The most reliable digital workflows are transparent: everyone who uses them to create content knows how and why things work the way they do. The most reliable digital workflows are also simple and predictable. Organizing a workflow to be transparent and simple starts with deliberate planning.
For a project that examined the value of XML workflows in publishing, Laura Dawson and I assembled a checklist for publishers looking to create a simple, effective digital workflow. Our 12 recommendations were grouped in three broad categories: begin with the end in mind; commit to sustained change; and remember that it’s not (just) about digital formats.
“Beginning with the end in mind” broke down into five other efforts:
- Establishing and evaluating customer (end-user) requirements
- Modeling both operational and strategic benefits of digital workflows
- Ranking key business benefits
- Fostering objective measures of success, and
- Capitalizing on new, downstream uses as quickly as possible.
In a similar way, “committing to sustained change” involved:
- Assessing processes across functions and handoffs
- Soliciting senior-level support
- Obtaining buy-in
- Planning for early wins, and
- Exploiting the value of prototyping.
The last part, “remembering that it’s not (just) about digital formats”, is particularly important in the current environment. Publishers can make a range of decisions about when to “start” with digital. Whenever that occurs, publishers should ensure and enhance their ability to capture and share deep editorial knowledge.
Both Laura Dawson and I offer one caution: start with desired capabilities, not formats. A rush to design a poorly conceived system always costs more in the end.
Because the most reliable digital workflows are simple and transparent, it is worth taking time to plan how they are created and managed. The 12 checklist recommendations provided here can help you create that kind of workflow.