Why Don't Some Publishers Want Automation?

Posted by Barry Bealer on Dec 19, 2012 9:42:00 AM

Resisting Change1As a content management company, we sing the praises of our clients who have created tremendous efficiencies in publishing operations by implementing appropriate tools and technologies to reduce time to market and satisfy a multichannel publishing strategy.  The information industry is under tremendous pressure to deliver digital content in many forms to many channels.  However, some publishers are moving away from automated workflows and content transformations.  Why would an organization forgo automation in today’s complex publishing world?  Perhaps it is due to the following:


  1. Managing offshore vendors – Holding a vendor responsible for meeting quality standards and publishing timelines requires a different set of skills than incorporating publishing tools into an organization. With automation, some of the vendor responsibilities are moved back to editorial and production departments. While an offshore vendor can apply brute force on a case-by-case basis; adhering to structured formats and implementing templates enable content transformations and delivery in a sustainable and automated manner.
  2. Cutting jobs – Publishers who think that automating workflow is wonderful but equates to cutting jobs may benefit from another vantage point. Just as effective manager works with an individual to align skills with solutions, the same can be said for automated workflows. For example, technology is excellent at machine processing---XML validation, business rules validation, schematron validation.  Individuals outperfom on cognitive skills that automated technology is not equipped to tackle---content development, content curation, metadata management, new product sandboxing. Saving time with efficient workflow routines equates to realigning staff to work on value-add tasks.
  3. Conserving culture – Some organizations don’t like technology that automates workflow.  Never have, never will.  It takes communication, dedication, and training to change an organization's culture in terms of new technology adoption. Working with older toolsets (eg, Word 2000, InDesign CS3, etc.) provides a comfort level to both in-house staff and external authors. But guarding a culture against change can result in antiquated processes and missed opportunities.  
  4. Hiring vs investing – Increasing headcount is an easier sell than investing in technology. Investing in the right technology means changing the way individuals do their daily jobs but also means changing the way an organization approaches a publishing program that has worked consistently for decades.  It is no small task and investing in a new CMS is indeed a financial and organizational committment. Adding up the factors that instigate the pursuit of CMS need to be part of the investment equation---lack of automated content transformation, laborious manual workflow steps, inability to deliver to multichannels, ineffective content organization, dispersed assets, inconsistent metadata, etc.

    Rather than calculating ROI on a CMS investment try looking at the payback period when the pain points are resolved.  If you can justify an investment in automating workflow and have a payback period of a year or less this could be an easier sell to internal staff and management. 


There is little doubt that publishers have a multichannel publishing goal.  There is pressure from the consumer and the competition to produce more content, more efficiently, and to more channels than ever before. A balanced approach to making changes to people (ie, structuing teams according to skill sets), processes (ie, automating as much as possible), and technology (ie, implementing appropriate tools and technologies) results in success.  It is not just the technology that requires investment. Changing people, patterns, and culture usually requires a greater investment in time and education.

What approaches to workflow automation resulted in success at your organization? What pain points do you continue to face?

Topics: content management for publishers, CMS, workflow

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