Reconsidering Process, Publishers Find Collaboration Is Key to Adapting Fast

Considering the blistering pace of change in the book publishing industry, for plenty of publishers, doing things “fast” isn’t fast enough, especially when it comes to development and production.

One possible solution? Agile, collaborative workflows.

“Waterfall” workflows, with projects moving linearly from one stop to the next—as when individuals tackle their own tasks the same way—shows a 20% drop in productivity, according to Daryl Lubin, vice president of digital program and portfolio management at McGraw-Hill Education, speaking at the Digital Book World 2014 conference in New York. She advocates instead for an “agile” approach in which a project’s components are broken up, developed collaboratively and released in iterations. That makes it easier to gain feedback and revise processes quickly.

Using the right technologies and tools can also help increase productivity. Many publishers still “rely on the Microsoft Office suite to move projects through editorial and production,” said Kevin Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Digital Products at F.A. Davis Company. Documents produced in Word and Excel are not easily shared back and forth.

Lubin agreed. “The last thing you want is a disparate set of tools. At McGraw-Hill we’re going from many different types of tools for project management, to one,” she said.

That should bring a welcome measure of simplicity, but for McGraw-Hill the measure of success is whether improved collaboration will translate to speedier adaptation in the digital era.

Related: During other sessions, speakers at Digital Book World 2014 in New York City today highlighted some of the ways publishers have adapted to changing times over the past few years.


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