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Transitioning to Structured Documentation in an Enterprise Software Business

Skyward is a major provider of education management software, based in Wisconsin. Their products include both classroom management and learning tools and a full suite of tools for managing school district operations including finance, human resources, physical assets and more. The software is complex and documentation requirements are extensive, including a nearly constant revision and review process.

Their software development teams had decided to transition from a waterfall methodology to an agile development process. Waterfall worked by setting longer-term project goals and working in stages to achieve them. Agile works in a continuous improvement model with changes being delivered in relatively brief timelines called sprints. In Skyward’s case, these sprints were two weeks long, meaning changes were occurring in the software on a much more frequent basis.

The move to agile forced a reevaluation of their documentation process, as each change needed to be reflected in near real-time to coincide with the constant release process. This requirement exposed significant problems with their existing processes for creating, managing and publishing content associated with the software. This content consisted of, among other things, training, help desk, glossaries, learning course content, knowledge bases, and more. Within the agile environment, they needed to have all of this be synchronized with the pace of the software development. They made the decision to move their content creation and management process to a DITA-based Component Content Management System (CCMS). This case study looks at the challenges and solutions that made this transition successful.

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