Workflow Management Consulting for ABRAMS Books

DPCI provided workflow management consulting services to analyze the publishing workflow across the various book imprints at ABRAMS Books.

Founded by Harry N. Abrams in 1949, ABRAMS is the preeminent publisher of high quality art and illustrated books. Now a subsidiary of La Martinière Groupe, ABRAMS publishes books in the areas of art, photography, cooking, interior design, craft, fashion, sports, pop culture, as well as children’s books and general interest.

The publishing workflow and staff roles at ABRAMS differed for each imprint within the company. The non-standard workflows and roles made it difficult for shared resources to efficiently support each imprint. In addition, document preparation and delivery guidelines provided to freelancers and art staff members were not always followed. These inconsistencies often lead to confusion, quality problems and an inefficient use of resources. As a result, deliverables did not meet ABRAMS’ quality expectations and ultimately caused delays in the production schedule.

Staff members managed Adobe InDesign files, supporting graphic files and final PDFs on a combination of file servers, local hard drives, CDs, and DVDs. Search and retrieval of files was a cumbersome process and local hard drives were not backed up. Additionally, marketing, sales, and publicity departments had to request materials from art and/or production resources to effectively promote books. Often times they made the same requests for the same files each season.

ABRAMS management looked to standardize the book publishing workflow across imprints. With a standardized process, ABRAMS hoped to use existing staff resources more efficiently, improve quality of deliverables and reduce the time spent taking a book from an author’s manuscript to the store shelf. To help meet these goals, ABRAMS chose DPCI for its workflow management consulting and book publishing subject matter expertise to analyze the current publishing workflow across its various book imprints.

DPCI began the engagement by meeting with editorial, design and production resources across three ABRAMS imprints along with representatives from the marketing, sales, and publicity departments. The focus of each meeting was to review the current publishing workflow process in detail, discuss the interactions between departments, find the commonalities and identify inefficiencies.

At the conclusion of the discovery meetings, DPCI created a detailed workflow diagram to illustrate each imprint’s workflow while also highlighting the common areas and identifying the rate-determining steps. Next, DPCI submitted a comprehensive report that documented the strengths and challenges of the current state across the three imprints. In this report, DPCI identified the areas where workflow management process or technology improvements could be made to bring ABRAMS closer to a company-wide strategy for publishing workflow and digital asset management.

DPCI presented best practice and technology recommendations to ABRAMS management at the close of the consulting engagement. The presentation included recommendations for standardizing roles and quality control processes as well as improving interactions between the ABRAMS art department and marketing, sales and publicity. DPCI recommended training for marketing, sales and publicity resources in the use of Adobe Acrobat so they could obtain what they need from PDF files and eliminate the dependency on the art department. To support the Quality Control process, DPCI recommended that art staff preflight all files using tools within Adobe InDesign.

The final recommendation was for ABRAMS to retain DPCI to elicit digital asset management requirements and then investigate available products in the marketplace. Implementation of a digital asset management system at ABRAMS would provide centralized asset storage across departments and enable self-service for marketing, sales and publicity, while also bringing other benefits to the publishing workflow such as easy search and retrieval for assets, reprints and archives, version control and revision tracking, digital rights management and file conversions to other formats necessary for multi-channel publishing.