Article

A Step-by-step guide to answering your publishing-tech challenge

Published on 03/12/2018

The PPA teamed up with Evolved Media and Woodwing to run a breakfast briefing on November 27 2018 to help publishers start to answer these questions, with contributions from Julian Adams, IT Director at Immediate Media, Maarten Reinders, Chief Commercial Officer at Woodwing, Russell Pierpoint, Managing Director at Evolved Media, and contributions from over 25 publishing representatives who attended the event.

 

Some of the key learnings from the briefing centred on the following questions: How to define requirements. How to deal with changing working practices. How to minimise cost, and how to plan and manage change, and are detailed below.

 

Defining Requirements

One might think this would be an easy question to answer. The problem is that it requires a complex answer. It requires understanding of current processes and workflows, including the roles and responsibilities of every member of the team. It requires a clear analysis of what doesn’t work well and understanding as to how bottlenecks, inefficiencies and problems can be solved. It also requires a vision of the future and how technology will transform the publishing landscape, and also clarity as to the company’s publishing strategy. Finally, it then requires good knowledge about technology and the vendors behind them, to assess the best solution.

 

For many publishing companies this is challenging because they have limited resources, and even where they can call on internal IT resources, those may well be focused on infrastructure, website and office products, rather than publishing and editorial technology.

 

Two clear lessons from the briefing were:

 

  1. Involve the right people in the organisation when considering requirements. Leave teams out of the decision-making process at your peril, or the eventual solution may not meet their needs
  2. Embrace the entire editorial process, so it is not driven purely by IT or production, and avoid going down a route of selecting technology on the basis of a laundry list of features per se.

 

Working Practices

When the industry talks about the publishing landscape changing, it is not only in respect of growing multi-media requirements or pressures on cost, but also the nature of the editorial process that is changing. In the past editorial and production teams would most likely be located together. Today teams can be in numerous locations, and that challenges teams to work out how to communicate effectively at each step in the editorial process.

 

Workflow solutions, such as Woodwing’s Aurora Enterprise platform, manage the process from commissioning through to production, and therefore provide information relating to ownership, status and approval of content in real-time. However, inevitably those teams who haven’t moved to such platforms have to manage manually, using spreadsheets and shared drives to post content as it becomes available.

 

Understanding where people in the editorial process will be located is fundamental to selecting the best tech approach, including whether to host in the Cloud. If the editorial team is frequently out of office, or on location, then hosting tech on-premise may well create a number of barriers as well as added cost; which hosting in the Cloud automatically solve.

 

Of course, cloud solutions do not only extend to publishing systems. They are more commonly used to hosting business services, such as email and the Microsoft suite. This is the direction of travel for many businesses, who see a lot of benefits moving their business infrastructure (or parts of it) to the Cloud. This can directly reduce internal IT support requirements, as service providers handle maintenance and updates as part of the package. It can also reduce costs, as the infrastructure moves outside and becomes an operational cost, rather than capex. Clearly, for smaller publishers who have limited IT resources, if any, it means they move their business tools onto an equal footing with larger companies; and can scale their requirements as and when necessary.

 

Two clear lessons from the briefing were:

 

  1. Make sure location is a key consideration when thinking about developing the editorial process and introducing technology, as this can dramatically change the approach
  2. Think more broadly than editorial and production when considering the Cloud, as there are a number of benefits to moving business services to the Cloud including freeing up time spent internally, as well as getting access to better tools

 

Minimising the cost of technology

Cost will always be a barrier, especially for smaller publishers. Moving to SaaS is not always the cheapest route. For example, Adobe Suite moving to this model reduced capex because it became an annual/monthly subscription, and although user’s benefit from upgrades periodically it also increased cost of ownership. Major solution vendors have followed the same model and seem to have the big publisher in mind, who clearly has deeper pockets as well as a very much greater requirements.

 

However, things are changing. Maartin Reinders, who is the Chief Commercial Officer at Woodwing, described how they were planning changes to their SaaS offering in 2019 that would appeal to the smaller publisher. Also, whilst it is at face value attractive to have one single solution for everything, it is also possible to break the editorial process down and use specific tools to solve individual parts of the process cost effectively.

 

Two clear lessons from the briefing were:

 

  1. There are a number of vendors who provide a sliding scale of features versus cost, that may help publishers become more efficient in a way that does not break the budget
  2. It isn’t always necessary to have one solution for everything, and there may be a number of tools that address specific areas in the process and are cost-effective

 

 

Managing Change

This was the topic that created the most discussion, which was informed greatly by the contribution from Julian Adams (IT Director at Immediate Media). There were two very different streams to the conversation. The first stream concerned the process of commissioning and integrating new systems. The second concerned how to manage change across existing teams.

 

The overwhelming message regarding commissioning was to be realistic about the scale of the challenge of migrating data to the new platform, and therefore to ensure adequate resources were available to manage the task and have a clear migration plan from the start.

 

Julian described the process they went through in terms of the adoption of Elvis DAM asset management, which ultimately would contain millions of assets for all the company’s magazines going back to 2015. Of course, the starting point was the existing system, and the recognition this was flawed. There were many data issues (naming and duplication to name two) and therefore as important as getting the data migrated was de-duping and assessing data in terms of rights management. The investment in time was considerable, but equally, it was essential, or the new system would have had the same flaws as the old. The benefits of the new were therefore not only found in terms of the capabilities of Elvis DAM but in the integrity of the data it held, as well as the establishment of new processes that would ensure data integrity in the future.

 

There are, of course, a number of tools that can do some of the heavy lifting. Artificial Intelligence is developing fast, and can be integrated into Elvis DAM (and other dam solutions) to process large volumes of data, and the databases themselves have tools that help achieve consistency.

 

This process was something many publishers had attempted with varying success, and a number of lessons were learned, including:

 

  1. Legacy data (in current systems) needs to be properly understood in terms of its quality i.e. whether it is fit for purpose in the future, before it is copied across
  2. Data issues need to be addressed from the outset. Naming conventions need to be set. Duplicates need to be deleted. Data rights need to be applied using clear policies
  3. Resources need to be appropriate, in terms of skill set and with capacity to handle the volume of work. The skill set is important because decisions about the data itself might require publishing, commercial or editorial knowledge, rather than IT knowledge. This needs to be built into the plan

 

In the experience of the publishers who participated at the briefing, managing change across teams was possibly the hardest challenge. The summary of the view of room was that the technology itself was only half the challenge, as any benefits from the money and time spent introducing it would only be realised if everybody used it.

 

There were a number of recommended approaches, which led to successful outcomes:

 

  1. Make sure there is proper engagement with all key stakeholders in the design of the new system, so it addresses their needs
  2. Provide adequate training, so each team and team member is properly supported from day 1
  3. Set clear and achievable objectives so every understands what is behind introducing new technology as well as what is to be accomplished, including timescales
  4. If appropriate roll new tech out gradually, perhaps either by team or function so it becomes embedded in individual parts of the business, rather than have a Big Bang release

 

If you would like to pick up any of these points or learn more about Wooding technology and how Evolved can help you develop your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

We anticipate this is one of a number of briefings that will be held at the PPA in 2019. if you want to attend a future event or be added to the mailing list, please write to Tony Treacy

 


 

Why not also read: Navigating the 7 Cs: How publishers can gain advantage from digital workflow tools written by Woodwing?