Modular Content Projects: One Size DOES NOT Fit All


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Presented by Steve Manning at Documentation and Training East, October
29-November 1 in Burlington, MA.

Modular Content Projects: One Size DOES NOT Fit All

Making the move to modular content involves more than repeatedly

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Modular Content Projects: One Size DOES NOT Fit All

  1. 1. Modular Content Projects: One Size DOES NOT Fit All Steve Manning Principal Consultant, The Rockley Group Inc.
  2. 2. The Rockley Group Inc. 2007 ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  3. 3. The Rockley Group sample clients ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  4. 4. In this session … We’ll compare two projects to implement modular content and discuss unique and common issues on the project ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  5. 5. Project 1 – Large multinational Large multinational, primarily US and Europe Growing through acquisition Multiple business software applications Distributed documentation teams ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  6. 6. Need for modular content Geography and acquisitions meant many ways of doing things Translation strategy called for simultaneous distribution in 8 languages Were falling behind on updates to documentation Budgets, notably for translation, were being questioned No reuse of content, but with plenty of opportunity Needed to refocus documentation to be customer- centric (and reduce support calls) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  7. 7. Solution DITA Structured topics for consistency … with some specialization Topics support selective translation processes New tools … authoring and CMS ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  8. 8. Key project activities Fully managed project with some dedicated resources Hired resources to manage the project and also to develop DTDs and style sheets Developed a change management plan and activities Migrated legacy content Provided structured documentation training Provided tools training Formed ongoing committee to review progress resolve issues ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  9. 9. Challenges Both management and writers resistance Decreased productivity while coming up to speed Short development times overlapping content development times Converting legacy content -- time consuming and expensive Learning curve for content design/DITA specialization ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  10. 10. Lessons learned Plan for migration of legacy content Create a clear training plan for all aspects of the project Develop pilot before wider rollout and troubleshoot Create a dedicated tools team Plan to rewrite content Talk to others who have done this sort of project ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  11. 11. Project 2 – Small equipment manufacturer Less than 250 employees in one location Growing product catalog Rapid company growth ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  12. 12. Need for modular content Over 100 products with similar characteristics/features Five writers struggling to keep up ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  13. 13. Solution DITA Minor specialization … will mostly rely on process for consistency New tools … authoring and CMS ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  14. 14. Key Activities Analyzed content for fit with DITA standard structures Outsourced legacy content conversion Provided tools training ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  15. 15. Challenges Lack of infrastructure support Different learning curve for different writers – some struggled adapting to structured writing others did not Users had a tougher time adapting to the tools than they thought Had to rely on vendor for configuration and style sheets Decreased productivity while coming up to speed in new system Balancing CM project with regular content development in an active/aggressive release cycle Jumped in with their first project having a tight deadline Didn’t have a good plan for converting legacy content ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  16. 16. Lessons learned Don’t underestimate the learning curve of structured/topic-based authoring Need to address differing learning curves Do a pilot with non production or low priority content Style sheets were an issue and can take a long time/be expensive Have a clear plan for legacy content conversion Have a clear training plan – understand knowledge gaps to be addressed ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  17. 17. Summing up Big Small startup multinational Communication issues Yes No Configuration and implementation No Yes issues Training issues Yes (mild) Yes Change management issues Yes (mild) Yes Content conversion issues Yes Yes Project on time No No In production now Yes Yes Note: No technical writes were fired during the making of these projects!! ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  18. 18. Our recommendations
  19. 19. Plan carefully Understand what you are getting into Careful analysis of your content before you begin will help reduce potential problems You will need a thorough plan for converting legacy content Style sheets are not trivial and need trained resources to create and maintain!! ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  20. 20. Address the needs of the writers Address change management Plan training carefully - be realistic about your own (and those of your writers) capabilities and needs Consider structured authoring training in addition to the tools training ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  21. 21. Questions? Steve Manning The Rockley Group Inc.