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Dare I Do Dita Without a CMS - SDL

Dare I Do Dita Without a CMS - SDL

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Published by John Melendez

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Published by: John Melendez on Oct 21, 2010
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10/21/2010

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White Paper 
www.sdl.com
 
White Paper 
Dare I “Do DITA” Without A CMS?You could but…
Howard Schwartz, Ph.D VP Content TechnologiesSDL Structured Content Technologies DivisionChip Gettinger  VP XML SolutionsSDL
 
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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.
 
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These realizations about Websites evolved hand-in-hand. Corporations realized fairly quickly that  Websites were more than simply “nice to have” information sites but were in fact becoming robust tools for interacting with customers, articulating corporate brand, and driving product sales.But with that realization also came the problem of manageability. Organizations were quicklylearning that corporate Websites (at least good ones) were dynamic, evolving creatures needingserious management by a collaborative team and not simply a Web master. While HTML editorswere initially good for hiding HTML code and thus some complexity, they couldn’t support the Website as a critical business process and platform. Without the CMS, marketing organizationscouldn’t track versions of files, update headers and metadata across hundreds of pages, andset permissions on who could and could not edit areas of the site. In other words, using onlyHTML editors and directory systems, the Web marketing teams couldn’t easily track all thechanges, manage updates, links, and images, and integrate into back-end Customer RelationshipManagement (CRM) and ecommerce systems. Finally, the business drivers for expansion intoglobal markets pushed the limits of many Web marketing teams with the requirement for micro-sites supporting multiple languages with content tailored to local markets and a need to keep Websites synchronized across global audiences.These were the drivers that led to the specialization of and wide adoption of the now ubiquitous Web content management systems. But in the early days many asked the same question that adopters of DITA are asking now. Do I really need a specialized CMS. The case of the Web suggestsan unequivocal “yes.”Indeed, factors similar to those in the Web evolution are now driving the adoption of specializedcontent management systems for DITA. Some are calling these “DITA-enabled” or “component”content management systems. But the clear impulse is to adopt specialized content management systems that specifically address the problem of managing DITA.
  M  o  d  e  l   1  M  o  d  e  l   2
 Year 1Year 2
Deploy XML Authoring ToolsUse Directory SystemDeploy XML CMSLimited ProductivityLearningFull ProductivityFull ProductivityLearningDeploy XML CMSDeploy XML Authoring Tools
Speed Time toProductivity/ROI
Figure 1 illustrates how the adoption of a DITA-enabled CMS early in the process of DITAadoption can speed time to productivity.

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