The College Board

Workflow Management- The College Board

The College Board is a not-for-profit membership organization that promotes excellence and equity in education through programs for K-12 and higher education institutions, and by providing students a path to college opportunities, including financial support and scholarships. Through the organizations work in middle schools, high schools and colleges, it serves more than seven million students and parents and 3,800 colleges and universities in over 180 countries and territories, as well as policymakers on the national and state levels.

To support its work, the organization publishes a wide variety of printed content, including but not limited to books, pamphlets, brochures and advertisements. All of these materials are created by an in-house Marketing and Publications Services group known internally as MAPS. The MAPS group interacts with a group of Program Sponsors who are the overall project leaders and liaisons between the MAPS group and experts in the field of study.

The Challenge

The editorial and desktop design groups at The College Board felt that their editorial process was inefficient and stressful. The design staff use Adobe InDesign but work with text submitted by editorial staff and program sponsors in Microsoft Word format. There was no system that allowed the editorial, design and sponsor groups to interact, so these groups had to email Adobe® Acrobat PDF files to each other for editorial corrections and layout review.

The communication between sponsors, editors and the desktop group was not optimal. Sponsors and editors either made comments on printouts of editorial content or added annotations to an Adobe Acrobat file. The one set of paper copies, or single PDF file, traveled from group to group, with all edits consolidated on the same set. The PDF file format is not ideal for editorial workflow; adding annotations is awkward and when a file is cluttered with notes, it is easy to miss comments and redlines.

After the editors and sponsors completed collaboration on the initial editorial content, the desktop group typed in the requested editorial changes directly onto the InDesign layouts, jumping back and forth between the annotated pages and the InDesign layout. Staff viewed this process as cumbersome and error-prone. Additionally, the desktop group was doing the actual content editing rather than the editors whose responsibility it is to ensure editorial integrity of the content. This was a time-consuming process as often edits were unclear, sponsors and editors comments were conflicting, or queries were left unanswered. This caused double-work, since editors felt that they should be able to control the textual content changes.

Editors and sponsors then had to review the layout again to make sure all their corrections were done properly. The project manager also verified that corrections were made properly by reviewing a printout supplied by the layout person. Only after the project manager approved the layout could a file move to the next stage in the workflow. This time-consuming process would continue through numerous editorial review rounds until documents were finished.

College Board management speculated that implementing an editorial workflow system could provide a platform that staff could use to improve collaboration as well as to allow editors to make copy changes directly without having to go through designers.

The College Board had used DPCI on a prior project in 2009 where the organization needed help selecting a digital asset management platform. That project had been viewed as a great success, and so College Board management brought DPCI in to help justify the costs of an editorial workflow system, make recommendations for improvements to the workflow, help select a suitable platform, and then implement the selected solution.

The Process

The College Board first hired DPCI to analyze the current workflow. DPCI subject matter experts met with the editorial, design and sponsor groups to analyze the current workflow and uncover impediments in the process. DPCI offered insight on how to improve the editorial and production process with workflow adjustments. Many of the recommendations were more about how staff members were organized and what kinds of processes could be introduced before any editorial workflow technology was selected.

Next, the College Board management asked DPCI to present a report on the various alternatives in the marketplace for editorial workflow as well as the associated costs. Management went back to the College Board’s executive team to obtain financial approval for a proof-of-concept pilot, which they succeeded in funding.

The College Board next decided to conduct a proof of concept of the K4 Publishing System, an editorial workflow management system used by editors, designers, and production professionals to collaborate more effectively. DPCI met with various editors, designers, and sponsors to elicit functional requirements for the configuration of K4, then present to the College Board team how K4 features could be leveraged to maximize their work efforts.

DPCI then installed and configured the K4 version 6 editorial workflow system integrated with MS SQL Server 2008, Apache Tomcat 6, and Adobe InDesign and InCopy CS4 in conformance with The College Board’s workflow and functional requirements. (Note: K4 supports CS5.5, however The College Board as of this writing had not yet upgraded to the latest version of Adobe’s creative products).

DPCI then conducted collaborative sessions with the editorial, design and sponsor groups to review and adjust the configuration prior to training. This review process ensured that the system conformed to the needs of sponsors, editors, and designers.

DPCI’s Adobe-certified Field Engineers next trained The College Board staff on InDesign, InCopy, and K4, and provided onsite support to the end users and system administrators as they tested the proof of concept of K4 for the Latin curriculum module.

DPCI continued to offer guidance to The College Board staff with services ranging from workflow analysis to training and concierge support while they conducted a second proof of concept for the statistics curriculum module, an SAT guide and a music theory curriculum module.

The Results

Management at The College Board confirmed that the K4 Publishing System dramatically improves collaboration and communication between editorial, design and sponsor groups in the editorial process, reducing the time spent on rounds of editing and ultimately improving the quality of the materials produced. In addition, management found that K4 helps the Project Manager on the team to better manage the workflow and file release process by providing tools to quickly check the status of all objects and control task assignments and routing.

With DPCI’s help, The College Board explored the full feature set of the K4 system, refined the configuration and workflow, enhanced the training offering for future groups and mitigated potential risks in advance of a full implementation. The tested configuration and strategy will be used by DPCI and The College Board as the baseline for rollout to other groups and projects in 2011.

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