Information is the lifeblood of any business, particularly when your products are highly technical or regulated. While this has always been the case with technical documentation, there is starting to be a recognition that all of the information created in an organization has untapped value. The challenge is understanding the information ecosystem within your company, its limitations, and how you can unlock these assets. The easyDITA CCMS is a platform for creating, editing, managing, and publishing your business critical information from one centralized source.
Legacy Information Ecosystems
Word processing software like MS Word was a breakthrough authoring environment when it was introduced in the early 1980s. Email with attachments was the principal collaboration tool for managing edits and revisions. Publishing was largely limited to PDFs driven by the formatting tools in Word. This (relatively) ancient technology, though still widely used, has not materially improved information ecosystems across many companies.
The challenges of these legacy methodologies include:
- The siloed content problem (it’s out there, but we can’t find it)
- The versioning problem (is this up to date and approved?)
- The reuse problem (I know this was already written but I can’t easily access it)
- The publishing problem (this doc uses non-standard formatting and can’t be output to current platforms, like mobile, without a lot of work).
- Finally, managing translation of documentation resurfaces all of these problems and multiplies them with each language.
A New Paradigm for Information Creation and Management
easyDITA addresses every one of the issues outlined above and does it in a way that ensures you will never run into these problems again. Documentation is authored in a centralized database and broken down into components known as topics. The three principal topic types are Concepts (explanations), Tasks (ordered lists of actions) and References (static information content such as diagrams, parts lists, specifications, etc.). Each of these topics is a stand-alone XML file. To create a document you assemble them with a map, which is similar to a table of contents or a navigation schema.
This simplified description, once grasped, changes the entire workflow for your information development and distribution:
- Authoring. The authoring interface in easyDITA is a familiar text editing environment, though the way documents are developed is different. However, once your writers become familiar with writing in topic components, your content now functions as data that can be managed. Formatting of content is no longer an authoring task.
- Editing and review are accomplished by assigning tasks, within the system, to various stakeholders. They log in, perform the required action, and easyDITA logs their activity, saves versions and notifies the document manager that the topic has been updated. There is no sharing of information via email and version control is no longer an issue.
- Search. easyDITA automatically organizes each content component with metadata, which enables a very fast global search capability. Fast search, in turn, enables very efficient reuse of existing content.
- Reuse. Many documents have required elements like Safety Notices that can be reused across an array of documents. Entire document maps can be copied via branching, enabling users to update the new map while the original is still in use, and then the branches can be merged to create an updated document when required. This reuse process makes managing very large documentation sets very similar to managing any other kind of data.
- Advanced capabilities give you a granular ability to link to information within files for reuse or to send global changes across sets of document maps.
- Formatting and Publishing. easyDITA files are in a DITA-compliant open XML format. Formatting is not done by the author and there is no need to continuously reformat for different media like web, mobile, help desks, PDF, wikis, etc.
- Translation. A major cost involved in translation and localization is determining which parts of a document are current and do not require translation again, and which parts require updating. easyDITA supplies translation packages that highlight parts of documents requiring new translation while retaining context, and enables rapid review of content after localization. This greatly reduces translation costs, time, and effort.
Your Information Moves From Discrete Files Scattered Around The Enterprise, to Manageable Data
Consider this: It is likely that no one in your organization knows the entire range of information you have created as an organization. This is because it is nearly impossible to manage information created on individual computers, in a wide variety of formats (Word, PPT, PDF, FrameMaker, etc.). This information has no organizational structure that enables global search and content management. easyDITA’s CCMS structures content like data, centralizes it, and then opens that content to users across your enterprise and your markets. It is the next-generation model for information creation, management, and distribution.