Yes, Understanding and Applying Technology is Required!

The following post was written by Jeff Gerber, Senior Product Manager for Marketer’s Studio at Quad/Graphics. Jeff has more than 20 years’ experience in the publishing industry. He started out as a newspaper editor, then worked to implement workflow solutions at magazines and catalogs, and now leads a team at Quad/Graphics that designs, develops and implements a content management system for multi-channel merchants. Jeff and I have known each other for years and worked together several times. I’m excited to say that Jeff will be contributing regularly to the Operations College blog!

I have a bias. I’m going to admit it upfront to give you the context to evaluate what I’m saying. Here’s my bias: I work for a technology company, overseeing a content/asset management system for traditional cataloguers who are now multi-channel merchants.

Now that you know what (and who) I am, here’s what I’m going to tell you: Creative managers do not think enough about technology when they hire. If they’re looking for a copywriter, they want someone who writes well. If they’re looking for a designer, they want someone who builds great pages. And that’s no longer enough. If you want to succeed in today’s multi-channel, high-speed world, you have to harness technology. And you can’t harness technology if you don’t think about it or, even worse, if you don’t think it’s part of your job, or that of your creative employees.

As an example, I recently worked with an agency that was building a catalog for a customer, and the customer asked the agency to send a list of the manufacturers who were represented on each page of the catalog in order to put together an index. In other words, they wanted to know who makes the products that appear on each page of the catalog. The agency’s response was to have someone go through the catalog page by page, listing the products and looking up each product’s manufacturer. Four hours into the process and with no end in sight, they asked for help from my team. Since we created the content management system the customer uses (Marketer’s Studio from Quad/Graphics), this was a logical call to make. Within five minutes, we created a database query to pull a list of products and their manufacturer from each page of the catalog. It’s easy to do when you store all your content in a database.

While it would have been great if someone on the creative team was able to write the simple database query, it still would have helped enormously for the creative folks just to know the database query was possible and ask about that before wasting four hours.

Here’s another example of where knowing what is technically possible is great: Loading data to Web sites or applications. I know people who used to copy/paste text from InDesign files to their Web site management system. Then, when they took the big step of moving product information into a content management system (a database!) they — wait for it – copy/paste from the CMS into the Web site management system. No!!! A huge benefit of putting your content into a database is the ability to move information automatically behind the scenes. It’s low-hanging fruit, one of the first things you should do with a content system. But when the creative folks (or management) don’t know what’s possible they don’t push to make it happen.

So, my (admittedly) biased advice for creative managers: Get someone on your staff who understands technology, preferably someone with a creative background and a little production experience. These people do exist, but you need to prioritize finding them. One hint: Try to avoid someone straight out of school who might understand technology but has no idea how production really works, how to manage difficult personalities or how to handle deadline pressure with grace. You don’t need to devote an entire position to technology, but you should have someone who is at least half-time focused on technology. This person should be spending 20 hours or so per week evaluating your process, comparing it against available software, making recommendations and implementing them.


  • Janie Downey

    Great post. Thanks, Scot and Jeff!

  • Scot Barker

    Jeff, thanks for the post! Looking forward to more great info from you!