The rapid shifts in publishing over the last few decades has lead most publishers to realize that the tried-and-true processes that served them well in the twentieth century may be hindering their ability to respond to the demands of twenty-first century publishing. Oftentimes part of the solution is a revision to the tools and technologies used to publish content. Technologies and tools can serve to catalyze and support needed change in an organization, but they cannot guarantee a successful outcome.
One person’s hero becomes another’s zero
It is tempting to look at successful peers for leadership when looking for effective revisions to your publishing workflow. After all, if a set of technologies and tools enables others to succeed, wouldn’t the same approach succeed in any similar organization? Apparently the answer is “no” based on the number of failed attempts to address digital publishing requirements. Never forget that the success you see elsewhere is not just fueled by tools and technologies. There’s a lot of work involved in the transition as well.
Is it the hammer or you?
It is tempting to blame the technology or tools when a transition begins to go badly. But remember, you cannot expect success with today’s tools to succeed if you apply legacy techniques when using them. The tools of an 18th century blacksmith couldn’t expect to compete with those of the industrial age. By the same token, modern tools cannot hope to achieve their promise with the techniques of the blacksmith. Modernization is doomed unless the blacksmith also changes. It is easy to blame the tools and technologies when transitions fail. Doing so, however, will only return you to your past – and a slow decline as more adaptable organizaeetions overtake you.
Change is often a slog rather than a glorious revolution. Never forget that it takes real effort to support a transition. Any transition will be accompanied by resistance and temptation to return to the past. Don’t forget to prepare for the effort needed to move your organization after the tools are deployed.
Think about likely objections in advance. Be ready to address the real problem that lies behind the objections. Here are a few common examples when moving from traditional to digitally-oriented processes:
“These tools are impressive technologically, but won’t work for us. We need something more like our old tools.”
This explanation is often heard when those using the new tools or technologies have not had the time and/or training to understand the new environment. It is a challenge to continue production while migrating to a new environment. Unless those participating are properly prepared for the additional effort and given the appropriate resources, there is a good chance the transition will not succeed.
Provide training and resources to the staff as well as a knowledgeable champion who can serve to help facilitate a transition. When identifying such a person don’t assume they will be the masters of your current systems. After all, masters of the artisanal processes may not be the right fit for transitioning to a modern machine shop. The current masters are no doubt critical to the future of the organization, but if they are firmly rooted in the current approach they may be slow to adopt new approaches. Sometimes, turning to external sources for these examples can work. Consultants or contractors can sometimes ease the transition. Don’t forget to look for mentors in similar organizations who have made a similar transition.
“Our customer would never accept automated formatting.”
Often publishing professionals assume that the standards of the 20th century are fully applicable in the 21st century. Remember, prior to the rise of sites like Google with is sparse design and interface web sites were highly designed. While pretty under carefully controlled conditions, as browsers evolved it became costly to maintain high-design sites. Today the web is dominated by utilitarian design and interfaces.
Consider whether your consumer will notice or care about any formatting issue requiring additional programming or effort. Oftentimes formatting issues that seem critical to a professional go completely unnoticed by the consumer. In many cases faster, accurate delivery trumps artisanal design for consumers.
Do the work
Transitioning to a digital-oriented publishing strategy is challenging. It is easy to find reasons to abandon new systems in favor of the old. But remember change is inevitable if you hope to adapt to and deliver digital content efficiently. The benefits available to publishers today can only be realized if you succeed at working your way out of your legacy approach.