Commentary & Analysis
Transforming and Automating Workflows: Thinking out of the box Part 2
There is an assumption that as service provider there are very specific, almost predetermined ways that a workflow to support your business operations should be developed and deployed. However, sometimes, to use a somewhat overused term, you need to think out of the box. In Part 2 of this article we continue to look at some other ways to approach offerings, and workflows.
By David Zwang
Published: June 2, 2014
We have looked at various packaged workflow systems and components throughout this series. In the last article, we took a look at the impact the cloud has and will continue to have on how we approach business and business processes in the future. But how can you begin to transform your thinking and your business to prepare for this change?
Media is still in a bit of turmoil. The introduction of the web was the first shot, and it took a while for advertising placements and readers to figure out where they wanted to be. Of course, the biggest casualty has been the printed ‘news’ media. Getting a printed paper or magazine a day or a week after you have already read the story online is a non-starter. However, we have also seen the introduction and growth of more targeted special interest publications, so the market is still very much in flux.
The introduction of tablets and smartphones shook it up again. According to the most recent Internet Trends presentation by Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, the number of smartphone subscribers grew by 20% year over year, and the number of tablets sold grew at an astounding 52% in that same period.
Now that tablets are becoming more ubiquitous, we are starting to see some stabilization of user habits, and as a result, even an increase in advertising spend, although print is still, by far, the largest channel for magazines. In fact, recent studies have shown that tablet versions of print magazines usually only account for single digit consumption, but are growing. How it will play out in the longer term is yet to be seen. But like most consumer adoption patterns, it will probably take a long time to have that significant of an impact on the influence of print media. The one given is that the best way to reach a large audience is to approach them with a multichannel solution, and that is true for publications as well as sales and marketing campaigns.
In response to the last article, I received a number of questions relating to a topic that has been frequently covered here on WhatTheyThink; “If I am a printer, how do I look at ways to expand my offerings to supporting the broader cross media production and distribution needs of my clients? I just don’t see myself or my company as a marketing services provider”.
First of all, I think that some of the confusion may rest in the terminology we use and how we translate that into something actionable. The skills required to develop successful marketing plans are not usually resident within most print service providers. Of course, they can be acquired through hiring, partnerships and acquisitions, but there is a much more obvious way to leverage the skills inherent in all print service providers, and use that to enhance their relevance and bring new opportunities in an increasingly cross media marketplace.
Many of the companies I have worked with have added marketing support services to their offerings. Now it may sound like a semantic difference, but the skills needed to create a marketing campaign are very different than those required to support the production and distribution needs of a marketing department or advertising agency. Production and support skills are inherent at all print service providers. This is what you have been doing all along. Ultimately, these skills are epitomized in the reliable and optimal management of production processes. This approach also doesn’t put you in the position of competing with existing or future clients. Some of the tools required to support these efforts have been discussed in previous articles.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “What is the ideal solution and approach for my company.?” The vast majority of large and small businesses and service providers I visit have working systems and processes. And for the most part, they seem to have many disparate processes, all originating from a ‘need trigger’ that was usually addressed without the luxury or benefit of being able to do a big picture review. While flying by the seat of your pants may work in the short term, I can safely say that stepping back and taking a 1000-ft. view of what you are doing and how you are doing it is always a valuable exercise. Starting from there and then identifying the best approach to add these new services and tools will usually give you the best long-term results. I have covered the best practice of mapping your existing workflows in past articles.
Do you really need to start thinking out of the box? Alternatively, if it isn’t broke why fix it?
Dr. Joe, (aka Dr. Doom), or most likely some impostor using his name, recently presented some very upbeat statistics on the current state of the industry. Unfortunately, some companies didn’t survive the changing market. However, many printing companies did see the market changing and embraced new offerings, methods and technologies. They worked with their clients who were also feeling the effects of these changing markets to define new products and services. They also found that just adding digital printing equipment doesn’t make you efficient; and in fact, even with new offerings, without re-engineering your internal processes, it can make you even less efficient. So the profit leaders also took the time to look at their internal processes to see how they could streamline and automate much of their production in order to reduce costs.
If a content creator, marketer or print service provider is interested in learning more about the opportunities that digital print, marketing support and other allied services can bring, there are many resources available they can use to learn about them. Industry publications like WhatTheyThink, blogs, conferences, and vendor-hosted events are great sources of information. Additionally, there are many qualified and talented industry consultants like myself that specialize in working with them to help identify and make the necessary changes to their businesses to help craft their products and messaging to ensure their successful transition.
In the next article, we will continue to look at a how companies have found that automation can create amazing efficiencies that enhance their customer experiences while reducing cost and cycle time.
Remember, if you have any topics you think are important and would like us to cover during the balance of this series, please let us know! Or if you are a print service provider with a unique, integrated end-to-end workflow and would like to be featured, we’d love to hear from you.
For more detail on some ways to automate and transform your workflows, download an informative whitepaper, "Automating and Optimizing a Book Production Workflow."