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Navigating the Vendor Maze: Understanding XML Authoring Tools and Content Management Systems

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Presented by Steve Manning at Documentation and Training East, October
29-November 1, 2008 in Burlington, MA.

It can be tough to work through the volumes of software vendor
marketing and know exactly what products offer. What are the product
strengths? What are the weaknesses? They say the tools

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Navigating the Vendor Maze: Understanding XML Authoring Tools and Content Management Systems

  1. 1. Navigating the Vendor Maze: Understanding XML Authoring Tools and Content Management Systems Steve Manning Principal Consultant, The Rockley Group Inc. manning@rockley.com
  2. 2. The Rockley Group Inc. ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  3. 3. The Rockley Group sample clients ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  4. 4. Our task Provide comprehensive reviews for the CMS Watch Report on XML and Component Content Management Systems 13 CMS 5 Authoring tools Report V1 was delivered in May 08 V2 is under way (to be delivered by end of year) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  5. 5. Our approach Developed scenarios against which we could rank tools Had CCMS vendors provide a demo based on a script For Authoring tools we executed the same authoring test script on tools Also reviewed all marketing materials and websites for additional information Each vendor had the opportunity to fact check their section ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  6. 6. Scenarios Tools were ultimately ranked against scenarios Excellent fit Average fit Less than average fit Not applicable We needed to be certain that we were measuring all tools against the same “yardstick” ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  7. 7. Demo scripts Task-based exercises that would fit some aspect of scenarios Tried to be specific E.g., Show how you could import a collection of files into the system Show how to add object properties (metadata) to the system Each vendor got the same script (same yardstick) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  8. 8. Some things we learned
  9. 9. Vendors speak different languages They frequently use different terminology Metadata vs Properties vs Attributes Projects vs Publications … Therefore some translation was required This was very frustrating in some instances ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  10. 10. Focus on the good stuff Vendors will focus on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses Not a surprise, but is was occasionally a lot of work to get vendors to show weaker functionality ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  11. 11. Seeking other opinions (references) Vendors prefer to give good references. Bad ones are important too! If you ask generically what someone thinks of a tool, they will probably focus on the negative. Make sure you ask vendor references about themselves and their environment, not just the tool They might find a system easy to use, but you need context to understand if you will find it easy to use. Is a bad reference a result of poor tool selection? ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  12. 12. The cool factor Vendors all liked to go “off script” at some point to show you something cool that their system did that no one else’s did. Frequently, the cool stuff wasn’t broadly practical or useful. But it was cool!!! ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  13. 13. Bad sports? Some vendors really, really hate criticism ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  14. 14. How you can navigate the maze
  15. 15. Success is in analysis Know what your needs are Understand your content lifecycle Know you content and content needs ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  16. 16. Learn the key features of CM DITA, XML or Other? Granularity of access (files, elements) Module management (relationships, links) Metadata (customization, manipulation, application, inheritance) Access control (check-in/check-out) Version control Version linking (specific versions/current versions) Repository (data format, scalability) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  17. 17. CM Key features, cont'd Search and retrieval Archival Translation management Staging and deployment BLOB management Workflow Audit trail Certification (by regulatory bodies) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  18. 18. CM Key features, cont'd Integration with authoring tools and publishing tools (and a clear statement on what “integration” means) ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  19. 19. Create your own scenarios and scripts Have a clear idea of what you need a system to accomplish Built your own scenarios or use cases and scripts Get vendors to run custom demos based on your scripts ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  20. 20. Get a customized demo Describe your business process Provide samples of your content Ask for a custom demo that will demonstrate the specific support you need. ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  21. 21. Advice for a less stressful journey through the maze
  22. 22. The answer will follow the question Ask your teenage son or daughter this question: How was school today? Ask a vendor: Do you support DITA? So ask specific questions: How does your system support DITA conrefs? And get a demo ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  23. 23. Use generic demo to learn about CM Generic demos are good when you want to learn about content management Get lots of them as you develop your own scenarios and scripts then move to custom demos ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  24. 24. Understand what “we support” Does it mean “we can handle it” Or does it mean “we’ve created specific functionality for it” ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  25. 25. Ask for bad references When you ask vendors for references, they give you the good ones. Go ahead, put them on the spot and ask about the failures or the projects they’ve struggled with ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  26. 26. Consider the intangibles Support and maintenance Partners Vision Stability ©2008, The Rockley Group Inc.
  27. 27. Questions? Steve Manning The Rockley Group Inc. www.rockley.com manning@rockley.com http://www.intelligentcontent2009.com

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