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Your tech expertise + our CCMS knowledge = replatforming success

Is your team skilled in navigating your current CCMS, but unfamiliar with the system you plan to adopt? During a recent replatforming project, we worked with a team of in-house experts to build out a new CCMS. The combination of their domain expertise and our replatforming experience was a big success. The client is now self-sufficient and thriving in their new CCMS environment.

Compressed content strategy assessment 

Before engaging Scriptorium, this client had selected AEM Guides, a DITA-based component content management system (CCMS), as their new system. Although they were familiar with structured content systems, they wanted replatforming support. Early on, we discovered several positive attributes about this client that made the project easier:

  • Established structured content mindset. The team was already familiar with structured content because of their ongoing work in the Vasont CCMS with customized DocBook XML. They only needed support with DITA concepts. The transition from DocBook to DITA is easier than the transition from unstructured tools such as Word, FrameMaker, PowerPoint, and InDesign. 
  • Strong internal technical support. The client had (and has) an established internal technical team who have primary responsibility for the CCMS implementation and ongoing support. 
  • Defined project priorities and timeline. The client gave us a prioritized timeline to keep everyone focused.

We worked with them to adapt our content strategy assessment process to their requirements.

This client wanted an information architecture (IA)-focused content strategy engagement instead of a standard full assessment where we interview stakeholders, put recommendations into an assessment document, and so on. […] In this case, they were able to save some budget and only have us focus on specific pieces they knew they needed help with. 

– Gretyl Kinsey

Project scope

The primary goal of this project was to replatform the client’s content from Vasont/DocBook into AEM Guides/DITA. 

The first phase was looking at their content’s information architecture to figure out how to map over what they had from their custom Vasont environment to DITA. Then, we created a migration script to move their Vasont content into DITA. There was a bursting layer to that; they had large documents as one big file that needed to be burst out into modular topic-based DITA files as part of that migration.

– Gretyl Kinsey

Information architecture and migration

Our team revised the client’s information architecture as follows:  

  • Determined how to map the DocBook XML structure into DITA equivalents
  • Developed a DITA content model
  • Built out DITA document type definition (DTD) files for the new content model
  • Mapped legacy DocBook XML to the new content model in a conversion script
  • Added “bursting” functionality to the script to break out a single DocBook chapter file into multiple DITA topic files 

Gretyl Kinsey identified what DITA specializations were needed for the client’s document types, elements, and attributes. Jake Campbell  and Melissa Kershes built and managed the specialization files. 

Melissa worked closely with the client’s team to create the best outcome in the new DITA tool.

As an example, the DITA troubleshooting topic is very strict with the type of content that you can put in it. The client had an open loosey-goosey kind of troubleshooting structure in Vasont with a table, questions, and stuff like that, so we had to map that content over to DITA. […] We managed to cleanly transfer over what they had with a decent output. We worked with them a lot because it was so different from what they had, but in the end, they ended up with a really good model. Their developer is just awesome! 

– Melissa Kershes

Reuse strategy

Our team created reuse recommendations that covered three scenarios: 

  • Common content. This is information that appears across multiple deliverables. Typical examples include safety warnings, frequently used introductions, and other boilerplate text.
  • Variable information. These are smaller pieces of content (such as product names) that may change based on the client’s needs. For example, product names often change when a company rebrands. Using variables for product names means you can change the product name just once instead of having to run search and replace across hundreds or thousands of pages of content.
  • Conditional information. This is content that varies in a single document. For example, a user guide might contain different instructions for novice and advanced users. Using conditionals means that you can show or hide the appropriate information and create two versions of the guide from a single set of source files. 

Training and knowledge transfer

Lastly, Scriptorium provided the client’s team with training for their migration process and on the new CCMS. We provided ongoing knowledge transfer to enable the in-house team to take control of their new CCMS. 

Clear communication in a global environment

The project team included people in opposing time zones—twelve hours apart. We mitigated that challenge by setting scheduling parameters, keeping meetings short and focused, using a dedicated chat space, and sharing files in a collaboration space. 

With a project with that much discrepancy in time zones, you might expect communication to drop off or things to get lost, but with this client, that never became an issue. We had really good communication the whole time. 

– Gretyl Kinsey

Three keys for successful collaboration

Throughout this project, we’ve identified three key reasons for our successful collaboration:

  • Transparency. We communicated early and often about budgeting details, project scope, obstacles, and timelines. 

When things didn’t exactly go according to plan, because you always run into that with a migration, the client could always see our work and know exactly where that time went. That level of transparency was something that I believe contributed to them doing more phases with us.

– Gretyl Kinsey

  • Accurate expectations. Even with the best of plans, replatforming projects unearth unexpected challenges. By beginning the project with clear expectations on both sides, a strong baseline of trust was built between both teams. 
  • Training & autonomy. We equipped the in-house team with the training to thrive in their new content structure. At the beginning of this project, we held bimonthly support meetings. By the end, meetings shifted to an “as-needed” schedule.

We hit a turning point where the bulk of the work they needed us to guide them through passed. Instead, they began to identify other priorities that we could help with.

– Gretyl Kinsey

The results 

We’ve migrated the client’s knowledge base content, which accounts for approximately 50% of their total content. The first wave of migration served as the pilot project for the remaining phases. After each instance, we further refined the content model, ensuring that future migrations are set up for success. 

We were able to get through one iteration, test it, and have it “final and not final.” There was always something to adjust. Then, we moved on to the next one and added layers of complexity to the transform to make sure the migration was just right. 

– Melissa Kershes

With our implementation support and their strong internal dev team, this client is prepared to manage content in their AEM Guides configuration.

Migration was their big goal. But we added a lot of extra value in several different ways, from recommendations on topic structure and how to interpret what they had done to helping them with their implementation into AEM Guides. In fact, they sometimes asked specific questions about what would happen in AEM, and we were able to support that too, which was nice.

– Melissa Kershes

Throughout this project, the client’s team shifted their authoring mindset to prioritize consistency, reuse, and modular approaches to topics, meaning that authors now think of content in terms of topic-based components rather than whole documents. They’re managing and localizing content at scale in their new AEM Guides environment.

Start small with a proof of concept

If you’re thinking about a replatforming project but you’re not ready to get started, consider using a proof of concept. In many cases, small portions of content can be migrated to test your needs, requirements, and tools. 

An important consideration for any project with a migration aspect is to not try to do all of it at once. It’s going to hurt you if you bite off more than you can chew.

– Gretyl Kinsey

During a replatforming project, your team’s domain expertise and technical support combined with our strategy, configuration, and implementation experience can ensure a triumphant transition.

Questions about a replatforming project? Let’s connect!

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