How Sdu unified and simplified

multiple content management systems in PublishOne

Former state publishing house, Sdu, is the second-largest legal publisher in the Netherlands. As one of the first two companies to be awarded the “royal” appellation by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1806, Sdu has a long and distinguished history.

Today, Sdu publishes a variety of both paper and digital content – from case law journals to comprehensive legal books. However, over time, the company has accumulated several content management systems in order to accommodate different publishing formats and areas of law.

With several systems in place, workflows and day-to-day operations were different in different areas of the business. This made it difficult for employees and authors to switch to a different type of publication without extensive onboarding and training.

To stay competitive and overcome the administrative and financial burden of separate workflows and maintenance, Sdu recognized the need to modernize. That’s when they approached PublishOne to help streamline their content management systems.


“Before PublishOne, you would get a file through email. You would have to store it, and send it on to someone else. Then, when you got it back, you’d have to file a new version. Now that’s all done in PublishOne. It makes it a lot easier!”

  • Judith Van Wijk, Sdu

The Challenge
Sdu publishes a range of legal documents in a variety of formats. Although privatized and no longer state owned, the company still has responsibility for state publications alongside its titles, including legal journals, magazines, and books. Due to the depth and breadth of its list, the company developed separate systems for managing content in different formats.

This meant that each format had entirely separate workflows utilizing completely different systems. Whether custom-built or an out-of-the-box solution, each of these content management systems required ongoing maintenance, either in-house or from an external vendor. Not only was this not cost-effective, it also meant content and data were siloed within different parts of the organization – making clear oversight and transparency time-consuming and nearly impossible to attain.

In total, there were seven different content management systems in play at one time, including one for news, one for case law, and multiple systems for different legal commentaries. That meant multiple teams working with multiple vendors. In addition, at that time, their books weren’t in a content management system. With some legal volumes reaching up to 2,000 pages, this made publishing and updating them cumbersome and time-consuming. It was also common practice for Word files to be shared back and forth via email.

Internally, employees would learn how one system worked, then they would leave or go on holiday and someone else would need to take over, either in the short term or the long term. In some instances, that person would then need to learn new skills and a new system very quickly – which would take time and money, and increase the likelihood of human errors.

Externally, handling content from over a thousand authors, who could be working across different content management systems, was also a challenge – especially when ever-changing case law necessitates timely updates. Much of the work involves external legal experts maintaining previously written commentaries with changes and updates. For that reason, they needed an intuitive and easy-to-use system, which could seamlessly push updates across multiple formats.

At the time, Sdu was using and maintaining several systems and different content formats, with varying workflows, and user journeys to author, edit, and publish huge volumes of content: 20 case law journals, 20 commentary titles, and more than 20 magazines (going out between 6 and 17 times per year), plus a catalogue of book titles, and news on a daily basis.

What they needed was a single system with templates to help standardize each different format.

The Solution
Since 2017, Sdu has been using PublishOne to handle their magazine content. As a tried and tested solution, they saw the value it could bring to other areas of the business, particularly for detailed publications, which required precise and frequent updates from external authors.

With their magazine segment providing proof of concept, Sdu were confident about unifying their content management systems, from seven into PublishOne. They also saw the opportunity to bring books into the same system as other publications. With such a large catalogue of content, it was a huge undertaking, so Sdu decided to put together a PublishOne team to co-ordinate their efforts.

This includes Judith Van Wijk in content house, who links editors with technical teams. As part of her role, she takes ownership of the templates and metadata required to ensure optimum efficiency in PublishOne. Her team also provides a single point of contact for any questions when something goes wrong, or a change is needed.

Now everything is in one place, there’s only one system to learn, so it’s much easier for staff and external authors to learn how to use it effectively and efficiently. The learning curve is much flatter and there are fewer organizational layers to peel back in order to get something resolved. What new authors like about PublishOne is that they can work in their preferred app, like Microsoft Word, rather than learning a new and unfamiliar proprietary software with different functionality.

With PublishOne, there’s no longer a need to email files back and forth. Managing different workflows is much cleaner and simpler than before, so the leadership team has much clearer oversight, from the first draft to the publication date. As early adopters of Business Intelligence software (initially PowerBI), Sdu can now use PublishOne to its full potential, creating management overviews to uncover actionable insights.

Whether publications are paper or digital, the time to publication has been greatly reduced, and content created in PublishOne is now stored in Sdu’s content web chain where it gets pushed to different online publications. By creating once and publishing everywhere, PublishOne makes it faster and easier to publish.

Where Sdu really achieved project efficiency was through establishing their own PublishOne team, helping different business units to migrate to PublishOne, and making the user experience consistent across the company. They also benefitted from an internal champion showing others the way forward, which was really useful for getting changes made quickly.

Sdu has recently migrated the last three major content management systems to PublishOne. They’re still innovating and finding new ways to use the software to leverage further business benefits. And they also have monthly catch up calls with PublishOne as part of an ongoing, collaborative partnership.


“If a member of the team has a question, or if we have a problem, they’re answered quickly by PublishOne.”

  • Judith Van Wijk, Sdu