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September 8, 2015

Plumber’s guide to content workflows

Last week I was working in my home office when I heard an odd hissing sound. Upon investigation, I found that my hot water heater had decided to empty itself onto the basement floor.

Fortunately I had some failsafes in place; the heater’s pressure release valve was doing its job by routing scalding hot water onto the floor, and my floor is slightly slanted toward a drain in the floor. This got me thinking (because my brain is oddly wired this way) about failsafes in content workflows.

I spent a good deal of time in panic mode, frantically moving boxes out of the way of the growing puddle as the water made its way toward the drain. I soon managed to turn off both the water supply and the gas, but not before losing many gallons of water to the floor, and was left to enjoy a makeshift sauna while the release valve slowly began to close.


image: Pixabay/ClkerFreeVectorImages

Enter the plumber (aka water tank strategist).

After looking my tank over and testing the valve, the prognosis was not good. There was a buildup of mineral deposits within the tank that were gumming up the works (I think that’s an accurate technical description). They could clean or replace the valve, but it would just happen again, and without warning.

Long story short, I have a new water heater.

I couldn’t help but tie this mess to situations where impurities in content workflows cause their own brand of chaos. Where my tank failed due to mineral deposits, many content workflows can fail or produce poor content deliverables due to deposits of a different nature.

Content workflow impurities

Whether structured or unstructured, unchecked workflows and workarounds can cause problems over time, and can be costly to correct. One practice in particular can completely pollute your content: copy/paste. Even when the content is completely accurate, copying and pasting content creates multiple stand-alone instances of the same information. Updating that content everywhere it’s used becomes very tedious and time consuming, with considerable risk of missing some instances.

A lack of proper review and approval can also cause problems over time. As misinformation and grammatical errors are introduced, they can have a negative impact on readers’ trust in the information and in your company. A single-source publishing solution can compound this problem.

Finally, not having a failsafe in place to catch these issues can lead to catastrophe. You may lose customers or reach a critical mass where your content is no longer manageable. At that point your only option is a complete workflow replacement. As with my water heater, this is both inconvenient and expensive, and will require additional frantic busy-work and workarounds in the interim to prevent the situation from getting worse.

The best way to fix a problem is to avoid it in the first place. Assess your workflows to see if you are at risk for unwanted deposits in your content. As for failsafes, make sure you have proper reviews in place and proper reuse strategies. Also, have the means necessary (expedited updates, ability to “unpublish” bad content) to quickly address issues before they build up and cause an even bigger problem.