launched its ecommerce site on the Ariba Network, a quarter of the company’s business started coming from it—allowing cSubs to do business with big national and multinational companies.

The Clarity Service

In 2012, cSubs introduced its Clarity Service, a content and contract management application that operates off of the workflow capabilities of the Ariba Network. The Clarity Service provides cSubs customers with control over their pricing, contracts, access rights, statistics, and more. No longer do information professionals need to fret about tracking and re-negotiating their many contracts and licensing agreements. The Ariba Network makes it easier for buyers and suppliers to collaborate on transactions, strengthen their relationships, and find new business opportunities.

The Clarity Service centralizes access credentials, licensing, purchasing, terms and conditions, contract documents, and business intelligence all in one place. It helps manage everything, including multimillion-dollar licenses and compliance information, as well as memberships and subscriptions.

Some of the objectives of the Clarity Service are to help organizations make smarter decisions, become more aware of what’s being purchased, and facilitate discussions across departments and operating groups. What cSubs has discovered with some of its larger clients is that one division may be purchasing something from a publisher, only to find out that another division in the same company is also purchasing the same or similar content from the same publisher. In other words, nobody is leveraging the corporate size to try to get better terms. That’s where the Clarity Service comes in.

Partners and (Not Quite) Competitors

cSubs works with many organizations, such as InfoDesk, MassBio, Wildy & Sons Ltd., and Innovative, to deliver flexible, customer-focused services. InfoDesk, a document retrieval service, provides business briefings, taxonomies, and analytics to its customers. Legal bookseller Wildy & Sons is one of cSubs’ business partners in London, serving some of cSubs’ U.K. customers.

cSubs doesn’t really have competitors, according to Nicholas Collison, director of library support and econtent. He says he refrains from identifying them because they supply a nuts-and-bolts platform. However, cSubs does have some overlap with companies such as EBSCO Information Services, Accenture, and Williams Lea.

The future for cSubs is really about advancing its own technology and keeping to the original core value of what it does for information professionals and librarians.

Negotiation Tips

The following are a few tips to remember when negotiating with different vendors:

  • As librarians, we should have our goals already defined before identifying the right partner to collaborate with. We have to begin to level the playing field, and we can’t do that unless we are prepared to engage with potential vendors.
  • We must be willing to stand back and evaluate the needs of both the library and the vendor to discuss common goals and solutions. Moreover, it is important for us to stay true to the core values of our organization and welcome vendors into our library so that they can better understand the community and its needs.
  • We must not be afraid to push for collective negotiation; there’s more power in greater numbers. And don’t hesitate to ask for a discount. Vendors that are seeking to displace their competitor’s product might be willing to grant a discount to gain your business.
  • We need to know the value of existing subscriptions and be willing to do the homework to determine the feasibility of walking away from some vendors. Shopping around for a different vendor with better contract terms may be necessary. This means that we must have clear objectives and a strategic plan for how to obtain them.

What Vendors Should Do

Vendors need to be prepared to provide usage statistics and other metrics to help librarians assess the value of the service and make the case for that service to upper management. It is important for vendors to have customer service departments that are available during busy times and to cover various time zones, with toll-free telephone numbers, emails, and online chat options. Vendors should want to get to know the institution they are marketing their resources to by familiarizing themselves with the institution’s culture, strengths, and programs. They may even be willing to offer their product for a trial period at nominal cost to test it out.

Finally, librarians and vendors should take the time to evaluate their partnership so that both sides have a chance to reflect and gain perspective on what was accomplished. If there was a lack of accomplishment, it may still be important to reflect on what was unsuccessful and analyze what could be improved the next time a partnership is made. Librarians and vendors will be in business together for a long time, and they both need to learn to cooperate with each other to create a win-win situation for both parties.


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Amber Boedigheimer, M.L.S., is a member of SLA and the Oregon Council of County Law Libraries.



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