DCL Learning Series
Create and Deliver Personalized Content With DITA Based on Your Role and Goal
Hello. Thank you, everyone. Thank you for joining the DCL Learning Series. Today's webinar is titled "Create and Deliver Personalized Content with DITA Based on Your Role and Goal," featuring DCL partner IXIASOFT. My name is Marianne Calilhanna and I'll be your moderator today. We will have this up on the DCL website in the on-demand section at dataconversionlaboratory.com, and my colleague Leigh Anne is going to push that URL out to you momentarily.
So today's agenda, we're going to speak about the topics you see here. We will first review DITA basic concepts and benefits, CCMS basic concepts and benefits, authoring and reviewing, content delivery, and release management. And we'll be tracking these topics back to how this is important to these roles of an information architect, a technical writer, and that C-level executive in an organization. But before we begin, I would like to introduce all of you to Data Conversion Laboratory, or DCL, as we are also known. We've been structuring content and data since 1981. We are the leading XML conversion services provider, DITA conversion services, SPL conversion services, and S1000D conversion services. We offer all of the support that you see here on this slide. And in short, if you have complex content structuring or data challenges, we can help.
I'm really delighted to have today's panelists with us today. We have my colleague, Christopher Hill, at Data Conversion Laboratory. Chris is a Technical Product and Project Manager here at DCL. Welcome, Chris. And we also have Derek Fess. Derek is Presales Consultant with IXIASOFT. Welcome, Derek.
Derek, I'm going to go off camera and I'm going to let you share a little bit about IXIASOFT.
Okay. IXIASOFT has been around since 1998. We have a global presence with teams in North America, in Europe, and most recently in Japan. The majority of our customers are based in North America, but we're seeing strong growth in Europe and in Japan as well. It's important to note that IXIASOFT tends to work with organizations that are really industry leaders in their field. As a matter of fact, the majority of our customers are in the one-billion-dollar club, but we also have a strong presence in the small-to-medium business sectors with teams that have as few as five users in the CCMS. Some of our customers include SAP, Workday, ADP, Ericsson, Qualcomm. Like SAP, they have over 100,000 deliverables daily within the CCMS, so scalability is really a strength of the platform. And Ericsson, they have over 700 global users logging into the system every day. And while it's an excellent enterprise solution, our extensive customer-centricity is always something that our clients have raised as a reason why they enjoyed working with us. We also believe it's important to select a vendor that has really deep DITA expertise. Next.
We've been involved in the world of DITA since its release in 2005, and since then, IXIASOFT has been at the forefront of the development of the standard. Internally, we've developed a strong expertise of DITA experts who are involved in every customer deployment. We're also very customer-centric and focused on developing a long-term partnership with our customers. We've put in place a number of resources for customers, including our annual user conference, our customer advisory board, customer success managers, and customer care, which is an extension of the standard support we offer to our customers, as well as an Evolution Lab that allows our customers to request feature enhancements to the product.
All right. My name is Chris Hill, and I started in this business as an XML trainer, so I've sort of grown up from the late '90s with the XML standard. And then since then, between then and now, a lot of changes have occurred, as some of you may know. One of them is DITA, which arose throughout the last decade or so as a really important industry standard for storing structured content. It's built on XML, which means it's a text-based, very simple base format that can be easily used in a lot of different settings.
And it was introduced originally in 2001. As I mentioned, it's really taken hold in the last 10 years or so, where you've seen lots of tools, such as IXIASOFT, and lots of vendors come about to specialize in DITA. And really, what drove DITA was, XML was great, but XML was kind of like a big Lego set with a lot of just random, plain old bricks. And when you have something like that, it can be very hard to know how to get started. DITA takes XML and puts a lot of things together to get you jump-started so that you can build your particular toolchain needed to support your requirements for structured content, for storing and delivering it, and it does that by taking the information that we typically were storing as text and putting formatting on it and, instead, adding semantic information, so starting to describe what the text was.
So when you think of your word processor, you're really thinking about how the text looks. So you might look at a structure in a Word document and you see that it's bold and it's in a certain font and it's in a certain position on the page, and that tells you that's a heading or maybe a chapter title or whatever. But most of that, when you think about it, when you look at a PDF or a Word document, you are doing that because you're the intelligence that puts semantic meaning on the things that are formatted on the page. What DITA does is, instead of storing that information just with the styling information, it instead stores it with tags around it that says exactly what this information is supposed to be. So if you have a task that you're describing, DITA has a task tab and it tells you that I'm about to describe a task. By putting that not in the formatting, but instead explicitly specifying it in a semantic structure, that means that it becomes something that machines and humans can work on.
And we can build a lot more powerful publication chains that include things like single-source publishing, where we want to be able to output to the web and to a PDF and maybe to an online platform or maybe even some other device or something. All of that can be supported because you have semantic information instead of just styling information stored with your content. So that's really what drove DITA. So if we move on to the next slide, you start thinking about "Well, what would drive you to need DITA?"
Well, if you find yourself doing lots of copying and pasting and then having a lot of trouble updating documents, or if your document revision cycles are growing increasingly long as you support either more products or maybe more formats of the output or more languages, then you start to see the need for something like DITA to come into play. Typically, and this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, there are exceptions to all of these things I'm about to tell you, but what would typically drive you to say "Yes. Absolutely. We need to look at DITA," would be if you had large volumes of content. If you had lots of, as I said, copying and pasting or needs for content reuse, because, really, a copy and a paste is saying "Hey, I need to reuse this content in two different documents." Well, if I copy and paste it, that's fine now, but if I decide I need to fix the document or revise a document, how do I remember where did I copy it to? Have I copied it to eight other documents? Or did I copy it to one document and then somebody who had that document copied it to another document that I don't even know about? How do we make sure our content stays in sync and that when we need to update it, we can do so?
So that's typically a big driver, is the content reuse piece. If you've got lots of releases going on and, again, you're finding that you're being bogged down by the schedule of the documentation, that can be an indicator that you might need DITA. When you support multiple languages, this is really important, because if you're translating lots of copies of content, if you've copied your content over and over to different places, when you go to translate it, generally you end up paying for all those translations for everything you copy. You can really reduce the need for translation and the cost of translation if you're using an infrastructure that allows you to reuse a single piece of content once, store it once, and reuse it in many, many places, and then you only edit it once or translate it once.
If you've got version issues, a lot of times, if you've got complex version requirements, DITA can support a lot of more complicated document life cycles. I know with IXIASOFT, they're very good with branching and merging. So if you've got to take content and I've got to make another version while I'm simultaneously working on the current version, some of these tools can support that, but it needs underneath a format that can support it, and that's where DITA can help. And then as I mentioned earlier, multichannel output, if you're trying to output to lots of different formats. In the old days, back in the, let's say, the '90s, it's hard to say that's the old days, but anyway, I was doing work on documentation for a small web development company, and we had some customers that asked us to create these multichannel outputs.
We literally did it just by copying and pasting. So you'd take the Word document, you'd copy it into a text editor, the text, and then I'd start putting tags around it. I mean, what kind of job was that? It was tedious, I can tell you that. So multichannel outputs need a format that, again, semantically describes the content so that the outputs can decide the best way to present it.
So moving on to the next slide, you might ask yourself "Well, then, I have some of those issues." Most people have some of those issues no matter what size company you have, but different people in the organization can be motivated by different reasons to move to DITA. So if you are fortunate enough to have an information architect in your company, somebody who's in charge of architecting the overall way you store and manage your information, these people tend to be concerned with some of the things that you can implement with DITA, like taxonomies, making things more searchable, organizing the content more flexibly. A big one can be content governance. So you may have a piece of text that needs to appear in all of your documentation, and that piece of text needs to be governed by your legal department.
If that's the case, well, if you're just copying that boilerplate into all the other documents, you have no guarantee that that content can't be changed after it goes in, after you copy it. Right? But with something like DITA and a CMS like IXIASOFT, you can start to govern who has access to what and who can change and who can read and who can do those things. It really becomes a framework so that an information architect can implement whatever content strategy they deem needed. Technical writers tend to benefit a lot from DITA once they get up and running.
So once they learn to author in DITA instead of authoring in maybe a page layout sort of orientation, they usually gain the ability to greatly increase the rapidity with which revisions are released. So I can go in and very quickly make a change to your content and know that that's going to propagate throughout all the documents. I don't have to go hunt down every single instance where we said X that I need to edit to make it accurate or to update the product or whatever. It also reduces greatly the volumes you're managing. So if I've got copies and copies and copies of all the stuff, then I have to manage all that and store it and find it and search through it and wade through it.
With DITA, if you're only storing a piece of information once and you're reusing it everywhere else, that tends to reduce the volume of content you have to store, and then it can help streamline the workflows so that, again, you can quickly get these publications revised and out, or translated and out. Also, not mentioned here is speed of translation. A lot of times, what happens in the more legacy workflows is people will have these monolithic documents. They'll get it translated, then it'll go through a lot of revisions in its source language.
And at some point, you got to say "Oh, we better retranslate everything because it's getting out of sync." Right? Well, with a DITA approach, you can retranslate only the pieces that have changed, and that can usually be identified very easily if you have a content management system like IXIASOFT.
Now, executives, they may not even know the word DITA or care about the word DITA, but what they do care about is, again, their agility as an organization. So if I can create a new product, get the documentation ready faster, then I can get it out on the market quicker and start making money quicker.
I can save money on those translations, on storage, on all those types of things, on even the time it takes to pay the technical writers to do revisions. All of that stuff results in cost savings. It also can help preserve brand consistency. So one of the challenges is, if you change your brand or you update your brand, is finding all the places where you need to change the name of the company or maybe the tagline that you've used. If you have this in a single-source, DITA-based repository, it becomes much easier to propagate brand changes to all of your outputs and keep it consistent throughout the content life cycle. And then you can scale your content production and delivery. Again, as you add more products, as you add more languages, expand into foreign markets, and have to start doing translation, those tasks are much easier once you've developed a DITA-based solution for your content production.
So let's look real quick at the next slide, and you're going to see here, I'm just going to give you just a really high-level overview. This is not a DITA course. I only have a couple minutes that I'm going to take to tell you about this, but I just want to give you a sense of what we're talking about when you talk about DITA. So what you're talking about with DITA is, you write really discrete pieces of information into things called topics. And I'm not going to get too much into that, but topics can have different types. I mentioned there might be a task you're describing, so there's a task type. If you've got learning management, if you've got learning content, there are some types that have been created around that that you can use, or you can develop your own types, if you need, of topics, or you can just work on topics.
And a topic is basically just, I'm going to describe one thing, I'm going to write it in this small bit of file, and then to create an actual document, I'm going to assemble topics together. So you can think of a topic kind of like maybe, in an older presentation, it might be a section of a document, or it might be a chapter or subchapter. It might be called different things, but basically, those discrete pieces of information are what we're talking about. And then instead of putting together one big, long document that the author works on, instead an author creates what's called a map, and the map is just pointers to all of the different topics that you need to assemble together to put together the publication you're trying to put together.
So if it's a technical document manual, you'll probably have a topic that's some introduction and you'll probably have a topic that describes how to service or how to power off the device. That might be a topic. And you just assemble all those together into a map and then you can reuse those topics in many, many different maps. So the map can be used for a single product or you can create another map for another product and use some of the topics or rearrange the topics. You can add things like sensitivity in the map so that the map can be generated for different audiences. So you might have a topic that has different ways to describe the information depending on whether you're a programmer,
or your audience is an IT manager or something like that. You can create these sorts of roles and overlay that, and it becomes very powerful what you can assemble together with DITA. And then what happens to the maps are the maps are usually presented. Usually, you need a tool to assemble those maps, to manage those topics, put them all together. That tends to be a CMS, which you're going to hear about shortly. And when I assemble those maps together, then that tool can also create deliverables.
So it has a mechanism either to connect to an external tool or to do it internally to generate different outputs. So it reads that map, it collects the topics together, and then it produces the PDF or it produces the HTML files or it publishes things on a website or it sends things through an API to a third party, or it can create data files that are loaded into the hardware to drive the user experience in the hardware. All of that stuff can be incorporated if you have the tools to manage DITA and create all kinds of different deliverables.
And this is attractive too, you can think of, for that executive when you say "Hey, if we decide we want to expand our website, we've already got the data in maps. We can reassemble that or create new maps for a new web presentation of this content that may be different than what we put on the page or we ship inside the product." The other good thing about DITA is it's an open standard. So when you adopt an open standard like DITA, you're not locked into a single vendor. Your content really has a lot more longevity, because if you decide later that one of the tools or all of the tools or some of the tools that you're using to work with DITA are no longer serving you, you can move to a different set of tools, and DITA is shared across those tools so that the content can be ported across different systems.
Again, I mentioned already single-source publishing and data publishing. It gives you a lot of flexibility around metadata. We won't talk too much about that, but as I mentioned, it's got the semantic infrastructure so that you can describe things about the topic. So you can add all kinds of metadata around each of those topics to let them be more findable. You can put them in a taxonomy. You can do all kinds of things, that tools can then use to be able to connect the topic or the content to the right place. And as I mentioned before, it's human- and machine-readable.
So it is basic text. When you look at a DITA file, you can open it in a text editor. You can open it in Notepad, and you can look at it. And because it's mostly words, it's kind of like reading an HTML, but you'll see the text right in there. You can read it. It's not hidden away in some binary format where you need a certain program to open it. That also makes it very attractive for machines. So, again, if you've got a device that needs to read the data and dynamically present it on the screen or you want to send some of the documentation through an API to a third party or a partner or somebody else, you can do these things with DITA. So that's really a quick summary of some of the benefits of DITA, but I really am excited to give you a chance to look more at a CCMS,
which is really where the rubber kind of meets the road. So I'll turn that over to Derek.
Thanks, Chris. Yeah. That's a great breakdown of DITA in introduction. So why use a CCMS? Think of the CCMS as the auto assembly plant for your content, where your team can author, they can collaborate, and review in a centralized place. The team will be able to author depending on roles and permissions and collaborate in a single environment with an auditable history while including the localization of the workflow with an eTMS integration, if necessary, and really be able to push that into multiple channels without worrying about the formatting. The next slide.
What does authoring in a CCMS do for you? Well, first, it provides a unified authoring environment. With a CCMS, gone are the days of making sure that each writer's Heading One element is defined as Arial font, bold, and 28 points, and that each writer is working off the updated document template. Each writer only needs to focus on using the correct DITA element in the correct place in a topic, allowing them to just write. The information architect determines which elements will be used by the organization and makes them available or not by pushing those changes to one centralized place.
These changes are pulled down each time a writer uses the system, and this provides that brand consistency that each executive is striving for. Next, at a basic level, a CCMS provides link verification among your topics, your maps, your images, that, when assembled, create your document. In a homegrown environment, Sally doesn't know how Brian organized the folder structure for the widget documentation. Right? So, sure, you can have some best practices laid out, but those must be strictly adhered to by everyone for the links to be maintained.
A broken link will lead to undesirable output, be it a missing topic or pointing to the wrong version of that topic. So as a technical writer, Brian just needs to find the topic in the CCMS and insert it into his map. The CCMS will establish and verify the link automatically so that even if the topic is moved, the output will still be rendered correctly. At the heart of DITA is the concept of reuse. And you want to be able to write that topic once and reuse it everywhere. Right? I mean, that's the holy grail, the reason you're contemplating DITA in the first place.
And while that is one piece of content reuse, it doesn't always work. Right? So the topic, let's say logging into the system, may work great for system A, but it has two extra steps that system B doesn't need. Now, a writer has to write and make and maintain two different topics, which defeats the purpose of the reuse in the first place. Well, here, again, DITA steps in with the notion of smaller pieces of referable content. As a writer, you can break that topic down to the step element level and reuse that same step in two topics. It still was only written once, but it is now reused in two different spots.
As an information architect, you need a reuse strategy that will work for your writers, and a good CCMS will help you manage that easily and effectively by seeing where that content is being reused throughout your repository. A CCMS allows the writer a means to track their work. Each object in the system has a workflow associated with it. Depending on the CCMS, the objects don't always have to be the same workflow, meaning an image may only have two statuses, like work and done, whereas a topic might have multiple statuses,
like work, review, approval, and done, all of which match up with your business processes. The information architect would be responsible for defining these workflow states and any triggers that may be associated with them. So as a writer, wouldn't it be nice to send a topic to review and, assuming it passed the review with flying colors, it automatically is sent along to the approval state all without the writer ever having to touch it again? A CCMS can do this to ease your workload. Along with the workflow and status change, the CCMS provides an audit trail showing who touched what object and when. A good CCMS will show you exactly what changed and allow you to revert to any revision of that object, if necessary.
At the heart of any CCMS is a search functionality. Right? So as a writer, I want to be able to search for a topic or an image, a map, a piece of referable content, or any other objects that may be in my system that I need to be able to assemble my deliverable. As an information architect, I want to be able to search my entire repository, perhaps for the use of a particular DITA element to determine "Do I need to still use it, or do I need to constrain it? And if I need to constrain it, how many objects are going to be touched within my system?" And I can do that because of the search functionality.
As an executive, I need to be able to search my entire repository for KPIs that I may need to report on. At the end of the day, you can create a large volume of content in your system, but if you do not have a robust search function in your CCMS, that content can be hard to find and hard to manage. On the next slide: so what does reviewing in a CCMS do for you? Right? So technical writers, you can send your content for review at a topic level.
Based on your business process, this may be to your SME, asking them to verify the validity of the content. Depending on your SME's role and permission as defined in the CCMS, this could be as simple as suggesting changes with a comment option, or it could be as complex as allowing the SME full edit capability within the topic in conjunction with track changes, so that way, you can see what was changed in the source, or you might have two different reviews at a topic level, one internally within your own team to determine that your writer is writing to your defined style guide and using the correct DITA elements, and another that goes right to your SME.
Either way, a good CCMS will keep track of the changes made to the topic and by whom. This gives both the writer and the information architect the ability to point to a time and person to determine what needed to change and why. Another form of review and one more often requested by SMEs is at a map or document level. This is sending the entire map and its contents out for review. Now, some SMEs appreciate the topic-level review "Hey, just show me what changed and what's the new functionality." But others, they want to see those topics in the context of the entire deliverable.
A CCMS will provide a map-level review so that the SME can see where the topic is within the overall document. Depending on the SME, this may inevitably lead to the review of the entire document, not exactly the desired outcome. So a good CCMS can stylize this map-level review to highlight only the topics that did change for that particular document, allowing the SME to focus on that and quickly perform the review rather than spend a large amount of time reviewing the entire document.
Collaboration in the review process is important. I mean, Acrobat has the ability to comment on content and reply to those comments, and that's pretty useful, but how many times have those reviews been lost in an email chain, or the SME isn't reviewing the latest version of that PDF? And yeah, you could put that PDF in a centrally stored location or a SharePoint server, but once that object is moved, the link is invalid. A CCMS can treat that review as its own object in the system. This allows it to be assigned to your SMEs with the link being verified by the CCMS so that they are all working off the same object at the same time.
A good CCMS will allow the writer to accept, reject, or reply to the comment directly, allowing for a threaded discussion, as well as the review itself being accepted and rejected. A good CCMS will also be able to show a redline comparison between review objects to your SMEs, showing them that what they're looking at now, this is how it's changed since the last time the object was sent for a review. This cuts down on review time, decreasing the time demands on your SMEs, freeing them up for other assignments. Next slide.
So what does publishing in a CCMS do for you? Right? Using the CCMS, the writer has now managed to get their content through the workflow into a state where it's ready to be published. Depending on your business processes, it may be up to the writer to publish their final output, or maybe that resides with the information architect. Either way, you're using the same source, those maps and topics and images and other objects that we talked about, that you can now publish your content into whatever form your deliverable is required to be in.
Using the power of the DITA Open Toolkit or the DITA OT, you can create your content once and publish it using different output scenarios or plug-ins. You may need to publish to a PDF, but also to a WebHelp, maybe a Word doc, or publish to a content delivery portal. Your PDF may look wildly different than what your WebHelp output looks like. This is all achieved through the development of those scenarios or plug-ins. But at this point in the process, the writer doesn't really care how it looks. They just care that it is created and works correctly.
They no longer are a typesmith, because the output scenario takes care of all of those transformation scenarios for them. Remember, the CCMS has been verifying our links throughout the process, so the correct topic should be rendered in the output. It is here that the information architect or toolsmiths take over, really, making sure that the DITA elements that were defined in the unified authoring environment are being rendered correctly into the company style guide. At this point, all the writer or information architect has to do is simply select the output type that they want to publish to and click "Publish."
While I didn't really touch on it, the CCMS will also keep track of not only the source content, but the languages that the source content was translated into. So once the source content has been translated and ingested back into the CCMS, you are able to publish whichever language variant you need. A good CCMS will allow you to select your source content, identify which languages it needs to be published to, as well as which formats to publish. So let's say I want to publish my English source content to PDF, WebHelp, and I want to push it to a content delivery portal. That's three different outputs. Now, I want to do the same for French, Spanish, Italian, and German. Simple math tells me that's five languages and three different outputs.
And if my fifth grade math holds, I got 15 outputs I got to create. Right? A CCMS will allow you to do this. A good CCMS will allow you to create all 15 at once. Along those lines, being able to automate the publish process is a measurable time saving. A good CCMS will allow those 15 deliverables to not only be generated, but allow you to schedule it to do it at an off-hour so as to not tax your system, and then push them to a defined location where they can be ingested, be it to your content delivery portal itself or perhaps you're going to push your WebHelp to an area that your local, internal build system can pick it up and package it with your software.
Really, this allows you to create any of your different content and publish it whenever and wherever you'd like it to go. Next slide. So why is branching and merging in a CCMS important? Right? Up until now, we've talked about how a CCMS can help you in your organization from the standpoint of a single product on a single release. Most of us don't work that way. If we're lucky, we're finishing one release and already documenting the next release. If we're not lucky, then perhaps there's already a patch and a hotfix already shoehorned in there as well.
How are we going to manage that? Right? This is the feature that each CCMS handles differently. At its core is the ability to contain a product documentation set for a given release. As a writer, you are only updating that information for that product in one place, but now you need to start working on the next release. That next release, it's 90% the same content as the current one. So the information architect, they create a new branch of that product. In this new branch, the writer can create new content, a handful of new topics, or they can make changes to already existing content. A CCMS allows the writer to see topics that have been updated in this new branch, but a good CCMS shows the writer where that topic is being used before they make the change, allowing them to decide if the change is universal to all branches or if I'm only going to push it to a particular branch.
Where a particular CCMS can really excel is how it manages branching. Are you tied to a particular method of branching for the entire repository? Can you mix and match branching options? How does your CCMS share content amongst different products? These are all things to consider as an information architect. Along with the branching is also the merging aspect. Okay. So a technical writer has made a change, let's say, to topic A in the release 2.0 branch. However, now management has decided to backport that change into release 1.2.1.
A CCMS will allow you to push those changes from 2.0 into 1.2.1 but a good CCMS will allow you to decide which changes you want to push to 1.2.1. Maybe I don't want to push all of them. I only want to say "Take two of them," because that's all that development had time to be able to bring back into 1.2.1. So that system will allow you to do that. Right? While we can spend a lot of time talking through the different branching scenarios, there's also the issue of governance. Here, the information architect governs how the different pieces of information are going to be used in the system as well as how they are branched. Do you have separate libraries for shared front-matter content that all products use? Do you have libraries for other DITA objects, like a DITAVAL or a keydef map?
Does your CCMS have a way of restricting access to these libraries so that only select roles have read/ write permissions while others can only read, meaning they could only reuse the content that is in there and not modify it? The branching, merging, and governance all allow the team to easily handle multiple releases concurrently with urgency and consistency. This helps drive down your time to market as well as the cost associated with that. Next slide.
So here are some of the key features of the IXIASOFT CCMS. It's very robust and scalable in that the CCMS supports millions of objects and thousands of users across a number of locations. It can scale easily to meet your needs as you grow. The CCMS will take advantage of your structured content, descriptive elements and attributes, and the metadata through our intelligent search functionality to allow users to easily find and reuse the content. The CCMS provides complete traceability.
Each object is tracked from its creation to delivery to its next version, providing complete traceability on who modified it, when, and why. The CCMS works seamlessly with the DITA OT, allowing you to push content to whichever medium you'd like. We partner with best-of-breed vendors and service providers to incorporate the delivery plug-ins into the output generator, allowing you to create and push your content wherever you'd like. Collaboration, right? The IXIASOFT CCMS Web platform incorporates your technical writers, your subject matter experts, and reviewers, and ties them into the end-to-end workflow, supporting features like content creation in a WYSIWYG editor all the way through a collaborative review that's HTML5-based.
Right? Release management. Our Dynamic Release Management feature allows you to organize your content in a logical order, allowing for easy branching and merging in order to facilitate the management of multiple release cycles. The branching method can vary from product to product or library to library and it is easily scalable, matching your needs at every step. And finally, the IXIASOFT CCMS is a pure DITA solution. There's no proprietary markup embedded in the content. If you decide to use a different CCMS, as Chris pointed, you could simply export your content and take it with you.
We have members of the OASIS DITA Committee on staff, allowing us to always be up-to-date and as well as create features within the CCMS to help take advantage of the full power of DITA. Most importantly, we put the customer first. Regardless of the size of your organization, everyone is treated with the same level of customer care, making sure everyone is a part of the IXIASOFT family. And that's all I have. Yeah.
Thank you, gentlemen. That was great. So we're going to move over into the questions portion. So if you do have a question, please submit it at any time. One question we did receive was regarding DITA 2.0, a topic that I'm anxious to keep up-to-date with. Do either of you know official release date for that? Last I checked, it was early 2023.
I do not know the actual date for it, no, but you can –
I know the dita-ot.org website does have a preview of the working draft. So you can find that spec, but I still haven't heard that it's been officially released, and we do know that it will not be backwards-compatible. That's the extent of what we've been following here at DCL. So another question, then. Derek, you talk about IXIASOFT as, it's a great CCMS with DITA content. Can it also handle non-DITA content?
Yes. We have objects in the system. They're called a resource. You can associate anything you'd like in there. You can include Excel files, PDFs, things – you just have to define it within the system and say, "All right. Okay. This is what I'm going to ingest into the CCMS." It's a small config change, but it can handle non-DITA content as well.
All right. Thank you. Chris, when we at DCL see customers who are ready to go, they know who they want to work with – to move to DITA workflows, and let's say they've selected their CCMS, can you walk us through a typical engagement on how they get from here, all these different files and content types, to there, some of the things that I know you've helped some of our customers with?
Yeah. So a lot of times, you do some analysis work at the beginning. So usually, our team will want a good representative sample set of the contents that we're dealing with, and the exact steps or what comes of that can vary widely just depending on what you're doing. Yeah. We have people come to us with PDFs. We have people come to us with an old, maybe they have a very legacy publishing platform. They might have FrameMaker documents. They might have InDesign documents from the desktops, Word documents. Actually, there's a lot of Word out there that is being managed.
Sometimes they have a mix of them. In fact, oftentimes it's a mix of them. And then sometimes they'll have legacy content that's coming along and they're wondering "Well, do we need to bring the legacy content in? Should we just leave it alone? Is it useful to bring it in?" And when you're looking at all those questions, one of the questions you want to do is, you want to say "First of all, how much overlap is there in the existing content? Do I have a lot of need for reuse?" You can usually get a lot of anecdotal information from customers, but one of the early things we'll do is we have a tool that we offer as a stand-alone tool and then we use it as part of our conversion, called Harmonizer.
That's actually the tool that I work on. And it will go through and find all of those exact and close matches and let you really explore your content from a match perspective, from a duplication perspective, and that can be very informative to at least tell us: why do you have so much duplication? Where is the duplication? Should this legacy content be brought in if we're never going to edit it again? Is there any value to it? Is it highly duplicative of all the other stuff so it makes it easy to bring it in with maybe a new map?
Or is it so unique and so weird and nothing ever overlaps with it anymore? We just keep that on its own and maybe as objects in a system like IXIASOFT or something." So all those types of questions are part of that analysis space. We're also looking at, what is it that you need to support? What are you trying to accomplish? Because when you move to DITA, one of the really important things to remember about DITA, DITA has a whole bunch of structures and elements that you can use. Okay? But there's probably, I don't know, there's hundreds of them, like five or more hundred elements and structures in DITA. Well, nobody uses all of them.
They're for different purposes. A lot of these are used in specific scenarios. If I don't have those scenarios, I don't need to support those. So a good approach early in the move to DITA is to start identifying "What structures do I need to use?" And this is where your information architect can really come in, and their main part of their job is they'll start looking at and mapping what our goals are and what our content is to DITA. And then once you have those DITA elements defined, you start coming up with the conversion rules.
So we can take the content and move it to DITA with no input from the customer, but is that DITA going to really use the right elements and structures to support their publishing requirements and their goals? That's where we really interact with them to make sure that we're using the right DITA and the DITA is right for the system they're going to move to. Now, IXIASOFT is a very open system, as Derek mentioned at the end, so they generally support DITA very well. But you can get into some toolsets or if you're using certain tools, where there's some real limitations around what pieces of DITA those tools support.
So, again, during that conversion process, we'll take into account the toolchain, and then we come up with a strategy for doing an actual conversion, and that means we automate as much as possible. We try to say "Okay. In these documents, maybe this heading means that this is a section. We're going to turn those sections into topics," or maybe there's a certain pattern, like a numbered list or a bulleted list, that means you're defining a series of steps, and there's a way for us to auto-detect this is a task, not a general concept.
We can do those sorts of mappings if you have consistency in your content, if we can find those patterns. So, again, that's another important part of that early phase, is figuring out those patterns to make the conversion efficient. And then we converted all the data and the customer will go and clean that up. Now, that glosses over a whole lot, saying "Oh, we converted it all to DITA." But we have internally a whole production workflow, pipeline system around DITA that allows us to build pretty complex conversions, automate as much as possible, if we have to manually do some of it, because sometimes somebody has to look at this piece.
We can automate that as much as possible so that it sends it out to the right person. They review it, they figure out what to do, and then they send the information back, or maybe it's an offshore vendor you want to incorporate that's going to manually tag this stuff. All of that can be incorporated into our process. At the end of the day, you're going to wind up with DITA. Now, if you spend more on that analysis, you can get DITA that's more tailored to your needs.
If you want to spend less time on the analysis and you're in a hurry, you can get DITA out that maybe is more general and then evolve that content as you move forward. Either way, you're getting to a platform that gives you the capability to move towards all those benefits that we've been describing. I know that was kind of long-winded, but that's –
But to your point, Chris, myself, I've been through two DITA conversions. You always say "Oh, yeah. We just need minimal viable products and we'll go back and fix it up later," and you never go back and fix it up later, because the reality is, I've got to start work on the next product line or the next version. So putting that extra time in the analysis in the beginning will pay off far longer downstream.
Yeah. Derek, question for you. Is IXIASOFT Unicode-compliant?
And what type of database does IXIASOFT use?
We run on our own proprietary database. It's called TEXTML. It's been around for longer than the IXIASOFT CCMS. It's what the CCMS was built on top of. It's a flat-file structure that allows you to quickly parse your content and find it much quicker than you would be doing with table lookups and whatnot, like in an Oracle database.
Okay. And I think you answered this, but I want to make sure the person hears the answer. Can you use IXIASOFT as a straight XML, object-oriented CMS?
I guess I'm not really understanding the question.
I think you answered that when I said "Does it have to be DITA?" And you did reference that other types of content can be stored and managed in IXIASOFT.
That's how I interpreted it. But we can follow up with that person afterwards, too, to see if we addressed it properly. Here's a good question. Does the DCL Harmonizer application have a direct integration capability with IXIASOFT?
So, not now. We haven't done any integrations with any vendors. Basically, what you can do though is that most CMSs allow you to dump a portion of the content either as DITA, which Harmonizer can work on really any format. But if you're using DITA, you'll dump out the DITA topics or the DITA warehouse topics and then maybe all your other content, and Harmonizer will do that comparison. And in a perfect world, Harmonizer won't find anything because it will be looking for duplicates. And if you've done a really excellent job in your CMS, your technical writers are achieving perfection and Harmonizer is going to say "Everything's unique. Great. You don't have any reuse that you're missing." But where Harmonizer can shine is it can show you "Oh, you've got 250 topics that are similar. Maybe you should go through those and clean it up and have a look and see if, why do we have duplication? We shouldn't.
That's another important thing to consider, is, you can have all of these features in a CMS, but you could still copy and paste. There's nobody stopping you from copying a topic. Right? And now, there are things you can do in a CMS to – if somebody adds a new topic, maybe you require some approval chain or something before that, that gets approved by the information architect or somebody.
Sometimes some real rigorous companies will have these more complicated workflows, but you tend to need to be a bigger organization to have the staff and the resources to support these more stringent requirements. So Harmonizer can be a good stopgap, where you dump the data out, you run it through Harmonizer, you see if there's any duplication, and then generally, however that data was dumped out, you use the filename to track right back to the file in your CMS. You just search for it there.
All right. Derek, IXIASOFT had some exciting news recently with the merger between MadCap Flare and IXIASOFT. Can you speak to any new features or functionality that might come into IXIASOFT as a result of the merger?
Well, I mean, it's only recent. They're still defining what the road map is going to be, but it is important to note that IXIASOFT is going to continue to be its own – well, not an entity, but the product is not changing, is essentially what I'm trying to say. Sorry. They did not acquire us to be able to take us apart. Right? They acquired us because we're really in two different realms. Right? We're more at the enterprise DITA solution, whereas they're at a smaller level, and they wanted to be able to have the ability to take some of their clients that may be outgrowing Flare and being able to push them into a DITA CCMS.
Right? So that's why we're here. We have our name recognition within the industry, and we're not touching any of that. So there are certain things that we may be able to merge down the line. What those are yet haven't been identified, at least to me anyways. I don't know if product has already been working on that yet, but I don't know when that may be coming yet. Yeah.
Well, thank you both. We've come to the top of the hour. Thank you to everyone who's taking time out of your day to listen to us and to hear these two gentlemen speak. We hope you have a great afternoon. This concludes the broadcast. I do just want to remind everyone that the DCL Learning Series comprises webinars like this. We have a blog. We have a monthly newsletter, and many other ways to stay in touch. We hope to see you at future webinars. Have a great day.
Bye. Have a great day.