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The decision to move your content to a Component Content Management System (CCMS) like easyDITA is not a minor business decision. If you are a writer using the system you have to deal with learning not only a new software platform, you also need to accept a different way of thinking about writing and managing content. The good news is that once you’ve made that move, you have options that simply were not possible with legacy systems, options that will save time and money while improving quality. For real.

Understanding The Total Cost of Choosing a CCMS

The considerations involved in choosing a CCMS cover a lot of territory. Migration, acceptance, training, customization, designing workflows—and yes, how much it costs. And that is about the right order of importance for these choices. Together they add up to the total cost of ownership (TCO), a price that should be amortized over time. The solution you choose will be with you for a long time, assuming you made the right choice, and the price you pay for it will likely become an operating expense. So, how much does it actually cost?

Hosting and Maintaining ‘Boxed’ Solutions Are Hidden Costs

easyDITA works on a subscription model that is largely cloud-based (we do offer a local, on-premises server option for circumstances where a regulatory situation demands it, though there are very good reasons why we don’t encourage this). Some solutions sell the equivalent of ‘software in a box’ for a fixed price that almost always requires a service contract. The problems, from our perspective, with this are significant. Upgrades, customization, bug fixes, IT resources…the list is long and each of these are hidden costs that are difficult to quantify when you’re doing your buying research.

Choosing an Open Format and Standard Is a Strategic Decision

Other factors include the decision to go with an open file format and standards-based platform, or a proprietary solution. We are a completely open and standards-compliant XML/DITA solution, which means there is no lock-in to a specialized format should your business or organization decide to choose another solution in the future. Your content will migrate, without extensive reformatting. The ability to access your documents down the road is another factor in calculating the total cost of ownership.

The Real Cost (of any system) is Not Reflected in Pricing Pages

So, how much does it cost? That’s easy enough, just look at our Pricing page. There is just one problem with that. A CCMS is a complex system that usually requires some degree of customization, because it is used in different applications by different companies. Some use it entirely for customer-facing documentation, others for internal or regulatory compliance documentation, and others for learning/training applications. Some do all three. easyDITA is a platform that can be adapted to various specializations and determining how much customization is required is another cost factor. Your requirements planning is a part of the price that is not reflected in anyone’s pricing plans.

Who Uses The Solution vs. Who Needs Access: Users and Reviewers

Finally, the number of users or ‘seats’ is another factor. In easyDITA ‘users’ are writers and content managers who actually use the software for authoring, reuse, translation management, workflow, and publishing of the content. However there is another class of people who need access to documents for review and approval purposes. We refer to these as ‘reviewers’. In our pricing schema, there is a monthly or annual per user cost but reviewers are not charged. In researching a solution, this needs to be taken into consideration as a significant price factor. The ability to assign a review to a subject matter expert, outside consultant, or a senior manager, should not trigger additional costs.

Price is Relative

The point of this post is that pricing tables on websites are useful tools in the very early decision-making process. But they are only relevant at that early stage. It is far more critical to look at planning and implementation costs, amortized subscription costs, and the costs of choosing a proprietary format that locks your content into a system. Determining your cost is a shared process between the vendor and your company or organization. We work closely with our customers to help them choose the best package of both tangible and less tangible costs and to clarify the process.

Martin is a writer and marketer who specializes in creating content for delivery online via the web and mobile. Former Jorsek Employee.