Cleaning Up Your Office
It’s getting late on a Friday afternoon and your partner is asking if you can come home early. You’re trying to wrap up one more thing, and then your boss asks for the latest copy of the project’s Excel workbook with a few slight changes for a key prospect.
You open up your copy. You like the formatting in your latest version, but you remember seeing some other versions via email. You check your email history and find two other copies, each of which are newer than yours.
- One is from your team
- One is from another team which you know doesn’t have the complete story your boss will need
Remembering the last team meeting where everyone agreed to upload these to a shared file location on the network, you look there only to find several more versions with recent time stamps.
How do you find the right file?
Looking at the set of recent files, you can decide among the following choices:
- Your file, which will need some updates to make it current
- Most recent file on the network share, which has been uploaded by someone only yesterday
- One of the recent files in your email history, which may need some alterations and additions after you compare the most recent file stored in the shared network location
You soon realize you will be busy for some time sorting out the appropriate version for your audience.
Embedded in this scenario are several common problems associated with an unmanaged process:
- Re-created content – at least three parties have spent time tweaking copies of the original content to accomplish a specific outcome for their target audience, with each copy taking valuable time to perfect.
- Redundant content – in this single example, it’s quite likely that as much as 80% of the original content has now been duplicated in each copy.
- Formatting docs – you may have good reason for formatting your version just so, but wouldn’t it be better to have a consistent layout that would be suitable for all audiences, including your customers?
- Formatting for every media delivery type – we’re only talking about an Excel file, but if this contains data which must eventually appear in a final product delivery, can you guarantee it will appear appropriately on every device your customers may use to view the content?
There’s clearly too much time going into this file and very little thought as to how to maintain it over time.
Almost everyone works every day with common Office applications. Whether you create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, other artifacts, or some combination of those, you have encountered this problem before. This is but a single example of an out-of -date process for a single file created in a common Microsoft Office application. Depending on your business process, you may have something more formal built around your Office files. You may not.
When you factor in the scale and complexity around frequent updates for delivery to multiple audiences, it is absolutely essential to your success to take the time to build a more formal process. In this scenario, the team or teams mentioned did take that time to at least agree to a single source of truth: the shared network location.
That network location still didn’t allow anyone a way to see deeper into the content to quickly ascertain its relevance. A time stamp on a file system also doesn’t tell you who updated that file and why. Unless you take the time to open the file and reach out to one or more colleagues, you don’t know what you have and whether or not it is in the state you need for delivery.
Many organizations have taken the time to mature their process already, especially around their own business critical content and the underlying technologies which facilitate execution of the defined process. No business focused around content delivery is able to survive if they don’t have some kind of formal process or tools in place already. This may be one reason why Content Management as an industry has been around for decades.
Most of these systems are really good at providing additional data about the content (metadata) and may even manage its workflow state. However, very few of these systems provide a live preview of the content in different delivery channels or manage various file formats at the component level. Even if they do, they often require additional products provided by separate vendors to manage the creation and distribution of those content components.
In the scenario above, it’s a standard feature of Quark Publishing Platform to be able to manage content like Microsoft Office files and minimize some of the confusion around which file is the latest, most relevant artifact for update and delivery.
For example, your component may need to differ from the original source file in several ways:
- You need 10 years of data, as opposed to 25 years of data
- You want to change the look and feel so that Excel renders the information as a colorful chart rather than a bar graph or a table format
- You also want to know when the original source receives an update so that you can have the very latest data captured in your version
With Quark Office Adapters for Platform, Excel workbooks can be separated into sub-components that allow all of those differences and more. Each sub-component is managed with its own life cycle and has the ability to present a unique format, using the full power of Excel. The relationship between the master and source is maintained, so that an update to the master can pass on to the new sub-components. This relationship is maintained even for very complex workbooks that link to many other Excel files, even when these master workbooks exist outside any Content Management system.
However your organization uses Microsoft Office files and distributes them for review, make sure you take the time to consider more formal process and technologies around your business critical content. Using Quark Enterprise Solutions for content automation, you can leverage efficiencies that help reduce unexpected delays late on a Friday afternoon.