DITA and Content Management Part II with Steve Wiseman

Making the best decision for your documentation needs should be based on business considerations, not just the appeal of XML-based Content Management. XML is exciting; DITA is the hottest technique to use for Content Management, but is it really what you need in your documentation? Steve Wiseman of WritePoint took all of what Alex Masycheff and turned it on its head.

Solution vs. Technology: Does technology provide the solution to the problem? Steve took a true businessman's attitude to the question of XML as the solution for Content Management. He asked the following questions :

  • Will XML help my business?
  • Are the benefits quanitifiable for me?
  • What are the ramifications of out-of-house teaching/experts to implement the system?
  • Will it reduce costs by:
    • supporting shorter product cycles
    • develop more product variability
    • help in the global market by reducing costs of translation
    • increase content quality and sonsistency
    • increase customer satisfaction

Steve reports that there are savings by implementing XML based Content Management, which is most likely DITA based. It is known that 40-70% of the material can be reused in a number of different documents. Translation costs are also lowered since translation is done per topic and not per document. Just as the deliverable can be made up of topic blocks, the same topics can be translated and stored to be reused as necessary. Writers from all over the world can work simultaneously on the document, once there is specific style sheet for consistency.

But there is a flip side to be taken into consideration before making the change. Is your operation large enough to warrant the change over to XML Content Management? It may be time consuming. Just doing your homework to check out all the systems available takes time. The writers must learn to write by the new method: writing by chunks which is each topic and unlearn how to write by linear flow. The change over time must also be considered. It can take about half a year accomplish. What will happen to the documents that need to be done during that time? Are they on the new system or old, or stuck in the middle? Even the simplest documents will now be complicated by the use of topics. Will the changeover be achieved with the staff on hand, or will expert help from outside the company be needed to help set up the system? Will the XML solutions extend to other departments such as Marketing and IT, making it more cost effective?

Steve advised not to be blinded by the science and the excitement of a new technique. The decision to move to an XML-based content management system should be done after an educated decision process. It should be a business-oriented decision and should be done with expert help.