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Staying Agile Amid Constant Disruption

It’s almost a cliché now to talk about digital disruption in the print industry. The dust has settled now, for the most part, and we’re adapting to digitization, thanks to our consumers who prefer the tactile sensation of a magazine over yet another digital feed. We wish we could say that’s the only disruption we’re facing these days, but the rise of open source, business consolidation, and supply chain shortages make for a truly “interesting” outlook for just about anyone in the publishing industry in the coming years.

So, disruption, it seems, is the new normal for most of us. This reality requires new business models to adapt to our changing times. Agile methodology is a popular framework with software engineers and project managers who use it to build software that’s changing our world. But is there a lesson that the print industry can learn from our “enemies” here? Perhaps.

In this case, Agile is more than an adjective. It’s a project planning methodology that forces constant iterations for continuous product improvement. Publishers can adopt this type of methodical innovation to stay on top of printing industry trends, publishing related news, and target market activity. Here’s what you need to know about Agile.

Publishers should optimize resources in the coming years

In the printing world, digital disruption is constant. But that’s just one of the big issues we’ve faced in the past few years. Price pressures, unstable demand, and increasing asset costs are keeping most publishers awake at night. The past two years dealing with supply chain disruption thanks to the pandemic have retaught us the lesson that the only constant in our business is change.

The response of some publishers has been to circle the wagons, driving consolidation and the buyout of smaller companies. Still others have learned to adapt as their print clients began lowering their print runs to reduce costs and minimize reliance on traditional subscription models in response to open-source publishing. These and other challenges require a new mindset and workflows to manage a changing industry and an evolving world. We must optimize our resources and expand our standard business operations to survive. Could a methodology grounded in software engineering apply new principles that will help the printing industry, adapt, cope, and thrive?

Adopting an Agile mindset

In 2001, software engineers devised a new way of managing the IT product building process. They called it Agile, and 20 years later, it literally redefined and streamlined the complex processes behind building software products. Today, this framework is both widely recognized and responsible for some of the most well-used and beloved tools in the IT field. The Agile Manifesto recommends:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Within each tenet lies the potential for interpretation — and that’s exactly the point of Agile. But how can we apply these principles beyond a project to a strategic business approach in the printing industry during a time of great change?

How can Agile methodology improve publisher performance?

Traditional publishing uses Waterfall methodology to organize projects. The project is prototyped and run to completion, with the “should-haves” coming out at the end of the print run. Yet, there are more intuitive processes involved in a print run (such as proof stages, sampling, and reprint corrections) that would fall within the Agile framework.

Some software experts argue that Agile isn’t a framework or a methodology at all, but rather, a general philosophy that requires a series of simple, intuitive thought processes that guide you to:

  • Assess your current status.
  • Take a small step toward a goal.
  • Adjust direction based on what you learned and what may have changed.

One Agile-for-business advocate put it this way: “Agility is based on taking small steps and constantly checking whether we are headed in the right direction.” TechRepublic suggests businesses can apply this approach to improve:

  • Customer service and productivity
  • Prioritization and the ability to stay on track to reach a goal
  • Company performance
  • Greater predictability and quality in deliverables
  • Strategic alignment with business value
  • Employee morale and engagement
  • Risk

Consumer demands and supply chain issues are forcing publishers to adapt and increase flexibility. The beauty of this change is that there is a proven methodology to help. Agile empowers you to iterate in smaller increments and make decisions as you go to adapt to changing conditions. Quicker creative cycles, empowered small working groups, and the breaking down of big projects into smaller bite-sized portions are all characteristics of an Agile printing company.

Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation or visit our contact page to learn how Sheridan professionals can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.

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