The second wave of DITA
You have DITA. Now what?
More companies are asking this question as DITA adoption increases. For many of our customers, the first wave of DITA means deciding whether it’s a good fit for their content. The companies that choose to implement DITA find that it increases the overall efficiency of content production with better reuse, automated formatting, and so on.
Now, clients are looking for the second wave of DITA: they want to connect DITA content to other information and explore innovative ways of using information. The focus shifts from cost reduction to quality improvements with questions like:
- How will our content strategy evolve as DITA evolves?
- How do we make the most of our DITA implementation?
- How do we tailor our DITA implementation to better suit our needs?
- What can DITA do for us beyond the basics?
- What other content sources are available and how can we integrate them with our baseline DITA content?
- What new information products can we create using DITA as a starting point?
- How can we improve the customer experience?
The second wave of DITA can go in two directions. In the apocalyptic scenario, the overhead and complexity of DITA exceeds any business value, so the organization looks for ways to get out of DITA. But if you measure implementation cost against business value before any implementation work begins, this scenario is unlikely. Instead, you can reap the benefits of a successful implementation and start exploring what else DITA can do for your business.
Extending DITA beyond the basics
Your first DITA implementation must achieve your objectives with minimum complexity. When the shock of using the system wears off, you can consider new initiatives:
- Building additional specializations
- Using advanced DITA techniques to accommodate complex requirements
- Delivering new output files
- Refining your reuse strategy
Integrating with other systems
In the first wave, organizations usually focus on getting their content in order—migrating to DITA and topic-based authoring, setting up reuse, establishing efficient workflows, and managing the staff transition into new systems.
In the second wave of DITA, the new baseline is a functioning, efficient content production process, and attention turns to requirements that increase the complexity of the system. For example, a company might combine DITA content with information in a web CMS, a knowledge base, an e-learning system, or various business systems.
Moving additional content types into the DITA CCMS is only one option to foster collaboration. Organizations can align content across different authoring systems. Another integration opportunity is combining business data (such as product specifications or customer information) with DITA content. Software connectors that allow disparate systems to exchange information are a huge opportunity in the second wave of DITA. You can share information as needed without forcing everyone into a single system.
Focusing on the business value of content
The emphasis is shifting. In the first wave, organizations focused on reducing the cost of producing content by improving operational efficiency. In effect, they built systems that reduced or eliminated waste in content manufacturing. In the second wave of DITA, the focus is on the business value of the content. After setting up the assembly line, the organization can build cars, er, content, with more and more features that authors and consumers need.
Some trends in this area include the following:
- In localization, a shift from authoring in a single source language toward multilingual authoring. Product expertise is not confined to employees who are proficient in English. If your subject matter expert is most comfortable in Chinese, why not allow her to work in that language?
- In management, an increasing recognition of the value of good content, and a demand for improvements.
- In content creation, a greater recognition of the importance of content strategy and an increasing focus on the big picture.
DITA is a constantly evolving technology, and to get the most value out of your implementation, you must ensure that your content strategy evolves with it. Don’t stop at letting DITA solve your content problems—take advantage of the second wave of DITA and explore the many other ways it can advance your business.
We had some interesting discussion about the second wave of DITA during our 2016 content trends webcast, and we’d like to continue that in the comments. Are you in DITA and figuring out what comes next? Let us know.