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Success in Selling SGML Internally
By Judy Cox, Xyvision, Inc., SGML Open Sponsor Member
Often the decision to implement SGML in a technical documentation or commercial publishing environment follows a lengthy persuasion process, led by a few individuals who were first to recognize its merits. Even when the use of SGML is mandated from the top down, managers must convince coworkers and staff that the switch to SGML is worth the effort. According to Liora Alschuler, author of The ABCs of SGML, there are basically three levels within an organization that may require internal selling-upper management, peers and staff. And each of these levels requires a different type of "sale." The internal selling of SGML should also be an ongoing process, where the SGML champions continually remind themselves and others of why the adoption of SGML is beneficial until the benefits are manifest.
Selling to Senior Management
An SGML implementation often includes large investments in new software and hardware, training and consulting fees, legacy data conversion, as well as changes in workflow, mindsets and the entire business process. "SGML is just part of that larger puzzle," says Charles Dombek, System Manager at Facts and Comparisons. "In 1990, when we implemented SGML, it was still a fledgling technology and difficult to sell. At that time there were no organizations like SGML Open to help us."
Dombek's strategy was to sell his management on the tangible benefits of SGML and document management, such as:
In most organizations, senior management's ultimate goals are to increase revenue, increase market share, and increase profitability. Showing management how these goals are achieved through the use of structured documents and SGML is an effective means of winning the "sale."
Selling to Peers and Staff
Once upper management is convinced and the SGML project is underway, it is essential for its long-term success to solicit the support of other departments, coworkers, and staff. Frequently the onus of the work involved to make the transition overshadows the fundamental benefits. "It's very important to keep company-wide goals in view, keep your horizons wide. Don't just narrow in on the process," says Alschuler.
When writers or editors in an organization see SGML as just an added task that makes their day-to-day work more difficult, the political infighting that might occur could cause the entire project to fail. "You have to make sure that writers, editors, and production people understand what's in it for them," says Mary McRae, formerly of Butterworths Legal Publishing. "Make everyone aware of how SGML will make their job easier and also how it benefits the entire process." At Butterworths, the SGML and document management implementation was a team effort involving a cross section of all departments.
"It's critical that writers and other contributors understand how the work they are doing affects the final product," says Alschuler. The team approach was a major factor in the timely and effective implementation of an SGML and document management project at Butterworths.
Honesty Pays Off
It is also important to be honest in the beginning with coworkers and with upper management. Because SGML solutions are often coupled with large-scale document management systems, the initial price tag may be hefty. It could take six months or more until the entire system is working smoothly and it begins to pay back on the investment. Setting proper expectations at the start of a project ensures a higher probability for sustaining momentum for the project through to its completion.
Another factor in continued acceptance and support is to continually monitor successes to date and communicate those gains throughout the organization. According to Pamela Gennusa of Database Publishing Systems, Ltd., weighing the gains against the pain can be an effective strategy for measuring the ultimate effectiveness of an SGML project. "SGML systems ... will always extract some pain from the implementors. By developing strong, qualified requirements ("gain") statements; determining the degree of "pain" each is worth; communicating those throughout the project team and upper management; translating them to measurable and tractable items; and monitoring them regularly, companies can ensure that they achieve a favourable Pain/Gain Ratio for their SGML systems." [Gennusa, Pamela L., "Using SGML: the Pain/Gain Ratio" p. 179, SGML '95 Conference Proceedings, Graphic Communications Association.]
As SGML product vendors, it is important to realize that the sale is not over when the contract is signed. By helping internal SGML champions set proper expectations up front, by providing global implementation plans that include team participation, and by helping customers measure and communicate overall gains, we can contribute to the ultimate success of the project. Success breeds wider acceptance of SGML, which in turn engenders increased sales, better products and more SGML success stories.
Judy Cox has been with Xyvision for almost ten years in several marketing positions. Currently Director of Marketing Services, Judy is responsible for marketing communications, trade shows, and press relations for Xyvision's publishing and document management products. Prior to joining Xyvision, she held marketing and production positions at Datacomp in Philadelphia, a vendor of electronic publishing software for directory publishers.