A publisher asked me the other day for advice on how to pare down the number of programs, software and tools his company uses. He is using a graphics program, a workflow program, a listserv and websites – that’s just what I know about. There’s probably more, including programs that handle subscriber databases, mailing lists, invoicing, purchasing and heaven knows what else. He’s desperately looking for a way to streamline the number of programs he has to deal with in a day. It’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more often with our clients: there are so many free and useful tools out there that it’s easy to be sold on every one of them. Before you know it, you’ve got a million little programs with a million different users and one big mess. Three things you can do to streamline your system: Get yourself a CMS. A content management system (go, Drupal!) is the first step anybody should take when trying to figure out how to streamline. Imagine building a house out of Legos, but without the flat foundation piece to stick the bricks to. I always try to tell people to stop thinking of CMSs as websites and to start thinking of them as company platforms. It’s the thing you build from. Get a whiteboard and markers to sketch out a production flow. And then reproduce that flow in your CMS. CMSs are master of ushering content where it needs to be, that’s why they’re called content management systems. These things are made for you to move pages from writer to editor to publisher in a regulated way. Once you figure out how your content should travel, you can come up with a production/editorial flow and permission settings that can bypass any outside software that does this. This also goes for CRM systems, where you might be tracking how people donate or subscribe or attend events. It should all fold into the CMS. Ditch the listserv/newsletter service. Look at getting a newsletter plug-in for your site. That way you can build up a web archive of content, do some site-specific branding on your missives and eliminate one tool from the arsenal. The newsletter tool we use lets you do unlimited newsletters with unlimited issues, so you can have a quarterly update, a weekly blast and a monthly newsletter and they can all look different or the same. It also synchs up your site visitors with subscriptions, which is useful. (If you want to see it in action, sign up for the Talance newsletter, and you can see flexible it is.) Lemme know how your streamlining goes. Use the comments form below to ask questions and report back.