CMS/DITA Conference Session 14: Implementing DITA in the Real-World

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by David Kelly

This session was presented by Raymond Yang Lei, a senior information architect with Huawei (a large telecommunications company in China). Mr. Lei apologized for his English, this being his first opportunity to use it in a public forum. And, in truth, there were some details that probably got lost in translation, although JoAnn Hackos was present to help clarify points of confusion.

(I believe most of the bilingual Chinese people in the Bay Area at that time were gathered in downtown San Francisco, engaged in other business.)

Mr. Lei’s story of a DITA migration was similar in many respects to the other stories we heard during this conference. Drivers for the migration included rapid growth of products, versions, and customers, and requirements from their customers for world-class documentation quality. (I formerly worked for a company that was occasionally in direct competition with Huawei. Telecommunications is heavily regulated, and while the actual writing quality may not be at issue, the format, timeliness, and accessibility of technical data can be a deal breaker.)

Reasons for choosing DITA were similar to others mentioned in previous posts. One interesting comment he made: one reason for choosing DITA was the growing user community. I heard, informally, from other people that they were initially skeptical of DITA simply because it was open source, open standard, and those kinds of projects were typically ephemeral. I believe there is a growing sense that DITA is likely to have greater longevity and penetration than was initially suspected.

Okay, I need to get to the airport soon so I’m going to wrap this up quickly – will try to repost if more occurs to me during the long flight. So here are some quick points:

* They used an Excel spreadsheet to identify subject/topic completeness and organization. Later this spreadsheet outline was used, via an external application they developed, to generate a ditamap and create links to the appropriate topics. Very cool.
* They use Clearcase to store and version content. It’s not a CMS, I’m here to tell you.
* Changing roles include the fact that the Information Architect and writers must now be more aware of a broader scope of product knowledge in order to structure data and reuse data appropriately.
* They evaluated all the CMSes they could and rejected them all. Reasons: Unicode support does not mean Chinese-ready; not all the CMSes fully supported DITA; CMSes are expensive, particularly in China, and the ROI does not justify it.
* Their localization consists of writing in Chinese and translating almost simultaneously to English, then publishing both simultaneously. Eventually they plan to write primarily in English.

There were a couple of other interesting points — but I’m out of here. Cheers!

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