It’s not just for Tech Pubs!
Using DITA-based knowledge, experience, and tools
to help the whole organization succeed.
DITA FOR EVERYONE
It’s not just for Tech Pubs!
In the corporate world, the technical
made by technical publications organizations,
publications department is often viewed as a
the rest of the enterprise has not benefited from
cost center, necessary as a provider of content
the potential advantages of moving content to a
to support a packaged product or service
offering, but having no value to the core
revenue generation functions of the enterprise.
As a result, technical publications managers
must fight hard to get the budget for any new
technologies and must be prepared to show
strong ROI arguments to justify those
Is this a missed opportunity? Why hasn't DITA’s
success been replicated by other corporate
organizations that produce content? Why aren’t
other departments leveraging the skills and
knowledge of the technical publications staff to
increase their own value to the enterprise? This
paper will highlight some of the potential
Over the last decade, the implementation of the
benefits for these "other" corporate
DITA standard has greatly optimized the
organizations as they interact with the technical
creation, management, and publishing of
publications department, and provide some
technical content. DITA-based tools and
insights into how they can achieve similar
processes have resulted in dramatic cost
savings and process improvements. However,
despite the large investment of time and money
“Content is king.” You’ve heard it
said in many corporate boardrooms.
With the increasing popularity of online search
And yet, despite the clear and proven benefits of
engines, cloud-based software, and mobile
DITA, not much else has changed for those
devices, the need to access relevant and
technical publications departments from a
useful content has never been more urgent.
cultural perspective across the enterprise. The
And yet, the people responsible for producing
success of a departmental DITA implementation
the technical information that supports
rarely extends beyond organizational
products made by these companies are often
boundaries to be replicated in other
hidden deep within the Engineering or IT
departments. In most cases, other organizations
organizations, struggling for respect and
do not recognize the benefits of DITA for their
relevance as they compete for budgetary
own content, and they are somewhat fearful of
the costs and time required to successfully
In their efforts to provide the most useful, rich,
implement a DITA solution for production use.
and effective content in the shortest possible
This paper will illustrate four
timeframe and for the lowest possible cost,
scenarios where the technical
many technical publications groups have
publications departments can use
embraced the DITA standard. By moving away
their DITA-based knowledge,
from proprietary authoring and publishing
experience, and tools to support
tools that require years to master, and by
adopting standards-based approaches to
across the enterprise, including:
content creation, management, and
multichannel publishing, these writing
departments have been able to dramatically
reduce cost and increase efficiency related to
One DITA implementation at a
Fortune 500 technology
company resulted in 40%
reduction in product
By reusing 80-90% of their
content, the company reduced
product development time by
4-6 weeks and localization
costs by $800K per project.
the content life cycle.
Structuring corporate technical content into
reusable “components” (tasks, concepts,
For each of these scenarios, we will describe the
topics), DITA-based environments have
typical current environment, the potential
resulted in dramatic cost savings and faster
benefits of DITA-based collaboration with the
time-to-market. As industry success stories
technical publications staff, and illustrate with
pile up, the proof is clear: DITA is a winning
examples based on real-life success stories with
proposition for managing the process of
the easyDITA™ platform for authoring,
producing technical publications.
management, and publishing of DITA content.
Typical Current Environment
In a typical technical publication process, a writer will
interact with engineers and/or subject matter experts
Again, there is often no formal tracking process to
(SMEs) in several phases of development: to gather initial
determine the status of SME content review. Engineers
specifications in order to produce draft content and to
are often busy with development project tasks, and
facilitate the content review by the engineer/SME. There are
review of technical documentation is not always
often problems associated with each of these phases:
prioritized as highly as these other responsibilities.
SMEs typically do not follow a structured process for
Therefore, review comments are typically late and often
sending initial content to the writer. If the writer is lucky,
The most common mechanism for SME content review is
there will be formal specification documents that are
for a writer to send MS-Word or PDF documents via email
managed by version control and follow an approved format.
to each stakeholder in the review process. Each reviewer
If the writer is not as fortunate, the contribution can range
provides comments and edits to their own copy of the file
from a myriad of Word documents, email messages, Wiki
and returns the edited version to the writer. Once all
discussions, and even handwritten notes.
comments are received, it is up to the writer to face the
Often, there is no formal tracking mechanism in place to
determine if complete, up-to-date information has been
provided to the writer. If specifications are modified, the
writer often finds out too late (if at all).
challenge of consolidating these comments into one final
document - and even acting as a referee when comments
from different reviewers are not in agreement.
Benefits of a
A technology platform based
on DITA can help address
many of the issues with content
contribution and content
A DITA component-based
content management system
Example: The easyDITA content management system has powerful versioning
and notification features. This screenshot shows a topic’s version history,
indicating who to notify if this content is updated in the future.
provides a centralized storage
area, with versioning to track
content as it is updated in the
system. Imagine if functional
specifications were authored
in DITA and stored in a
centralized repository: if a
specification was changed, an
automatic notification could
immediately be sent to the
A collaborative workflow
environment helps the writer
to determine who has
completed their review tasks
and who is overdue. It also
helps facilitate the
management of comments
from multiple reviewers and
collaboration to resolve
Example: easyDITA has robust automated workflow features, including an
intuitive browser-based review tool for SMEs to easily add comments and edits
to content, and reporting to show status of outstanding review tasks.
Typical Current Environment
Marketing departments do not usually
What’s the issue?
have much interaction with technical
Some of the issues that marketing
publications groups. Marketing
organizations face include:
deliverables are vastly different from
product manuals, which tend to follow a
standardized, usually simple, format. In
contrast, marketing brochures,
newsletters, catalogs, and data sheets are
highly graphical in nature and very
Some marketing content is targeted for
web delivery (e.g., blog postings,
websites, etc.), while other deliverables
are primarily print-based. Due to these
factors, marketing organizations use a
variety of tools to produce their end
deliverables, ranging from simple web
editors like WordPress to highly
sophisticated layout tools like Adobe
The variety of content creation tools
make it inefficient to produce multiple
output formats. For example, a brochure
may have to be designed and produced
with a layout tool and then adapted later
for delivery to web or mobile devices.
Many companies serve a global audience
and have a need to produce multilingual
marketing collateral. Because marketing
content is usually developed in different
formats (e.g., Adobe InDesign files,
HTML, MS-Word, etc.), it can be costly
and time-consuming to translate these
deliverables into other languages with
the proper layouts.
Benefits of a DITA Environment
A DITA-based platform provides marketing organizations with an efficient way
to produce multiple outputs for web and print in multiple languages from a
Because DITA is based on “format-neutral” XML markup; the written content can be
created once and transformed to the required output formats in an automated way.
Tools exist to easily flow XML content into desktop publishing applications for further
layout, while delivery to online formats like HTML5 for delivery to the web and to
mobile devices can be completely automated.
Multi-channel publishing from the same source DITA content at the click of a
button from the easyDITA component content management system.
DITA is a highly efficient format for content localization. Most professional translation
service providers have experience working with XML/DITA (and usually prefer it!)
When you receive localized DITA content back from your localization vendor, you can
use the same automated publishing processes for your target languages as you do for
your source language.
With easyDITA you can export and import content to and from your translation
partner for an end-to-end localization workflow.
In our experience, we’ve seen a mystifying phenomenon
at many large corporations: The customer support
organizations use issue-tracking systems and
knowledgebases to troubleshoot problems logged by
customers, while technical writing departments produce
manuals that are designed to help customers avoid having
to call customer support in the first place. Even though it
seems logical that there would be a symbiotic relationship
between these two organizations, in many companies
these departments are completely isolated from each
other and do not share information!
Benefits of a DITA Environment
A DITA-based platform provides significant
benefits to both the product support and
Because the technical writing teams typically
create DITA content at a topic level (e.g., task),
they can provide very discrete units of
information that are highly targeted and easy
to query against. If the support organization
could get direct access to these DITA topics,
imagine how much easier and more efficient it
would be to troubleshoot an issue!
Support engineers could provide valuable
feedback to the technical writing team. If a
support person finds mistakes or incomplete
information in a task, they could add
comments to the DITA topic and send it back
to the original writer for editing and
incorporation into the next product release.
This leads to potentially significant cost
savings and higher customer satisfaction,
because people would not require as much
customer support if the technical
documentation is more accurate and
Example: easyDITA integrates with the intelligent content portal
SuiteShare, which can be configured as a support troubleshooting
tool using technical content authored in easyDITA. The illustration
above shows an example of SuiteShare configured to help customers
self-diagnose an issue.
Typical Current Environment
Benefits of a DITA Environment
In another example of the “islands of content” dilemma, a
The primary benefits of migrating your training content
corporate training/education department is usually under a
to DITA are localization and consistency:
completely separate (often revenue-based) department
within the enterprise. Even though the educational content
Localization: By “chunking” your content into
being developed typically has a high percentage of overlap
reusable topics, you will only have to translate the
with the content produced by technical publications, there is
individual topics that have changed since the last
commonly very little content reuse between technical
localization cycle. Furthermore, because the content is
publications and training departments. In many cases,
marked up in format-neutral XML and can then be
learning content is developed redundantly to the technical
automatically rendered to several output formats, you
publications content, and is often stored in a completely
will no longer have to pay a localization service provider
different repository or Learning Management System (LMS).
for desktop publishing (DTP) in your target languages.
If the educational content is being developed for a global
These 2 factors have been shown to reduce localization
audience and needs to be localized, this content is also sent
costs by an average of 70% for many technical
out for a separate translation, at a real cost to the company.
Most popular tools in the “learning”
space (such as PowerPoint or Captivate) give the course
developer many creative liberties. As a result, the final
output from different courseware creators can look quite
different, thus diminishing your brand recognition.
7 More Habits of Highly Successful DITA Teams
1. DITA encourages the writing of concise topics that can easily be
assembled in any order. For example, a training department could use a
DITA specialization to reuse technical writing topics and leverage it for
2. DITA conditional processing allows one set of content to automatically
produce documents with different uses, like instructor and student guides.
3. Because DITA is format-neutral, the same source content can be
automatically output as print-ready manuals, PowerPoint slides, or
optimized for a tablet device.
4. The separation of content from presentation (style, format) frees writers to
concentrate on what they do best: create valuable content...instead of
spending time adjusting fonts and troubleshooting layout issues.
5. DITA/XML content is highly desirable as a language translation format. If
technical publications topics are already translated, other departments will
not have to spend as much money “re-translating” the content for their
6. If the DITA repository is robust enough, there may be no need to invest in
setting up and maintaining a separate content management systems like an
LMS, easing the burden (and associated cost) related to IT support.
7. A powerful DITA repository can also manage video and multimedia content
that could be shared by both the technical publications and other
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