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The Hard Part

I’ve talked a lot lately about how metadata is to marketing efforts.

And certainly I’ve spoken and written a lot in the past about an XML workflow, and how critical that is to developing the sort of publishing that will be required of us in the near future.

I don’t think anything I’ve said is particularly controversial, even among the most paper-pervy of publishers.


Nobody said it was easy.

Dominique Raccah talks about running two companies at once – the company you’re currently running and the company you are scoping towards in the future. (The future happens fast.) Retooling anything systematically – workflow, back-end systems, metadata – is disruptive. This is why companies call in enormous fleets of consultants who speak in very generic terms and look at you like they secretly think you’re from some primitive continent where nobody’s ever heard of SharePoint. (That would be Bookland, and yes, we DO know about SharePoint.)

And dealing with these guys (it is, mostly, guys – although more and more women are entering this field as well) kind of takes the wind out of your sails because you have to spend so much time explaining things when you could, in fact, be feeling a whole lot more productive if you could just get to your desk and have another crack at figuring out the Fall list.

Changing workflow is hard. And any of these processes – a new metadata strategy, an XML-first strategy…hell, even a new office building – is hard to adjust to.

In fact, it’s extremely helpful to think of these changes as a form of moving. (To a better place! With a new stove and more closets and a big patio for grilling!) First there’s the packing – assessing exactly what you have right now, sorting it into what you want to keep and what you want to throw away, and determining who’s going to help you move it (what vendors will you need?). Then there’s the actual moving – of your metadata from spreadsheets into a title management system; of your digital assets into a DAM. And then there’s the unpacking – seeing what broke along the way (oh, yes, there’s always breakage), seeing what items you need to replace, putting everything into its new space and seeing if it looks good/fits/works well there.

I hate moving. I hate it with a passion – it is nearly May and I am still raw from having moved house in November. And I completely, completely empathize with those who, while feeling some pain, are also to some degree comfortable with where they are, and who really don’t want to upset their everyday routine with the necessity of putting things in boxes. They also get it that immediately after you move, you can’t find anything you need, like a fork or a can opener (or a corkscrew, God help you, because isn’t that what you need most after the trauma?). Plus all your muscles hurt.

But of course it needs to be done. You can’t continue living in a situation where you have universally faulty wiring that shorts all your appliances, or you’re paying way too much for too little space, or the kids next door just will not stop setting your trashcans on fire. You don’t want to spend your entire time putting out fires and not getting anywhere.

So yes, moving is painful. The stress of developing and implementing a new workflow is not something anyone should underestimate. And it’s no surprise that at every company there are folks who balk. They are smart to balk. They understand immediately what a royal pain it’s going to be. But good managers will coax them along through their balking to the other side. And once you find that corkscrew, things will begin to look up.

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