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Case study

Working with Oxford University Press to protect a 500-year-old brand reputation

Oxford University Press needed an efficient way to manage its global business partner relationships. Together, we created a cloud-based data platform that gives a real-time view of its business partners, including suppliers, agents, authors and customers, reducing third-party risk and protecting its reputation.

The challenge

Ensuring up-to-date, consistent information on business partner relationships

As the world’s largest university press, with a reputation earned over more than five centuries, Oxford University Press’s (OUP) brand is an incredibly valuable asset. The organisation has offices in 50 countries, so it works with a complex network of global business partners. To protect its brand and reputation and manage risks, OUP must carefully assess every new third-party relationship and keep an eye on any changes involving existing ones.

In late 2020, OUP began moving its due diligence processes to the cloud. It did this to align compliance processes across all its global operations, which previously used a mix of digital and paper-based systems. It wanted a fully integrated digital process – from risk assessment to due diligence to tracking and reporting - that would identify, address and mitigate potential risks involving the organisations it does business with.

“It’s not just about the technology. It’s about being brave to change processes and mindsets to exploit new digital capabilities. At PwC, we are able to use our experience from similar clients to offer the best and most compelling solutions. Couple that with a great partner like OUP, which shares the same values and commitment to digital change, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a truly successful programme.”

Sudheer ParwanaData and Analytics Director, PwC UK

The approach

Virtual collaboration, rapid development and deployment

Starting in the autumn of 2020, we began working with OUP to implement our cloud-based MyThirdParty solution for managing business partner risk. MyThirdParty’s online platform lets organisations capture and manage data to provide validation, real-time reports and a full audit trail of records and changes related to business partners.

We started with a series of facilitated workshops to assess how OUP currently worked; this involved challenging existing processes and examining how these could be improved through digital automation techniques using analytics and the cloud. Guided by our experience with other such implementations, our combined teams then designed a solution built on new processes and technologies, including continuous real-time screening of risk-related corporate data via Dow Jones. Discussions were held using virtual collaboration technologies to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While configuring MyThirdParty for OUP’s specific needs, we worked in an agile way to demonstrate progress and show visibility into how the solution would work. We also supported OUP throughout internal testing and rollout. As this was taking place, data was migrated from OUP’s legacy systems to the new platform, ensuring everything would be ready from Day One.

After implementation was completed, we began training OUP staff on how to use the technology.

The impact: Clear, efficient access to business partner data, all in one place

Meeting project objectives

The new MyThirdParty platform enables OUP to stay on top of developments and emerging risks related to its business partners.

For example, the platform provides continuous updates to corporate data through Dow Jones, automating a process that previously required OUP to conduct time-consuming, manual checks for changes in the status of its partners. These could include regulatory issues, sanctions risks, company acquisitions or new environmental, social or corporate governance (ESG) risks. The solution also allows business partners to input data directly and sends out questionnaires when updates are required. All information regarding OUP’s business relationships can be found in one place, ensuring clear audit trails.

OUP also gained new efficiencies through the platform. For example, the system provides clear visibility to ensure there is a single record for business partners shared between different divisions at OUP. 

We plan to support and update the MyThirdParty platform to provide OUP with even more capabilities. These might include, for example, predictive analytics to help OUP anticipate possible risks involving business partners before they develop. The seamless transition to the new platform has provided OUP with much richer granular data that can support such future analytics.

Challenges

We normally use different platforms for remote collaboration, with OUP preferring to share documents via Microsoft Teams rather than email. By working together with OUP on its Teams platform, we ensured a single version of truth for all the information shared, demonstrated flexibility, strengthened trust, and fostered an open working relationship with the organisation.

“Moving to this new way of managing business partner risk has been a giant leap forward for Oxford University Press. We now have an automated, real-time and digital system to help us manage our business partner relationships, and it’s consistent across all our global offices. It’s been a game-changer for us. PwC’s support and guidance throughout this change were invaluable. The results we see today are proof of our strong and trust-based working relationship.”

Susan ArmourGroup Ethics and Compliance Officer, Oxford University Press


Lessons learnt

We expect to continue using collaboration tools like Teams in our work with other clients. Thanks to its success in working remotely with OUP during the pandemic, we also plan to continue working together virtually with other global clients rather than through on-site meetings alone.

Impact

OUP has a more efficient, automated way of managing risks related to business partners – all centralised and consistent across the organisation. This ensures its due diligence processes are being fully and properly followed. And that provides considerable peace of mind in a world where unidentified risks can quickly escalate into large, costly exposures on a global scale. For a storied brand like OUP, that kind of security will help it quickly access real-time data, make good decisions, respond swiftly to potential issues, protect its reputation and stay resilient and agile well into its sixth century of existence.

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