How To Make Friends and Influence People

Unless you’re in charge of your publishing company, you’re going to have to convince your bosses that an XML workflow is right for your company. Even if you are the boss, you’re going to have to convince your minions that your decision to throw out decades of experience and processes is the Right Thing for Us.

Because that’s what we’re talking about here. Everyone’s comfort zone is going to be invaded. There will be doubt and sweating. The people paying for it are going to be sweating about their money. The people expected to use it are going to be sweating about their jobs. You might want to crank down the temperature in the building by a few degrees, or it’s going to get funky in there.

The only way that replacing existing workflows and systems with an XML-based one makes sense is if it’s going to save (or make) money for the business in the long run. Oh, that long run. It’s so hard to maintain enthusiasm over the long run. But that’s the only way it’s going to work. Go in thinking the magic of XML is going to transform your business in mere minutes, and you’re in for a huge disappointment.

So, the convincing. It has to be a financial argument. There’s no way around it. There will be charts and spreadsheets involved. You’ll have to figure out some metric that your businesspeople can relate to. Do you pay by the page? By the product? If you’re lucky, you have a finance department that’s willing to put this together for you. Or at least give you the current costs of everything so you can figure out how much it really costs to produce your Things.

Once you do that, you have to figure out how much it will cost to produce the Things once the new XML workflow is in place. That’s like trying to figure out how much money you’d save every month if you bought a plug-in hybrid (which you can’t) and power it with only wind power (which your utility doesn’t provide). There will be guessing involved.

One approach is to figure out what you won’t have to pay for anymore. If you’re going to try to automate composition of some kinds of pages, you might assume that the comp cost will be $0 per page. That would be a horrible mistake. Nothing costs $0 per page. Remember, somebody will still need to write the content, there will be some kind of design involved, and somebody is going to have to make corrections and get the files ready for press (assuming print) or ready to post (assuming web). You can take out some of the comp cost, but not all of it.

We assumed $0 per page comp costs. Project budgets were created based on that. Not cool.

Another thing that you might save on is data conversion. Print-to-web type stuff. XML does make that easier. You probably will save money, especially if you normally send that kind of stuff to a vendor. Should you assume that vendor cost will be reduced to $0? No. Nothing costs $0! Somebody still has to make sure the conversion worked. And if it doesn’t, somebody has to fix the problem. The cost will be greatly reduced, but not to 0.

Think of all the steps in your workflow where people touch the content. Think of which steps will be removed, replaced, or facilitated by the XML workflow. Make a CONSERVATIVE determination about how much money the XML workflow will save you. Don’t try to sell your boss a bag of magic beans.

Then put it all into a fancy presentation with lots of charts and graphs. I’d avoid cheesy clip art though. You work for a publishing company, after all.


2 Responses

  1. Some years ago, when I was advocating and developing XML. I found that the biggest stumbling block was that XML defines content, not style.

    This is the biggest problem for most designers, and even editors. Everyone is geared toward what something looks like, and not to what it IS. So when they desire to code, say a byline, they think in terms of what they want it to LOOK like, not that it’s a byline (and believe me, that’s the easiest element to comprehend).

    XML is great for those of us who understand document structure. Unfortunately, most in the graphics field are geared toward visual.

    I guess my point is, not only do you have to convince based on ROI and improved productivity. You also have to convince a large part of the workforce to shift their way of thinking about documents.

  2. Very true, and the topic of a future post. I’m thinking it will take several months of weekly posts to tell the whole story.

    Thanks for reading!

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