Dare I “Do DITA” Without A CMS? You could but…
Well, you could “DO DITA” without a Content Management System (CMS). But it wouldn’t bethe brightest thing you ever did. At least that is the consensus that seems to be emerging from ashift in how technical communication organizations are now approaching the Darwin InformationTyping Architecture (DITA). This new approach, which deploys a DITA-enabled CMS much earlier in the process of moving to DITA, represents a shift from the best practice of only two or three years ago. At that time, it was commonplace to start DITA with just authoring and publishing toolsand perhaps a directory system, delaying any decision about content management until muchlater. But the thinking about methodology and best practices has now changed, and it is really nosurprise. After all, the goal of DITA is in part to achieve more flexibility and agility as a business. Yet, trying to implement DITA without a content management system is like trying to bake acake without all the ingredients. It defeats part of the purpose. That at any rate is the conclusionreached by more and more recent adopters of DITA. They have deployed the DITA-enabled CMSmuch earlier in the process of moving to DITA. And they have done so because they believe that they will reduce the time to DITA adoption and achieve their ROIs and other long-term benefitsfaster.There are of course still some skeptics. Some very large, visible organizations are using DITAwithout any CMS. And they have various tricks for solving the problem of not having a CMS.They copy directories when it is time for new versions, or they write scripts to rename files andtry to write applications on top of their source control system to turn them into DITA repositories.They have various creative ways to manage links for topics, maps and images. But all this is nowchanging among the broader community that is adopting DITA. Organizations moving to DITA arenow adopting a DITA-enabled CMS much earlier in the process of moving to DITA.
Just As Corporate Web Sites Require A CMS, So Too Does DITA
To understand this trend, an analogy is illuminating from the now familiar and well-establisheddomain of Web site management. Today, companies that are serious about their Web presencenever think twice about needing a content management system, which is regarded as a standardrequirement for Website management.But it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning of the Internet, companies threw up their corporate Websites, and their individual Web masters first used only Notepad and then HTMLeditors to create Web pages. They also used directory systems to store content. That worked for a time for the first generation Websites. But it was not too long before Web masters and their larger marketing organizations discovered two important facts about their Websites that drovethem to adopt Web content management systems: 1) the manageability of the site was impossiblewithout a content management system and 2) the Website had become a critical business tool bywhich the corporation interacted with customers and thus a key platform for establishing a brandand selling products. Both of these factors drove the growing adoption of a new type of CMSspecialized for the Web.