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People often ask why we stress the difference between a document-oriented way of looking at managing your product and brand information and a ‘data’ one. It’s a great question, and can best be answered like this: you’re a manufacturer of a single product line. Let’s say you’ve had some success, and your product is sold in 10 countries. It gets a bit complicated now, but not unrealistically; let's say your product comes in three sizes, or versions. Even at this level of simplicity, you have potentially 30 different labels (10 countries, three different iterations) to worry about and change. Now, here’s the issue. In a document-centric world, where people are managing document files in the same computer system, that’s 30 separate items you are managing. Granted, 90%, maybe 99% of the content in all of those word documents is the same as in the other 29 Word documents, which means the same data is duplicated many times.


What happens when you hand over those 30 documents, even if they are almost all identical, to an in-house graphics department or a third party to build artwork? First, artwork gets created at least two or three times. So, for each of the 30 artworks, I’ve now got 30 additional documents telling me what to change. But here’s the thing, the problem on label number one is also wrong on all other 29 labels… so, I've got to change 30 Word documents and make the same change separately to each one. If they then get changed twice, or should I say ‘only’ twice, you’ve gone from having 30 documents to having 90 documents. And the reality is that when somebody reads a document that has been through three sets of changes, as they are only human, something they were happy with in the first version and passed, they now see in the third version and decide that it is wrong. They tell the designer to change it, they make the change, but the 29 labels are now out of sync.


This happens every day of the week. It happened in your office today! Remember, I’m only talking about one product here, but I have still ended up with 90 documents in circulation that can all potentially go out of sync. Add to that the files on the designer’s Macintoshes, and I’ve got another 90 Mac files on top of the 90 Word files in play. That’s what happens when you focus on documents. We work with clients with thousands of products. That’s thousands of documents going wrong all over the place… thousands of files that need to be tracked down and updated separately with the vital textual change from the latest legal directive from the EU. The problem with the way the Word, email or document-centric approach works is that you have to duplicate the data everywhere. This is simply unmanageable – and while it’s bad enough at one product, think 1,000 products or 2,000… Next time, we're going to present the other approach – the data one, which I think you will agree is a lot less confusing and difficult to manage and get right.