Blog entry

Document Workflow, and Who gets to push the Publish button?

  1. 1.
    the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.

Are you considering how to set up an online publication workflow for your small or medium sized business?

In a former incarnation I was a Technical Writer for an Electronics Manufacturer.  On a team of five or six writers we had one final proof-reader.  Mary-Anne was the last check before documentation publication. The engineers had approved the specifications.  The product designers had approved the layout. The business groups had approved content. Peer revue (in theory) another writer had proof-read your document as well. All of the other reviews were done before this final check. Mary-Ann pushed the publish button.

If you are a small business the publication workflow may not be as structured. As well, your individual roles may not be as well defined.  In a small to medium sized business you most likely take turns depending on the subject matter and who has the available time to work on a publication. 

Let's think about what we have though. On a team of five or five hundred: you need one or more Subject Matter Experts; one or more Writers; at least one proof reader; and a someone to push the publish button.

Structure and Process

With a Content Management System such as Drupal most of your preferences can be configured into the system setup. There is no question about format or what directory to store the drafts and backups in. That is configured for you when you setup Drupal.

A Newsletter has a category, a publication date and a subscription list. Newsletter writers are assigned the role of author. Newsletter reviewers are assigned the role of editor.

The Newsletter author can log in and either compose a newsletter directly with the Drupal WYSIWYG editor or the author can paste a document composed in Word or Open Office.  Do you think the person who wrote the newsletter should be able to click [Save] and the document is automatically published and distributed to your hard earned membership list?

I think not.

For something like a newsletter, a piece of content that is sent by email and thus can never be modified you need a Publication Workflow.

How Strict are your rules?

I remember a joke I heard once about two city-workers walking along the side of the road. One dug a hole and then the next one filled it in. Every meter or so they repeated the process. After watching this process unfold for several minutes the onlooker asked, "What are you doing?"

"Why are you digging a hole, and your co-worker just fills it in?"

"Oh, that" replied the first city-worker,  "The guy that plants trees is sick today"

The reason I bring this up right now is because sometimes online approval processes are too strict.  When it comes to managing your online content there has to be some flexibility built in.

With a Drupal system most of the heavy lifting has been done for you. As a small business setting up your first foray into online publications you have much less to worry about than the days of manual document management.

There are some factors that have to be considered:

  • What is the value of the document?
  • Can you make corrections after publication?
  • How spontaneous or alive do you want to be?

By labeling different types of publications as Drupal Content Types you can define as many different workflows as your business requires.

Who gets to push the Publish button?

You trust your team. In this day of tweets and blogs you may not need a Mary-Anne for each piece of content published to your site. Unlike newsletter distributions web pages can be corrected.

With a bit of thought you can define your publication workflows in Drupal.

You can send a notification from the writer role to the editor and from the editor to the publisher or any combination using Drupal Rules or Workflow.

Content Management can be as controlled or as free as any type of content requires.

You get to decide who pushes the publish button.


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