Rebranding as a business case for XML
Reuse and automated formatting are the most common justifications for XML, but recently, we have heard a new reason from several customers: rebranding.
It’s a common scenario: The organization you work for gets acquired (and renamed), has a new branding campaign (new logo, new name), changes its location (new address), or spins off your division (new everything).
In traditional layout files, this can result in a huge rebranding effort. You end up having to change the copyright pages, headers and footers, inline references to the company name and product names, and so on. Good templates help, but someone still has to open each file, apply the new settings, and regenerate the output.
If the files are less than completely consistent, applying templates can be problematic. The effort to make these changes can be shockingly high, especially if your content is subject to any sort of regulatory approval.
In several recent cases, our clients have calculated that the cost of minor formatting updates (which require extensive manual intervention) is comparable to the cost of converting the files to XML. So the solution to the problem of changing the logo is to move the content to XML and use automated formatting.
Given the assumption that there will be similar changes in the future, it’s a sound investment.
Yes! Having been through a lot of rebrands, I can verify that XML/DITA has transformed the process from something only slightly less unpleasant than a full-body case of poison ivy into literally a 5-minute job. In the past, even with careful template setup, we still had to manually apply the updated templates to all of our content, just as you said. Now that we publish via the DITA-OT, I set up all our branding stuff (colors, image URIs, etc.) as variables in a single file. Product names and things like that are set up as keys. A few quick changes in a few files and we can then run build batches to re-create all our deliverables with the new look. The only thing that remains time-consuming is the rebranding of screen shots, though we have tried to make them as generic as possible to avoid some of that. I can’t say that rebranding alone has justified our XML/DITA initiative, but it was definitely one of the most important benefits.
“only slightly less unpleasant than a full-body case of poison ivy” You have a way with words!
It’s good to see that companies are starting to see that structured writing has other benefits besides reuse. There is so much potential in terms of quality improvement, auditing, linking, and content automation that is still often ignored. Any step in expanding the value proposition of structured writing is a step in the right direction.
In particular, the overwhelming focus on reuse of late has led many companies to conclude that if they do not have a large business case for reuse, they have no business case for XML or structured writing at all. Drawing attention to other benefits can only help in expanding the appreciation and use of structured content technologies.
For once, we are in complete agreement. 🙂
For once? I’m pretty sure we are in complete agreement more often than that. 🙂
Another valuable pointer for my business cases for encouraging my client to go for structured authoring.
In addition to all the tangible benefits of structured authoring (reuse, branding, flexible-publishing), it makes writers feel good about their work, rather than spending hours to update basic documents for headers, footers or copy-pasting content chunks around in different documents.
Excellent point. Eliminating drudgery is a nice bonus.