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Longevity is a major consideration when choosing new IT systems, especially content IT systems. As you’re looking forward to the content ecosystem and supply chain that will serve your organization for the next decade, there is one thing I can say with full confidence: “You don’t outgrow a good DITA Implementation.”

In today’s world, IT systems and software packages are constantly being exchanged for the next best thing. Sure, there are some outliers that have stuck around for decades, Microsoft Word, for example, but as organizations move towards as-a-service business solutions, the cost of switching systems becomes lower, so it can be done more easily. That is, the cost of switching is low if the data in one system can move to another. Since many IT systems run on data that is primarily tabular, migrating between systems might be a bit of a pain, but it’s generally manageable. Traditionally, content hasn’t had this luxury. Why has MS Word remained king for so long? Largely because all your documents were already in Word. Format lock-in is a powerful force, and it’s great when you’re the incumbent vendor, but not so great when you’re the customer. This is one of the big reasons I would never build a technical content ecosystem on anything other than DITA. I know Markdown and reStructuredText have some of this same qualities, but the level of unstructured variation between implementations rules them out for me.

Here’s the reality: DITA is a well-established standard with a vibrant tools marketplace, experienced services providers, and tons of educational resources. The impact of this is that you can switch or add tools when your requirements change, you can get assistance from trusted experts, and there are always more professional development opportunities to improve your organization. When it comes to document and content technologies, this type of robust support and community are invaluable to the long-term support of your infrastructure.

Beyond just the stability of the community, DITA is a stable choice for a content format because it scales well from a quantity perspective. We have customers that manage hundreds of thousands of topics across many products, all translated into dozens of languages. That’s a ton of content. easyDITA is a major factor in being able to meet this scale, but at the same time, DITA itself is playing a foundational role. The combination of content reuse, the consistency of structure, and automated publishing provide efficiencies in the creation and management process that results in high scalability.

The last reason you don’t outgrow a DITA implementation is a bit of a rehash of the first reason, but I believe it bears repeating: You can switch tools. Think about it. What other content formats can you think of where you can replace your entire tools infrastructure without converting your content? I think there is some argument that Markdown might provide this, but I’ve never seen a mature Markdown implementation that wasn’t highly customized and incompatible with tools outside of the currently implemented stack.

DITA scales, it’s well supported, and you have a robust set of vendor options. It’s the content technology choice that will grow with you.

A better way to manage technical documents

Patrick Bosek

Patrick is a co-founder of Jorsek LLC, makers easyDITA. Since beginning with Jorsek LLC in 2005 Patrick, has worked on a wide range of projects all focused on improving authoring, production, and distribution of content. Most recently, his primary focus has been empowering the users of easyDITA and generally advancing the product documentation industry.

Patrick is a software industry professional specializing in developing, productizing, and solving problems with product content software. He is a highly skilled developer, thoughtful manager, passionate customer advocate.

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