The Easy Button
March 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
We all want simple. Sometimes simple is best, but we tend to convince ourselves, even when the data indicate otherwise, that the simplest, most straightforward answers are the correct ones. When we do that, we often find ourselves in a more complicated situation than we might have if we’d done the analysis and hard work first.
I think, in some ways, senior management at many (but by no means all) publishers want an Easy Button to simplify the route from a primarily print to a primarily digital world. It’s a trap, but not because the easy solution to any given problem could be the best. It’s because the inter-relationships of the many functions publishers have performed and will need to perform going forward are of such complexity that optimizing one process can sub-optimize the whole. So the Easy Button, however appealing, is a dangerous thing.
Because of the inter-relationships, I’d argue that structuring publishing operations going forward is a strategic matter requiring top-down direction and oversight, not a tactical issue to be addressed by individual departments, divisions or imprints. Building from the bottom up risks duplication of effort as well as sub-optimal outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Among the most important items that need thorough review and possible restructuring for an outcome that provides the highest probability of survival and a prosperous future are:
- Clarity on the vision and a coherent strategy for where the organization needs to be and what it wants to do going forward;
- Are the organizational structure and the human resources in place adequate to achieve the vision and goals or is a realignment (not necessarily downsizing) required? As an example, we still see digital groups or departments in some publishing firms, almost assuring a two-track approach to products and marketing that is inherently inefficient and increasingly antiquated;
- Are the acquisition, internal management and output of content efficient and congruent? Could more be done with title management and content management systems?
- Is workflow optimized for content creation in multiple formats? If the organization is not ready or able to adopt a full XML workflow, can it optimize its existing workflow to assure efficient outputs complete with metadata and other discovery tools.
- Are existing supply chain and distribution arrangements adequate for current and future outputs? Does the company have arrangements in place to serve global and increasingly mobile markets?
- Is the rest of the marketing mix (product, pricing, positioning,packaging, etc.) aligned with new realities? Further to organizational structure, is the marketing group integrated into the process from the acquisition of content through sale?
- Finally, is the company’s culture aligned with its vision and strategy? It’s difficult to act in an entrepreneurial and innovative environment with a culture that’s locked into a different view of what a publishing program should be.
None of these matters is easy to address as a stand-alone issue. Integrating the solutions into a coherent whole is even more difficult. Don’t fall into the trap of the quick solution or the Easy Button. Do the hard work now (and get help if you need to). It’ll pay off sooner than you think and the cost of not doing so could be steep.