The Integration Question: How Much of a Barrier to Digital Publishing is the Lack of Interoperability among Publishers’ Various Line of Business Systems?

At The Gilbane Group’s Content Technologies and Strategies service, we’re wrestling with what we think is one of the biggest challenges facing publishers moving to greater and greater involvement in the digital marketplace: How much impediment is found in publishers’ having insular line-of-business systems throughout their publishing processes?

Digital publishing’s revenues have been growing—a common marker is the statistics in ebook sales growth—and more publishers of all sorts are strengthening their digital publishing efforts. For many, the problem comes down to whether the publisher can make publishing in various ebook formats (or online aggregation, or other models) pay.  It all comes down to how easy (read: cheap) it is to determine conditions like the rights associated with a publication, or part thereof, and how easy (read: cheap) it is to get the actual content into the right form. 

Here’s a simplified example, assuming an existing print textbook.  The textbook’s publisher will have to ascertain the status of and details for all seven publishing processes, from planning through to fulfillment, as follows:
 

  • Market for and P&L of digital versions
  • Form(s) and features of the digital textbooks
  • State of rights and royalties for the textbooks, including, in all likelihood, various contributors and components, and quite possibly licensing or subsidiary rights constraints
  • Location, condition, and availability of print edition production and/or manufacturing files
  • Design, conversion, and format output requirements of digital versions
  • Promotion and sales of digital versions
  • Distribution and/or fulfillment of digital textbooks

There is need for planning and editorial to work together to figure out if the digital publications make sense; planning, royalties, and licensing to work together to provide planning with these costs and to work with sales and accounting to meet contractual obligations; editorial, production, and quite likely manufacturing to work together on the specific forms of and source material for the digital versions; production and manufacturing to work together with sales, distribution, and fulfillment, along with marketing and promotion, to get actual digital textbooks out to the end-user or aggregator.

The publishing processes most often have a lot of separate systems and platforms in play, of course. Which means when it comes to extracting money out of print titles by publishing digital editions, there are plenty of places for expenses to become significant. 

Our upcoming report, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Processes to Re-Invent Publishing, looks at, among other things, how these systems can work together, and already we are seeing a number of different strategies that make a lot of sense (read: cents).

We’ll be launching a Web-based survey for mid- and high-level book publishing professionals in about two weeks to gain a more detailed picture of the current state of digital publishing in fact, not theory.  As more and more content technology is applied to book publishing, we think that it is important to ask how well or poorly the different publishing processes can interoperate, and for that answer we need to hear from those doing the real work of publishing.
 

Ian Truscott Joins Gilbane Group as Senior Analyst in UK

I am very happy to announce the addition of Ian Truscott to our team as a Gilbane Group Senior Analyst based in London. We have had customers in Europe for many years and have wanted to expand our business with a local presence, so Ian is an especially welcome addition. Ian’s focus will be on Web Content Management, which remains our largest area of consulting, and has become even more important with the increasing influence and activity of enterprise marketing in web content strategies and purchases.

Ian comes to us from Alterian, where he was VP, WCM Product Strategy. Alterian sells a platform that combines web content management, marketing campaign management and social media monitoring tools.

A little more on Ian from his summary on LinkedIn:
“… fifteen years of enterprise software experience, ten of which working with web content management. This experience has come as a CTO, in product marketing, product development, sales and consulting – from starting my career as a computer operator and UNIX administrator. A strong web content management pedigree, having focused on web technologies for the last ten years, working with some of the major vendors and pioneers in this area. During this time I have taken various products to market, engaging with a broad range of organisations (including McDonalds, Diageo, AstraZeneca, WWE and Glaxo) and large central government departments while living and working in the USA and UK. ”

You can reach Ian at: ian@gilbane.com, or: +44 (0) 203 137 9600. Ian is an active Twitterer at @iantruscott. You can also meet Ian if you will be at our conference in San Francisco in May. You might even find Ian together with our Senior Analyst Scott Liewehr in the hotel pub amid a gaggle of other CMS industry insiders.

Welcome Ian!

(Disclosure: Alterian has been a Gilbane client, and in keeping with our strict vendor neutral policy and our ethics policy regarding clients, Alterian was fully supportive of Ian joining us, and Ian has sold all his shares in the company.)

New Gilbane Beacon on Cloud Content Management

The term Cloud Content Management has begun to appear with increasing frequency in the last few months. But what does it mean? And how is it different from Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?

Gilbane Group answers these questions in our latest Beacon, which it titled Cloud Content Management: Facilitating Controlled Sharing of Active Content. Here is how we briefly define Cloud Content Management and contrast it to ECM:

"Cloud Content Management is an emerging set of content sharing and management
practices and a supporting category of software built on an open, secure, cloud-based
platform. It is rapidly deployed and easily used to manage content, in any format, that is
actively shared among collaborators working both inside and across firewalls. Cloud
Content Management is complementary to Enterprise Content Management, which is more
focused on controlling access to static, unstructured content in TIFF, PDF, and office
productivity document formats as it is electronically captured, stored, distributed,
archived, and disposed."

The Gilbane Beacon explores the various facets of this definition and goes into much more detail as to how Cloud Content Management differs from, and complements, ECM. We urge you to download the Beacon (free registration required), read it, then return here to share comments.

Selling Content Globalization Investments to Executives

value-framework-0310.pngWhen working with enterprise clients, we are inevitably involved in helping our operational champions sell investments in content globalization practices and infrastructures. Sometimes business case support is a formal part of the engagement, and sometimes it just evolves as part of what we do to help companies create competitive advantage with content in multiple languages.

In a recent joint Gilbane/SDL webinar, we made the point that the last pitch to top executives — the one required to seal the deal for funding — is fundamentally different from the others made along the way. If you’ve made it to the executive suite, you’ve done a good job so far. But too often, we’ve seen clients fail to secure investment because they use the same approach to selling that’s enabled them to pass through the previous gates. Some common points of failure when selling globalization technology to executives include:

  • Investment focus that is too tactical.
  • Poorly expressed pain points.
  • Lack of strategic value proposition tied to the top line.
  • Vague ROI.
  • No vision that ensures sponsorship and ongoing support beyond the initial project.

These points of failure can be addressed by recognizing that the funding conversation with executives is truly different, and by restructuring the approach to presenting the value propositions related to the investment you’re seeking. For the webinar, we developed a value-oriented framework for selling globalization technology within the highest levels of the organization. Its four components, as illustrated above, can guide you through the process of creating and delivering an executive sales pitch biased for success. We used the framework to examine six ways to recast an executive sales pitch. We backed up brief analyses of weak and strong answers with data from Gilbane research and real-world customer experiences.

The recorded webinar is now available on the SDL website.

I Don’t Have Time to Read, I’m in Publishing…

Here’s an old joke of mine I’ve unearthed from the olden times when I was first a developmental editor and then an acquisitions editor at a professional resource and textbook publisher.  

If you don’t think the joke is funny, you’re right.  The feeling among those in publishing of being pressed to absurd extent is a very common one, what a good friend of mine calls “running around with your hair on fire.”  Let’s face it: the practice of publishing, with its tight margins, immovable deadlines, and wide scope of responsibilities is fraught with demands on time.  The Gilbane Publishing Practices group certainly sees this.

One of our ongoing efforts is the upcoming report, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Systems to Re-Invent Publishing, where we’re defining the many systems common across many different kinds of publishing, and describe the technological and process barriers still facing almost every publisher as it moves toward building a successful digital publishing operation.  And, yes, the demands already in place upon the various line-of-business departments are exhausting even to survey.  Add the demands placed upon publishing organizations to create processes that make digital publishing a reasonably good profit center, and it can feel that there is barely time to breathe.  Running around with hair on fire, indeed.

The Gilbane Group means content management, and the long-standing argument that the business of enterprises goes better when content is findable, retrievable, and usable has long been proved by the practices of innumerable enterprises.  With the catchphrase “Every enterprise’s second business is publishing,” it is not surprising that Gilbane has a lot of clients not only in the CMS technology vendor space, but also in the publishing end-user/implementer space.

While there are many similarities between publishers and other enterprises that have a lot of content they need to manage, there are unique aspects too.  Here are a couple examples of the differences: managing royalties and dealing with rights.

Yes, tracking royalties is a sort of accounting issue, and many enterprises—especially those dealing with a lot of rich media—need to take care with rights.  But in publishing, royalties and rights are central to the business.  How does a publisher integrate these key elements of the business with the technology platforms used in other parts of the business process?

Our upcoming report will be quite specific about the real state of opportunity in digital publishing, which means that we’ll need to answer many questions, including the ones about royalty and rights handling.  So it is our turn to run around with our hair on fire, but we promise to still have time to read your comments and inquires about our latest efforts.

Of course, it goes without saying that if one doesn’t have time to read, one probably will be hard-pressed to take a survey: nonetheless, that is exactly what we’ll soon be asking publishers to do.  The survey will be from the book publishers’ perspective and their experiences and concerns about expanding or starting digital publishing programs.  Stay tuned for more specific information on this and for the survey kick-off.

For more information about our Publishing Practices consulting services and our multi-client-sponsored studies, contact Ralph Marto.

Congrats to New CM Pros Board Members and Officers

Congratulations to recently elected officers, and to new CM Pros board members Saravanan Rajan, Brett Zucker and Ian Truscott!

Content Management is often loosely defined but covers a virtual ecosystem of vendors and practitioners. The 2010 CM Pros board extends a call to the community of practitioners to further define product niches and areas of specialist expertise. The goal is to guide the market and the people that look to CM Pros.

Board-appointed officers for the coming year are:

  • Scott Liewehr, President (Senior WCM Consultant at Gilbane Group and Principal at onesta)
  • Saravanan Rajan, Vice President (Chief Technology Officer for CoSI Consulting)
  • Ayse Kok, Secretary (PhD Student, ICT Consultant, and Researcher)
  • Brett Zucker, Treasurer (Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at Bridgeline Software)
  • Ian Truscott, Director (Product Strategist, Alterian)

Look for action from this board as they gear up for a full season of activities that will engage the Content Management community. Be sure to join CM Pros at their Spring Summit at The Gilbane Conference (http://gilbanesf.com), May 18 in San Francisco.

About CM Professionals
Founded in 2004, CM Pros provides information, expertise, and support to global content management practitioners and related professionals and the organizations they serve. Through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, educational events, and advocacy of respected practices, the association fosters a better understanding of this critically important discipline.

Join CM Pros on the Web at www.cmprofessionals.org.

What’s new at Gilbane Group

We have a lot going on here at Gilbane Group these days. Here’s a quick summary of recent activity:

First, a few current complimentary resources you may not be aware of:

For marketing, language, and content professionals evaluating the role of automated translation in their global business communications:

Take our online survey on Machine Translation Attitudes and Adoption. You don’t need to be a user of machine translation to participate. Less than ten minutes – we promise! Participants will receive the aggregated survey results and the executive summary of the analysis. Take the survey now.

For content professionals and IT managers dealing with large-scale content applications:

A new Gilbane Beacon publication on overcoming technical barriers to effective, efficient processing of high volumes of data and content in disparate formats. The paper describes new approaches to leveraging open data – whether for open government, open publishing, or open enterprise.

Download Enabling the Promise of Open Government: Addressing Large-Scale Integration, Storage, and Access of Complex Information by Dale Waldt

For web content managers and publishers struggling to manage social content:

A new Gilbane white paper examines the Drupal social publishing platform, developed and maintained as an open source project. The discussion illustrates how a variety of organizations – commercial, non-profit, and government – are deploying social publishing to build presence on the web and manage interactive experiences that foster communities of contributors.

Download Social Publishing with Drupal: Building Social Businesses on the Web with a Framework for Content and Community by Geoffrey Bock

For commercial publishers needing to stay on top of technologies and trends in digital publishing:

Note our recently announced research partnership with the Book Industry Study Group.

For anyone involved in interactive marketing, IT, or content, web, or collaboration applications:

Check out our annual San Francisco conference coming up May 18-20 at the Westin Market Street hotel, where you can meet many of the team in addition to learning about the latest strategies for using the web and social software for connecting with customers.

See our latest info on the conference in our new video series on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Gilbane.Group

Keep up-to-date with all our new publications and activities at http://gilbane.com or on Twitter.

More on Microblogging: Evolution of the Enterprise Market

Following my post last week on the need for additional filters in enterprise microblogging tools and activity streams, I participated in an interesting Twitter conversation on the subject of microblogging and complexity. The spontaneous conversation began when Greg Lowe, a well-respected Enterprise 2.0 evangelist at Alcatel-Lucent, asked:

"Can stand alone micro-blogging solutions survive when platform plays introduce the feature?"

I immediately replied:

"Yes, if they innovate faster"

Greg shot back:

"is microblogging autonomy about innovation, or simple elegance? More features usually leads to lower usability?"

And, later, he asked a complementary question:

"is there a risk of Microblogging becoming "too complicated"?"

Is Greg on to something here? Do more features usually lead to lower usability? Will functional innovation be the downfall of stand-alone microblogging solutions, or will it help them stay ahead of platform vendors as they incorporate microblogging into their offerings?

One of the commonly heard complaints about software in general, and enterprise software in particular, is that it is too complicated. There are too many features and functions, and how to make use of them is not intuitive. On the other hand, usability is a hallmark of Web 2.0 software, and, if we make it too complex, it is likely that some people will abandon it in favor of simpler tools, whatever those may be.

But that dichotomy does not tell the entire story. Based on anecdotal evidence (there is no published quantitative research available), early adopters of Web 2.0 software in the enterprise appear to value simplicity in software they use. However, as a colleague, Thomas Vander Wal, pointed out to me yesterday, that may not be true for later, mainstream adopters. Ease-of-use may be desirable in microblogging (or any other) software, but having adequate features to enable effective, efficient usage is also necessary to achieve significant adoption. Later adopters need to see that a tool can help them in a significant way before they will begin to use it; marginal utility does not sway them, even if the tool is highly usable.

Simple may not be sustainable. As I wrote last week in this post, as enterprise use of microblogging and activity streams has increased and matured, so has the need for filters. Individuals, workgroups, and communities want to direct micro-messages to specific recipients, and they need to filter their activity streams to increase their ability to make sense out of the raging river of incoming information. Those needs will only increase as more workers microblog and more information sources are integrated into activity streams.

In the public microblogging sphere, Twitter provides a solid example of the need to add functionality to a simple service as adoption grows in terms of registered users and use cases. As more individuals used Twitter, in ways that were never envisioned by its creators, the service responded by adding functionality such as search, re-tweeting, and lists. Each of these features added some degree of complexity to the service, but also improved its usability and value.

In the evolution of any software, there is a trade-off between simplicity and functionality that must be carefully managed. How does one do that? One way is to continuously solicit and accept user feedback. That allows the software provider and organizations deploying it to sense when they are nearing the point where functionality begins to overwhelm ease of use in a harmful manner. Another technique is to roll out new features in small doses at reasonable intervals. Some even advocate slipping new features in unannounced and letting users discover them for themselves. Hosted deployment of software (whether on-premise or off-site) makes this easier to do, since new features are automatically switched on for people using the software.

So back to the original question; can stand-alone microblogging solutions fend off the collaboration suite and platform vendors as they incorporate microblogging and activity streams in their offerings? My definitive answer is "yes", because there is still room for functionality to be added to microblogging before it becomes over-complicated.

Based on the historical evolution of other software types and categories, it is likely that the smaller vendors, who are  intensely focused on microblogging, will be the innovators, rather than the platform players. As long as vendors of stand-alone microblogging offerings continue to innovate quickly without confusing their customers, they will thrive. That said, a platform vendor could drive microblogging feature innovation if they so desired; think about what IBM has done with its Sametime instant messaging platform. However, I see no evidence of that happening in the microblogging sphere at this time.

The most plausible scenario is that at some point, small, focused vendors driving microblogging innovation (e.g. Socialcast, Yammer) will be acquired by larger vendors, who will integrate the acquired features into their collaboration suite or platform. My sense is that we are still 2-3 years away from that happening, because there is still room for value-producing innovation in microblogging.

What do you think?