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Agile Content Development in the Digital Age

We have all seen the news headlines involving the struggles of many publishing companies as they make the shift from print to digital, and their impact on the bottom line. At Competentum, we see a benefit for educational publishers to make the shift to agile, or iterative, content development, to help address these struggles.

Girl enjoys a game on the iPad

Photographer: Marcus Kwan

The success of many of the leading web platforms is attributed to frequent updates and improvements, which customers have come to expect. This method can help educational publishers achieve the turnaround they seek.

The basic premise of agile, iterative development is to release software with minimal features, making frequent updates throughout the lifecycle of the product. This approach allows customers to use the product, providing feedback to the developer and allowing them to make enhancements based on market demand.

On Facebook, for example, the user notices new features like Facebook Live, or the ability to add activity stickers, on a regular basis. Rather than release all new functionality at one set time, these features are released frequently. The customer stays engaged with Facebook, since the site never becomes stale.

Most publishing companies today develop content using methods designed for print delivery despite delivering web products. Print delivery requires that the product roadmap be complete up front, since making changes is almost impossible until a new edition is released several years later.  Although web delivery allows for frequent enhancements and changes, most publishing companies do not take advantage of this ability until a new edition is published.

Agile development would allow publishers to release new content and functionality during the publication cycle, thus reducing the chances a title will be dropped due to user fatigue as the school will remain engaged with the product. In addition, used books would be eliminated – they will become obsolete.

In order to move to agile development, publishers must shift their current approach to new product releases. The shift includes:

  • Releasing titles when the product is good enough for publication, while making frequent enhancements.
  • Requiring authors to work on development on an ongoing basis instead of for a fixed period before the publication of a new title or new edition.

These shifts would be seismic at most educational publishing companies. The upside, being able to respond to market needs and control of distribution, outweighs the downsides.

Competentum would like to join your team to discuss the shift to agile development. We have worked on such initiatives with many educational publishers, providing analysts and technical resources to ensure smooth and timely delivery.

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