DITA, The Sequel: Refining your DITA workflow

Sarah O'Keefe / Opinion

The initial wave of DITA implementations is still building, but we are already seeing the early adopters move on to what I am calling DITA, The Sequel.

Sometimes, sequels are great and other times…not so much (warning: You’re going to wish you hadn’t clicked on that link…some things, you can’t unsee). The DITA maturity model provides a way to classify DITA adoption strategies.

Six levels of DITA adoption

The DITA maturity model (source: dita.xml.org)

Our customers typically implement DITA in order to recognize cost savings in localization. Simply shipping XML to the localization vendor and having the ability to render translated content into the required deliverables presents a compelling business case.

Now, we have DITA, The Sequel. Organizations are adding to their implementation and increasing their return on the original investment with smaller follow-on projects. For example:

  • An organization that has successfully implemented DITA/reuse/localization management recognizes that the process of creating deliverables takes a significant amount of time from authors. We work with them to create a flexible build automation system that eliminates many hours of tedious manual configuration. Because making updates to the output(s) is automated, the organization now delivers information that is updated weekly or nightly instead of monthly.
  • Another DITA-based organization recognizes that the current output formats being delivered do not meet customer needs, so we work with them to create a new plug-in for the DITA Open Toolkit with a new format. (Popular formats are currently HTML compatible with mobile devices and ePub.) Because the new plug-in just, er, plugs in to the existing DITA architecture, the risk of adding a new output is minimal.
  • In yet another organization, DITA authoring is limited to a small group of technical communicators. In the second wave, the authoring process is opened up to subject-matter experts, who contribute content directly in DITA instead of sending over Word files that require laborious reformatting and reworking.
  • Another extension point is finding ways to inject additional content into the DITA ecosystem. Often, this involves creating transformations to get non-DITA XML into DITA.

Organizations are moving beyond their initial DITA implementations into more powerful, more flexible systems. I’m looking forward to what we might see in DITA 3: The Rise of the DITA Machines.

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe

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Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.