Improve your publishing efficiency: A guide for assessing your workflow

The editorial process involves many people and many stages, often running in parallel or overlapping.  It can be difficult to get it – and keep it – running smoothly with everyone working in the same direction. This is particularly relevant when you are introducing new products, adapting to new platforms or making changes in your content strategy.

By taking a fresh look at how things are currently done and conducting a workflow assessment, it becomes clear what you can do to simplify the workflow and make production more efficient.  You do not necessarily need to dig deeply into every production phase: quality over quantity applies here. Still, by reviewing the process, you will be able to identify where there are problems, and what you can do to resolve them.

Conduct interviews

Imagine that you want to follow a story from planning through to the final version. The first step is to identify the key people involved at the various stages of that production – for example, planning, writing, photography, illustrations, layout, digital production, quality assurance, and approvals. Then, through a combination of interviews and observation, investigate what is happening at each stage and why it happens that way.

Some examples of questions include:

  • What are they expected to do?
  • What inputs do they depend on to execute their tasks?
  • Is there ‘dead-time’ when they don’t have the inputs they need?
  • How often is there something missing or wrong?
  • How do they know what to prioritise?
  • What happens when they have completed a task?
  • How often do they have to redo tasks?
  • What is holding them back?

The types of questions you ask will vary depending on who you are interviewing and their role. Questions about systems should be included in the interview process. Are the file sharing systems, content management systems or other publishing systems used optimally? Is there any way that processes could be automated to reduce errors or save time?

Present the findings visually

Some editorial processes may have up to 20 to 30 different steps. Every step should be reviewed. Some processes may be repeated or reworked to ensure that errors are corrected and the content is up to quality standards. Having to repeat processes is not necessarily bad, but in many cases it is time consuming. The principle of “as correct as possible – as early as possible” is something to strive for.

When all steps are mapped, make a simple sketch. The sketch will help everyone get a common understanding of problems and the relationships between the different steps.

Identify areas of improvement

Most newsrooms have bottlenecks. This may be due to poor planning, overdependence on a few key people, or a number of other limiting factors. When all the steps have been analysed, take a closer look at job roles and responsibilities. Is there any overlap?

Once you have a solid understanding of what is happening in the newsroom, it is much easier to identify areas for improvement and to set up a new workflow. In some cases, the workflow redesign will be substantial, while in other cases, a few minor tweaks can provide measurable benefits. The more detailed the process map, the easier it is to see new opportunities and streamline each process.

About this article: This article was co-written by Terje Olsen, PagePlanner Solutions, and Greta Bjerke, TikkTakk AS.

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