2020 was an unpredictable year. We learned (or at least attempted) to be flexible during difficult times. With flexibility in mind, we are making some cautious industry and pandemic related predictions for 2021.
Hybridization and reconnection
Our new normal involved working from home, video calls, and virtual socialization. It was a necessary adjustment we all needed to make, but it was difficult and we missed connecting with people over a delicious meal. Large conferences were moved to online platforms and in-person interaction was basically non-existent. With a vaccine in sight, in-person events will return. But what will they look like? Will they be different?
As we return to in-person events we will most likely see some sort of hybridization—a combination of virtual and in-person experiences.
Early on, there was some speculation that virtual events might just replace in-person events entirely. Virtual events do offer some advantages like eliminating travel and the need to cross borders. But after a year of virtual interaction, I think we all recognize that in-person events offer unique value. I miss connecting over coffee or a shared meal. Screens are not the same. Video is convenient, but it’s still weird to be in a professional business meeting in a dress top and sweatpants.
Most likely, we will see more flexibility and availability of online options for conferences and work environments, but in-person events and meetings will still be an important part of networking and relationship building. We look forward to seeing many of you as soon as it is safe. In a burst of optimism, we have penciled in fall/winter 2021 conferences as in-person events.
Mixed content and shared pipes
Content development groups have been successfully using single-sourcing authoring for roughly two decades. However, addressing collaboration and reuse requirements across multiple groups, departments, or organizations becomes more complex and therefore requires additional consideration. Shared pipes—a shared infrastructure for terminology, information architecture, and localization—are the future.
In a shared pipes environment, all of your content might use the same rendering and localization workflows, but diverse source formats and authoring tools. When your DITA authors and technical authors use the same pipelines and workflows, you can maintain consistency across different departments while still addressing the needs for different delivery formats (such as websites, portals, PDF/print, and so on)..
Refactoring DITA and workflow improvements
Adopting DITA is usually driven by a merger or acquisition or localization needs. A few years after the transition, it’s worthwhile to take another look at your workflow.
There is now a critical mass of organizations who implemented DITA a while back. Now, they are coming to us to update DITA specializations, modernize their component content management system (CCMS) infrastructure, clean up workflows, and update DITA Open Toolkit plugins to the latest version.
There are always ways to improve your workflow. Benefits of refactoring include saving additional time, the ability for both technical communicators and SMEs to contribute in a DITA authoring environment, and new transforms and DITA OT plugins. Just like annual spring cleaning, periodic DITA updates are necessary and useful.
Share your 2021 trends in the comments below.