You are on page 1of 27

Patricia Seybold Group

Trusted Advisors to Customer-Centric Executives

JetBlue’s Content Management and
Publishing System

By Mitchell Kramer
Sr. VP and Sr. Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group

A Case Study
Prepared for Mark Logic by Patricia Seybold Group

Patricia Seybold Group • Boston, MA 02129 • Phone 617.742.5200 • Fax 617.742.1028 •
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing

By Mitchell Kramer, Sr. VP and Sr. Consultant
A Case Study
Prepared for Mark Logic by Patricia Seybold Group

Executive Summary
JetBlue is the seventh-largest passenger air carrier in the U.S., operating over 600 daily
flights on a fleet of 297 aircraft in 19 states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and five countries in
the Caribbean and Latin America. JetBlue was founded in 1998 and currently employs
8,902 full-time and 2,950 part-time “Crewmembers.” The firm is publicly held
(NASDAQ: JBLU) and is headquartered in Forest Hills, NY.

Like all U.S. air carriers, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations closely
govern JetBlue’s operations. JetBlue can’t fly without FAA certification and continual
validation. The FAA performs certification and continual validation by examining the
documentation of an air carrier’s policies, programs, and procedures.

JetBlue had a “manual” documentation system called JBDOCS. Its documents were
monolithic manuals, and technical writers who worked in and for operational departments
managed them using manual techniques for creating, editing, and publishing. The writers
authored manuals in Microsoft Word, incorporated their departments’ comments, and
published completed manuals as PDFs, which were stored in an online library for access
by JetBlue operational staff.

FAA requirements, as well as issues in maintaining the integrity and consistency of its
manuals and the high costs of a decentralized documentation approach, drove JetBlue to
replace JBDOCS with a new distributed content management and publishing system
called BlueGuru.

BlueGuru has four components: governance, organization, processes, and tools and
architecture. BlueGuru’s governance structure, the cross-functional Standards Board, was
designed to facilitate the organizational and process changes required in the
transformation from JBDOCS. Corporate Publications is BlueGuru’s organizational
component. It’s a new unit responsible for designing, implementing, and supporting
documentation processes and the tools and technologies that support those processes.
Note that document authoring is the responsibility of subject matter experts within
operational departments. Corporate Publications provides support for their work.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 1

In tools and architecture, Microsoft Word carries over from JBDOCS as the authoring
tool for BlueGuru, and Microsoft SharePoint is used for document editing workflows and
approvals. XML is BlueGuru’s enabling technology, and MarkLogic Server is its most
critical architectural element. XML addresses JetBlue’s requirements for structured
documents—multiple types, multiple components within each type, hierarchical
relationships between components, and component sharing across documents. MarkLogic
Server is an XML content management system that automates BlueGuru’s documentation
processes. Its repository stores BlueGuru’s documents and supports their access and
retrieval by Crewmembers, partners, and regulators.

This case study report tells the story of JetBlue’s business transformation from a
documentation system of decentralized and manually maintained manuals to a distributed
content management and publishing system.

Seventh-Largest JetBlue Airways Corporation is a passenger air carrier that was founded in 1998 and
U.S. Airline began air service on February 11, 2000. The carrier currently employs 8,902 full-time and
2,950 part-time “Crewmembers” including 1,745 pilots, 1,938 flight attendants, 3,079
airport operations personnel, 441 technicians, 699 reservation agents, and 2,350
management and other personnel. JetBlue’s headquarters are in Forest Hills, NY. The
firm is publicly held (NASDAQ: JBLU). Lufthansa owns a 19 percent share of the
company’s equity.

JetBlue operates 600 daily flights primarily on point-to-point routes in 19 states, Puerto
Rico, Mexico, and five countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, many of them
through four focus cities: Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and New
York/JFK. Based on revenue passenger miles, JetBlue is the seventh largest passenger
carrier in the United States. It flies a fleet of 107 Airbus A320 aircraft and 35 Embraer
190 aircraft, the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet of any major U.S. airline.

JetBlue categorizes itself as a “value airline” and describes its offering as the “best
domestic coach product.” Its value proposition is “competitive fares and quality air travel
need not be mutually exclusive.” JetBlue delivers this value proposition through:

• High-quality service and product
• Low operating costs
• Brand strength
• Strength of its people

Regulated Like all U.S. air carriers, JetBlue is regulated by several government agencies including
Operations the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). FAA
regulations most closely govern JetBlue’s operations. JetBlue can’t fly without FAA
certification for its policies and procedures, its aircraft, and its staff. The FAA requires

2 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

continual validation of JetBlue’s certified programs in order to maintain those

The FAA performs certification and continual validation by examining the
documentation of an air carrier’s policies, programs, processes, and procedures. FAA
regulations include specifications for the content of documentation, for its metadata, and
for roles and responsibilities of the personnel who manage it.

This Case Study The FAA’s requirement for continual validation of JetBlue’s programs has been the
Report driver for JetBlue to transform its approach to documentation from decentralized
authoring of a collection of static and monolithic manuals to a distributed content
management and publishing system of dynamic, modifiable, and reusable documents.
This case study report examines this transformation of JetBlue’s approach. We’ve
organized the report into the following sections:

• Certification for and compliance with regulatory policies and standards
• JBDOCS, JetBlue’s previous documentation system
• Requirements for a new documentation system
• BlueGuru system design
• BlueGuru content design and development
• Critical success factors

Props to the We’d like to acknowledge and express our appreciation to JetBlue “Crewmembers”
BlueGuru Team Murry Christensen, Director Learning Technologies, and Chris Beckmann, Manager
Corporate Publications, for their help in the preparation of this case study report. In fact,
the case tells their team’s story about the issues with JBDOCS, the motivation and
requirements for a new system and their work to design, develop, and deploy BlueGuru.
Murry and Chris were extremely gracious with their time, patient with their explanations,
and thorough with their review and suggestions. In BlueGuru, Murry, Chris, and their
staffs have developed and implemented a content management and publishing system
that has begun to deliver significant advantages and benefits to JetBlue’s business as well
as becoming JetBlue’s mechanism for the continual validation of its programs, processes,
and procedures by the FAA.

A Business We think that BlueGuru has broad applicability. While this case study report examines
Transformation how a Part 121 carrier has transformed its documentation system, BlueGuru can serve as
Model with a model for business transformation and information technology selection and application
to organizations of all sizes in many industry segments. The lessons that Murry and Chris
teach and the advice that they offer are lessons and advice that can be useful to any
distributed or decentralized organization, especially so for large organizations subject to
regulatory certification and surveillance.

XML Is the XML is the enabling technology for JetBlue’s business transformation. As we’ll see in
Enabling the details of this case study, JetBlue runs its business on structured documents. By
Technology structure, it is essential both for use in JetBlue’s business and for compliance with FAA
regulations that documents have:

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 3

• Multiple types and multiple instances of each type
• Multiple components within each type
• Hierarchical relationships between components
• Components that may be part of other documents

By design, really by definition, XML addresses all of these requirements for document
structure. BlueGuru almost had to be an XML system.

MarkLogic While XML is the enabling technology for defining and creating structured documents,
Server for MarkLogic Server enables JetBlue to manage these XML documents and to manage:
Document document authoring and editing processes, document publishing, and document authors,
Management and
editors, approvers, and end users. More specifically, MarkLogic Server enables JetBlue’s
business transformation by supporting:

• A document lifecycle with distributed authoring and editing, centralized publishing,
decentralized access and retrieval on a range of output devices, and external
inspection and approval

• Multiple, predefined and regulated roles and responsibilities for managing and using

• Notification of external entities (the FAA) for modifications to regulated documents

• Inspection and certification workflows for online FAA inspection of regulated

In other words, MarkLogic Server is a document/content management system for XML.
It delivers for XML documents what IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, or Oracle Server
do for structured data. MarkLogic Server provides services essential for managing the
components and content, the processes, and the users of XML documents stored in its

Documenting an Air Carrier’s Policies and Procedures
FAA Regulations Given the significance of FAA to this case study, let’s take a brief look at where the FAA
gets its authority, at its regulatory policy, at its certification and surveillance (continual
validation) system called Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS), and at its
requirements for documentation. The FAA prescribes what air carriers need to do for
certification in a fair amount of detail, but the agency does not prescribe how they need to
do it. Air carriers have the flexibility to design and implement documentation systems
that suit their management style, organization, and culture.

4 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

FAA Authority The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 prescribes the powers and authorities of the Federal
Aviation Administration. The FAA uses regulatory policy to implement its powers and
authorities. Central to the FAA’s regulatory policy is oversight of “the obligation of the
air carrier to maintain the highest possible degree of safety.”

ATOS The Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS) implements this FAA policy by
providing certification and surveillance of safety controls of air carriers and their owners,
pilots, mechanics, and other staff. Under ATOS, the FAA has these three primary

1. In order to issue an air carrier an operating certificate and in order to approve or
accept an air carrier’s programs, the FAA verifies that an air carrier is capable of
operating safely and that it complies with prescribed regulations and standards.

2. The FAA conducts periodic reviews to re-verify that an air carrier continues to meet
regulatory requirements. The FAA also conducts reviews for re-verification when
environmental changes occur.

3. For the purpose of continued operational safety, the FAA continually validates the
performance of an air carrier’s approved and accepted programs.

FAA Within ATOS, the FAA’s surveillance of an air carrier’s safety controls, its compliance
Documentation with regulations and standards, and its performance of approved and accepted programs
Requirements is based mainly on its inspectors’ reviews of air carriers’ documentation of those safety
controls and programs. “In fact, the FAA prescribes regulations for that documentation,”
Murry explains. “The requirements list procedures and define integrity but they don’t tell
you how to implement them.” Key regulations for documentation include:

• Each certificate holder (certified air carrier) will prepare and keep current a manual
of procedures and policies. This manual must be used by flight, ground, and
maintenance personnel in conducting their operations.

• A copy of the manual will be made available to maintenance and ground operations
personnel, to its flight crewmembers, and to the FAA Flight Standards district office
charged with the overall inspection of its operations.

• Each employee of the certificate holder to whom a manual or appropriate portions of
it is furnished shall keep it up to date with the changes and additions furnished to

• A certificate holder may furnish the persons listed therein with the maintenance part
of its manual in printed form or other form, acceptable to the Administrator, that is
retrievable in the English language. If the certificate holder furnishes the maintenance
part of the manual in other than printed form, it must ensure there is a compatible
reading device available to those persons that provides a legible image of the
maintenance information and instructions or a system that is able to retrieve the
maintenance information and instructions in the English language.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 5

• Each manual will have the date of the last revision and revision number on each
revised page. The manual must include the name of each management person who is
authorized to act for the certificate holder, the person's assigned area of
responsibility, and the person's duties, responsibilities, and authority.

A note about these requirements: “Manual” is a legacy term. We added the bold, italic
highlighting. While it was a literal reference to hardcopy, paper manuals at the time the
FAA specified the regulations, today it has become a figurative reference to the
documentation of an air carrier’s policies and procedures. For example, JetBlue uses
electronic media, even in the system it has transformed.

ATOS Safety The ATOS specification states, “The key to safety lies in managing the quality of safety-
Attributes critical processes. This is a primary responsibility of an air carrier in meeting its
regulatory obligations. ATOS employs six safety attributes to evaluate the design of air
carrier operating systems.” The six safety attributes are:

1. Procedures are documented methods used by air carrier personnel to accomplish a

2. Controls are checks and restraints designed into a process to ensure a desired result.

3. Process Measures are used to validate a process and identify problems or potential
problems in order to correct them.

4. Interfaces are interactions between processes that must be managed in order to ensure
desired outcomes.

5. Responsibility is a clearly identifiable, qualified, and knowledgeable person who is
accountable for the quality of a process.

6. Authority is a clearly identifiable, qualified, and knowledgeable person who has the
authority to set up and change a process.

FAA inspectors use these attributes in their certification and surveillance activities of the
documentation of air carrier’s safety control systems. Inspectors expect that
documentation includes these attributes and contains appropriate values for them. As
we’ll see, these attributes are a critical design element for JetBlue’s new documentation
system. They are included in the metadata that JetBlue uses for document creation,
management, and reporting.

JetBlue’s Murry and Chris explain these metadata attributes and describe how JetBlue uses them.
Application of “Interfaces are the mechanism for reuse,” they explain. “A content item may appear in
ATOS Attributes several documents. De-icing, for example, and de-icing is usually the example we use
because it’s such a critical process. So, our winter ops program has a de-icing section. We
also want our station ops manual to reflect its de-icing procedures. If any of the
procedures changes, then we want the changes to ripple from the winter ops program’s
de-icing section across every manual that references de-icing. De-icing is a critical

6 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

process that appears in many of our manuals—flight ops, tech ops, ground ops, and
airport ops, among others. Interfaces represent how the content items describing our de-
icing process may be reused across all appropriate documents. Properly managed and
controlled, if a procedure was modified, then those modifications would automatically
appear everywhere the procedure appears.”

Chris Beckmann describes how JetBlue defines and uses the other attributes in BlueGuru.
He offers, “Responsibility is the ownership role. Each piece of content has one, and only
one, owner. Ownership cannot be delegated. Authority is a content modification role.
Authority can be delegated. Controls are mechanisms that ensure you are doing what a
process or procedure says you’re going to do. They’re our ‘QC.’ On the other hand,
process measurement makes sure that Controls are working. It’s our “QA.’ Interfaces are
the entry and exit points where activities outside of the content interact with the activity
defined in the content. For example, a part of a procedure may include a phone call to
another department or a meeting that takes place in a jetway. Policies, program,
processes, and procedures are our actual content, not metadata.”

JetBlue’s As a certified air carrier, per FAA regulations, JetBlue has a “manual” that documented
Manuals— its policies and procedures. JetBlue’s manual is called JBDOCS. Murry explains,
JBDOCS “JBDOCS is a collection of PDFs. This is a documentation system that’s manual-
oriented. The manuals are authored by technical writers who work in and for our
operational departments. Word is their authoring tool. The departments review the
writers’ drafts. The writers incorporate departments’ comments. The manuals are
published as PDFs and stored in an online library from which Crewmembers access and
download them.” See Illustration 1.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 7


© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 1. This illustration shows the JetBlue’s library of manuals in JBDOCS.

Manually “The manuals in JBDOCS are maintained manually,” Murry continues. “That creates
Maintained significant issues. For example, findings are issues that we discover in procedures.
Manuals Crewmembers “find” that a procedure doesn’t document the way that they do their jobs,
or their jobs have changed, or the manual might be in error. Authors have to modify their
manuals to reflect findings, and we have to record and track findings for the FAA.
JBDOCS doesn’t have any of these mechanisms.”

“Authors update their own manuals,” he explains. “We have no mechanism for
synchronizing those updates across manuals. That’s an issue, too. For example, let’s take
the de-icing process again. JBDOCS doesn’t manage interfaces (See “ATOS Safety
Attributes,” above). It’s up to individual authors to keep their manuals in synch when
procedures are updated. Within ATOS, the FAA will audit consistency across manuals.
In JBDOCS, we have no way to ensure this consistency or even to know that we’re
consistent or not.”

8 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

Time for Change Murry Christensen and his team felt that there were five key issues with JBDOCS. These
issues drove JetBlue to consider the replacement of JBDOCS.

• Manual-oriented document system
• Manually-maintained document system
• Publishing to PDF
• Manual access to documents
• Inconsistency across manuals

“Our documents must state what we do so our Crewmembers can do their jobs safely,”
Murry explains. “Safety is our corporate obligation, and the FAA certifies us based on the
documentation of our safety processes. JBDOCS, as a system of manuals, has difficulty
in maintaining document integrity and consistency. We had to address those issues.”

“Manuals are also costly to create and maintain,” he goes on. “The separate staff of
writers and their work to extract information from subject matter experts (SMEs), to
document what they extract, and then to go through an editing and approval process that
involves both the writers and the SMEs is time-consuming and expensive. Low operating
costs is a key element of our value proposition. JBDOCS was not a low-cost operation.”

“In addition, we wanted the flexibility to reuse various types of content across multiple
delivery mechanisms, for example, books, quick reference guides, and training content on
devices as such as pilot laptops, e-readers, netbooks, and cell phones,” Murry continues.
“Manuals can’t give us this flexibility.”

Requirements for a Content Management and Publishing System
Three Sets of The five issues listed above, JetBlue’s management style and culture, and the content
Requirements management expertise and experience of the team led what would become the BlueGuru
team to develop three sets of requirements for the new documentation system. Murry
calls them hard factors, soft factors, and “the stuff that really matters.” Let’s take a closer
look at each.

Hard Factors
Six Hard Factors The team identified these six requirements as hard factors:
• Comply with standards and regulations
• Future-proof solution
• Content ownership at lowest possible level
• Provide for online access
• Provide for offline access
• Regulatory review

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 9

Comply with JetBlue is subject to regulation by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its
Standards and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration
Regulations (TSA) as well by as other governmental agencies. Its business continuity is contingent on
compliance with and certification for these regulations. This hard factor is an obvious

Future-Proof A future-proof solution carries a range of advantages and benefits. If a content
Solutions management and publishing system can be designed to accommodate growth and change,
then it will not have to be replaced or reengineered when business changes or when
technology evolves. For example, at some point in the future, JetBlue may serve
international routes. Requirements for regulatory compliance would be extended for
international agencies and for the agencies of the new counties served. That the solution
should be easily extensible to support these additional agencies and regulations is the
meaning of this requirement.

Content If content represents policies, programs, processes, procedures, and roles and
Ownership at the responsibilities, then it follows that the roles responsible for defining the policies and for
Lowest Possible performing the processes and procedures should be the roles that own and control the
content. Rather than having a staff of content authors and administrators, the requirement
for content ownership at the lowest possible level places the responsibility for content
with operational roles. This requirement also helps support JetBlue’s corporate strategy to
be a value carrier. Content ownership at the lowest possible level results in the most
efficient utilization of corporate resources, especially of staff. It also helps to ensure that
the most current, highest quality information is delivered to Crewmembers.

Online Access Online access to content is an obvious hard requirement in JetBlue’s move from static
manuals to dynamic content. The roles needing online access are JetBlue’s Crewmembers
and its partners.

Offline Access BlueGuru will enable JetBlue’s pilots to download content to their laptops and to carry
just their laptops instead of those large, heavy black cases of charts and manuals. This
offline access requires that JetBlue guarantee that downloaded content is the latest
certified and/or compliant content available.

Regulatory Regulators need access to content, too. For example, an element of surveillance in ATOS
Review is notification of and access to changes for specified safety processes. Providing online
notification and access makes it easier for the FAA to learn about these changes and,
where required, makes it faster to certify them.

More specifically, the FAA classifies documents in these four ways:

• Approved – FAA reviews, edits, and approves with a physical stamp on a paper

• Accepted / Previewed – FAA accepts that the document exists and they read through
it, perhaps providing suggestions for modification

10 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

• Accepted / Not Previewed – FAA accepts that the document exists, but they do not
provide suggestions

• Not reviewed – FAA does not receive the document and it is not necessary to notify
FAA about the existence of the document

Soft Factors
Toward By soft factors, the team specified requirements that would give JetBlue flexibility in the
Flexibility design, implementation, application, and management of the solution. Soft factors would
ensure that the new documentation system would be open, extensible, and viable beyond
its initial implementation. Soft factors include:

• Start with “minimal useful” assumptions
• Define the problem in the broadest possible sense
• Don’t hardwire anything you can avoid

Minimal Useful Murry makes an analogy to the Dublin Core to describe what he means by “minimal
Assumptions useful” assumptions. Just a reminder, the Dublin Core is a metadata vocabulary of 15
terms or properties that are used for describing content or information resources. It’s
“Dublin” because it originated at a 1995 workshop in Dublin, Ohio. It’s “core” because
its elements are broad and generic, usable for describing a wide range of resources. (For
those of you who want to know, the 15 terms are contributor, coverage, creator, date,
description, format, identifier, language, publisher, relation, rights, source, subject, title,
and type.)

Define the “While there may be a point problem, don’t design a point solution,” Murry advises. “In
Problem in the my experience, there’s always a single, critical problem but there’s also several other
Broadest problems that may not be critical but are very important. For example, contrast a general
Possible Sense
content management and publishing system to a specific safety management system
oversight system. Safety management is critical but content management publishing
addresses safety management and can also be used to solve wide range of concerns at
JetBlue, including the accurate and timely dissemination of information.

Avoid Hardwiring, of course, limits the flexibility of any solution. “We did not want to
Hardwiring constrain our solution by predefining items like schema, metadata, or output,”
Christensen explains. “Everyone dies on the taxonomy problem, trying to specify a
content management system’s metadata, its structure and relationships, and its use too
rigidly and too early. Also, display technology is constantly changing. Our solution has to
be adaptable to support content display on devices that we don’t currently use and that
many not yet even exist.”

While soft factors result in the most general and most flexible solution, generality and
flexibility cause issues in the scope and schedule of system design and implementation.
For example, the Dublin Core is useful for every content management system, but it’s
usually insufficient for any specific implementation.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 11

“The Stuff that Really Matters”
Four The “stuff that really matters” comprises the four requirements that drove Murry and his
Requirements team to take action to design and implement BlueGuru. Murry describes these
that “Really requirements as:
• A problem that has to be solved
• A problem that’s time-bound
• A problem that’s clear-cut enough
• A current situation that’s bad enough you can’t just tweak it

A Problem that JetBlue must comply with the regulations of government agencies in order to do business.
Needs to Be A significant aspect of compliance is the creation, publishing, and management of the
Solved content that represents regulated processes and procedures. Content management is
clearly a problem that needs to be solved.

A Time-Bound The ATOS program was initiated by the FAA in November 2007. From that date forward
Problem airlines’ operational documentation is required to be governed in the manner noted
previously (See “ATOS Safety Attributes,” above.).

A Clear-Cut JetBlue needed to comply with the approach to document management that is specified in
Problem ATOS. The requirement for that compliance made the problem clear-cut enough to take
actions to solve.

A Current JBDOCS could not be “tweaked” to address the rest of the requirements for the content
Situation that management and publishing system. The static and monolithic structure of its manuals;
Couldn’t Be their decentralized ownership and management by a staff of authors, editors, and
administrators; and the difficulty in synchronizing changes to common content across
them are several of many issues that could not be addressed with tweaking. It was clear to
Murry and his team that a new system was necessary.

BlueGuru Design
Key The problems with JBDOCS and the requirements for the system that would replace it
Components were good input for the design of the new content management and publishing system.
The design had these four elements:

• Governance
• Corporate Publications
• Tools and Architecture
• Document Design and Authoring

12 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

Cross- Murry and his team recognized that significant organizational and process change was
Functional going to be needed in order for JetBlue to move from the decentralized processes that
Standards Board create and manage the manuals of JBDOCS to the distributed content management and
publishing system that would become known as BlueGuru. “It was most important for us
to do governance first, before we designed the content processes and roles, defined the
architecture, or selected tools,” Murry explains, “We were going to make significant
changes in the ways that we create, manage, and use documents, and it was crucial that
we have a the means to effect those changes and ensure their adoption and
institutionalization across the company.”

The governance structure that the team designed is a cross-functional “standards board”
of representatives from JetBlue’s operational units and corporate IT. The standards board
reports jointly to JetBlue’s safety and training departments and has dotted line
responsibility for the Corporate Publications.

We list its functions and responsibilities below and show it visually in Illustration 2.

• Sets policies and priorities
• Represents the voice of individual business units
• Provides visibility to IT and (potentially) the FAA
• Flows standards down to individual business units
• Provides oversight of Corporate Publishing

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 13

BlueGuru Governance

© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 2. This illustration shows the organization structure of the governance component for BlueGuru,
JetBlue’s new content management and publishing system.

Corporate Publications
Content Corporate Publications is the organizational component of JetBlue’s solution. It’s a new
Management and organizational unit responsible for JetBlue’s content management and publishing
Publishing processes and the tools and technologies that support those processes. Corporate
Processes and
Publications reports to JetBlue University Learning Technologies, which is headed by
Murry Christensen. Chris Beckmann manages the group and its staff of seven.
Responsibilities include:

• Design and maintain document creation, editing, and publishing processes

14 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

• Design and maintain metadata, document types, and structure

• Manage and maintain the content management and publishing system

• Maintain central document repository and the Manual of Manuals

• Provide process, editorial, and technical support to operational units for document
creation and editing

• Provide connection to JBU (JetBlue University) for developing a formal training
program as an offering to all content editor Crewmembers across departmental areas.

Corporate Publications is not an operational unit. From a management perspective, it’s
part of JetBlue University, and Chris reports to Murry. From the perspective of content
management and publishing, Corporate Publishing implements and supports the policies
and standards of the Standards Board, and the Standards Board provides oversight of
Corporate Publications.

Corporate Publications has the critical role as change agent for JetBlue’s move from
JBDOCS to BlueGuru, for its transformation from a decentralized approach where staff
writers create and manage manuals to a distributed system in which a central staff
supports the authoring and editing of content by process owners—a major transformation.
Chris and his team have developed a methodology to help implement that transformation.
We’ll discuss this methodology a little later in this case study report.

Note that Corporate Publications takes on the operational documentation responsibilities
of Technical Publications, but does not replace the existing Technical Publications unit.
Technical Publications continues to manage the aircraft maintenance and business partner
responsibilities for the airline, which is a heavy load. For example, the aircraft type-
specific Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) will remain the responsibility of Technical

Architecture and Tools
Office, IE, and A combination of requirements and current tools usage drove the architecture of the
MarkLogic content management and publishing system and of the selection of tools to support the
Server authoring, editing, and publishing processes.

• The “hard” requirement for content ownership at lowest possible level meant that
content authors would be subject matter experts within operational units, not
technical writers.

• One of the issues with JBDOCS is the inability to reuse and manage content created
for one manual in other manuals. For example, the de-icing process is owned by
station ops, but it’s also addressed within documentation in the flight ops and
technical ops areas. The old system couldn’t be tweaked to support this reuse. Reuse
is a “stuff that really matters” requirement for the new system.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 15

• Regulatory compliance and oversight surveillance require that, for many specified
processes, JetBlue notify the FAA of changes and receive FAA’s approval for those
changes. Automated notifications and providing online access to changed content
were a “hard” regulatory review requirement.

• Microsoft Word 2007 is JetBlue’s standard for content/document creation.

• Microsoft SharePoint 2007 is used in JetBlue for content maintenance, workflows,
and approvals.

• JetBlue already had an enterprise license for MSOffice 2007.

• Microsoft Internet Explorer is JetBlue’s standard browser.

“We knew that XML was the sensible base technology for our system,” explains Murry
Christensen. “We need to support a large number of document types, and we need rich
and flexible metadata to help manage the authoring, editing, and publishing processes.
While we investigated a range of products including Documentum, for example,
MarkLogic Server was the only XML product that we seriously considered.”

“However, XML authoring tools were clearly too hard to learn and too hard to use for our
document authors,” Murry continues. “Remember that these folks are the subject matter
experts who own our operational processes. They’re not technical writers or information
technologists who might be interested in learning and using tools like XMetaL and

“Microsoft Word was already the content/document creation tool of choice for all of
JetBlue. Word 2007, the version we use—the rest of the firm is still on Office 2003—lets
users create XML output and supports the document metadata that we need. MS Word
was an easy choice to be our authoring and editing tool.”

“To integrate document metadata into Word and Word output into the MarkLogic Server
repository, we used the MarkLogic Toolkit for Word,” Chris Beckman explains.
“MarkLogic consultants really helped us in this area. The Toolkit extends the capabilities
of Microsoft Word 2007, so that reuse can happen in a controlled manner within the
authoring environment, and end users can interact with finished content from within
Word directly. The Toolkit also allows us to create and manage an extensible set of
metadata that can be assigned by the authors within their MS Word authoring tool. ”

“Microsoft SharePoint could provide the automated workflows and approvals that we’d
need for the editing and publishing processes,” Murry says. “While SharePoint does have
some repository and collaboration capabilities, it lacks the metadata capabilities that we
need for classifying our content and managing the content lifecycle. SharePoint’s
limitations are Mark Logic Server’s strengths. So we use SharePoint primarily for its
workflow and version control capabilities. In addition, SharePoint is used extensively
within JetBlue, so, again, we had a component that was already familiar to our editors.”

16 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

Having selected MS Word for content authoring, MS SharePoint for editing and
publishing workflow, and MarkLogic Server for repository and metadata management
and content lifecycle management, Murry and his team designed the new content
management and publishing system of two components, the functions for which are well-
described by their names:

• Content Creation and Assembly
• Dynamic Content Delivery

Content authors, editors, and publishers use the resources of the Content Creation and
Assembly (sub)system. FAA regulators also have an interface to Content Creation and
Assembly. They’re notified when documents that need review and/or approval have been
created or modified. The notifications include access credentials to view or to download
those documents.

JetBlue’s Crewmembers and business partners use the Dynamic Content Delivery
(sub)system, accessing, retrieving, and using published content to perform the functions
of their jobs, either online through a browser-based document viewing application or
offline through the MarkLogic client. Illustration 3 shows a schematic diagram of the

MarkLogic Server generates the Dynamic Content Delivery Web site. The need for
offline access is answered by running a local version of MarkLogic server in ‘localhost’
mode on the individual laptops.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 17

BlueGuru Architecture

© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 3. This illustration shows the components and interfaces of BlueGuru, JetBlue’s new content
management and publishing system.

18 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

BlueGuru Content Design and Development
A Hierarchy of The content of the BlueGuru repository is organized as a hierarchy of policies, programs,
Policies, processes, and procedures. Policies are at the top of the hierarchy. Programs are optional.
Programs, So several programs can support each policy, and several processes can support each
Processes, and
program. At the most detailed level, several procedures, which are step-by-step
instructions, can support each process. All four content types are implemented as XML
documents. They’re described below and shown in Illustration 4.

• Policies are directives, usually fairly brief, that state that JetBlue shall do x, y, and z.

• Programs, which are optional, specify the rules of engagement and the tools for
implementing policies.

• Processes specify the who, what, when, and where for a program to work. Program
documents are implemented as summaries and bullet points.

• Procedures are the step-by-step instructions for processes.

“Every document has an owner,” Chris Beckmann explains. “Our document hierarchy
reflects the hierarchy of our organization. Corporate owns policies, SVPs, VP, or
Directors own programs, Directors or Managers own processes, and Managers or
Supervisors own procedures.

“Further, we designed a naming system that enforces the relationships of the hierarchy,”
continues Chris Beckmann. “Document names take the form:


For example, within Flight Operations, a policy would be named FLT01. That policy’s
programs would be named FLT01_01, FLT01_02, and so on. One of the program’s
procedures would be named FLT01_02_01, FLT01_02_02, and so you. You get the

This approach to naming makes it easier for SME document owners to organize and
create documents, for Corporate Publications to manage the repository, and easier for the
FAA to regulate and oversee JetBlue’s operational management systems. Significantly,
the hierarchical naming makes it easier for Crewmembers, the users of the documents, to
find the content that describes the work that they have to perform and for new
Crewmembers to learn their jobs and see how their jobs fit within JetBlue’s mission.

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 19

A Pyramid of Policies, Programs, Procedures, and Processes

© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 4. This illustration shows the hierarchy or pyramid of documents in the BlueGuru repository, their
owners, and the format of their names.

Template-Based Chris and his team designed and developed a set of templates to help SMEs create
Content Creation documents. “We have a template for each type of document in our repository,” he
explains. “The home page on the Content Manager (SharePoint) site presents a list of
templates. Authors select the template for the type of document that they want to create.
Their selection then displays a form that guides them through specifying the metadata for
the document.” The metadata properties for procedure documents are listed below.
Illustration 5 shows this form for an example of a procedure document.

• Content Number
• Initiator (Regulatory or JetBlue Best Practices)
• Viewing Restrictions
• FAA Classification
• Stations
• Departments
• Issue Date
• Effective Date
• Expiration Date
• Standards Compliances
• Review Schedule
• Classroom, Online, or On the Job Training
• Required Qualifications or Certifications
• Records Produced

20 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

Template-Based Metadata

© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 5. This illustration shows the form into which document authors enter values for a document’s
metadata. The forms are document-type specific. BlueGuru displays this for when content authors select a

Chris explains, “The metadata inherits downward through the hierarchy of policies,
programs, processes, and procedures. So, for example, the processes that fall under a
program are assigned the metadata of the program and of the policy to which the program
belongs. Also, each piece of content addresses the ATOS safety attributes, whether the
information is metadata or information that is embedded in the content itself. For
example, we would include the number of the actual ATOS SAI number in the metadata,
but include Authority, Responsibility, Interface, Control, and Process Measurement
information in the actual content itself.”

“Our Content Editing application is a Web-based toolset with a tabbed display. The tabs
are Metadata, Search, and Impact,” Chris explains. “When an individual is building a
deliverable, they use the Search tab to search for content. The Search capability is a full-

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 21

text search that finds content approved and stored in the repository. A list of found
content displays below the Search criteria area, and an individual just clicks to add a
reference the content to the deliverable. The content displays in the deliverable, but is not
editable in the deliverable, since the content is actually inserted into the deliverable by
reference only.”

“As part of the implementation, a tab separate from the Metadata tab, the Impact tab,
helps us keep track of all of the deliverables in which the piece of content is being used.
And, for deliverables, we have a Ref Docs tab that helps us keep track of all of the pieces
of content in the deliverable itself.” Illustration 6 shows the Impact tab of the Content
Editing application workspace.

Content Editing Impact Tab

© 2009 JetBlue Airways Corporation

Illustration 6. This illustration shows the tools of the Impact tab of the Content Editing application.

Authoring BlueGuru represents a new and different approach to documentation at JetBlue. Coming
Methodology from a system of manuals created and managed by writers to documents created by
operational personnel is a major change. Chris Beckmann and his team have developed a
methodology to ease the transition. “It’s hard to get people to think about a hierarchy of
related content with each piece of content having an owner,” Chris explains. My team has
been meeting with each group that will be creating documents. We take them through an
exercise that describes the documents, their relationships, and their ownership in terms of
a pyramid. The pyramid has layers that correspond to the levels of the repository
hierarchy: policies, programs, processes, and procedures.”

22 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

“We explain that someone must own each layer and each document within the layer. The
exercise has uncovered many issues in responsibility and ownership. We’ve discovered
some processes with no owners and some with multiple owners. These issues naturally
escalate until the tough questions are answered and the issues are resolved.”

“The pyramid exercise results in identifying a policy and its programs, processes, and
procedures. That gives us enough information to specify the metadata for the associated
documents. Our next step is doing business process mapping with the SME teams to
begin to flesh out the content of the documents. We also use the old manuals and other
content sources (rogue documents, SharePoint content, PPT presentations, etc.) as a
source for document content.”

“After the pyramid and business process mapping exercises, the SMEs have enough to
create their documents,” Chris continues. “We provide one-to-one coaching and support
to authors during content creation and we also edit their work, as necessary, before the
content is published. At the end of the day, the individual content owners own the pieces
of content, but Corporate Publications owns and manages how the content is delivered
(manuals, quick reference guides, and content in other forms).

“Our experience so far is that we’ve done the heavy lifting with the pyramid exercise,
business process mapping, and one-to-one support for procedure authoring. Going
forward we’re aiming for both content owners and Corporate Publications staff to be in a
maintenance mode.”

BlueGuru Status As we publish this case study report in April 2009, Corporate Publications and IT are
putting BlueGuru through final acceptance testing. “Following final acceptance testing,
we’ll move our applications and our backlog of new content to our production
infrastructure,” explains Murry. “We have a large backlog of new content ready to be
used in the new system. We’ve been authoring and editing it in parallel with the software
development of our new applications. We’ll be able to load it into MarkLogic Server
repository in the Content Editing application. However, before we can begin serving
content to frontline Crewmembers, the FAA will conduct a review of the live content to
validate the integrity of the end product.”

“We’ve completed a fair amount of content development,” continues Chris. “At cutover,
we’ll be loading hundreds of pieces of content into the production system. In addition, we
will have more than 100 content owners who have been trained in our methodology and
have used it to author and edit this content. Going forward, the growth in the volume of
our content will be determined by the number and level of detail required for additional

Plans for Corporate Publications is beginning to plan the next version of BlueGuru. “We’d like to
BlueGuru be able to publish content to alternative delivery devices including cell phones, e-readers,
and netbooks,” Murry adds, “We’re exploring linking BlueGuru with our learning

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 23

management systems. “After all, we are part of Learning Technologies for a reason.
We’re also looking at expanding the content owners beyond the ATOS/operational
documentation universe to include other owners of structured content—Contracts, People
(Human Resources), Business Continuity, for example.”

Critical Success BlueGuru represents the beginning of JetBlue’s transformation from using manuals to
Factors using a content management and publishing system to run its business. Murry
Christensen and his team identified and discussed these critical success factors in
BlueGuru’s design, development, and implementation.

• Recognizing the need to replace manuals
• General design approach
• JetBlue management
• Standards board
• Evangelism, IT involvement, luck

Recognizing the Issues in creating, editing, and using manuals drove JetBlue to develop BlueGuru to,
Need to Replace replace JBDOCS, the manually maintained manual system. These issues included:
• JBDOCS manuals had issues in maintaining document integrity and consistency.

• Manuals are also costly to create and maintain. Low operating costs is a key element
of JetBlue’s value proposition. JBDOCS was not a low-cost operation.”

• Manuals lack the flexibility to reuse various types of content across multiple delivery

Advantages and The way we approached led us to not make hard decision decisions that would have been
Disadvantages made in a conventional software project,” Murry Christensen explains. “We didn’t just
of a General throw technology at the problem. We kept the specification very general.”
“Inevitably, we had scope creep and budget and schedule overruns,” continues Murry
Christensen. “For example, somewhat late in the game, we decided to add additional
metadata related to training usage and connection to our new Balanced Scorecard system.
Also, we didn’t understand the implications of our design approach on the development
and implementation of the new system. We couldn’t anticipate the impact of interactions
between and among the key technologies that we selected—MS Word, SharePoint, and
MarkLogic Server. These interactions caused development iterations that caused some
overruns. Given our general approach, I probably should have expected these ambiguities
and overruns and provided more contingencies than we did. However, I wouldn’t change
our design approach. We have a really good end result.”

Governance “Overall, we were radically right in our implementation approach,” offers Murry
Structure Is a Christensen. “We created the governance structure before we deployed the solution.
“Knifepoint for Governance really matters. It feels bureaucratic within the JetBlue culture, but it has been
our knifepoint for success. It was critically important to do governance first.”

24 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009
JetBlue’s Content Management and Publishing System

Chris Beckmann continues, “Our Standards Board speaks to and for our organization.
With representation from all of our operational units as well as from IT, it has been the
mechanism to get change to happen.”

“In fact, our governance structure was easy to put in place,” adds Murry. “With the
ATOS requirement, we had a very big hammer. More than that, we have very smart
management. They saw that the governance structure was the key to transformation.”

Involvement of “The technological aspects of BlueGuru development and implementation have gone
Mark Logic, IT very smoothly,” Murry Christensen says. “While Word and SharePoint were IT standards
and Luck at JetBlue, MarkLogic Server was an essential component that, for us, was a complex,
new technology. Mark Logic’s staff has been very helpful throughout the project, training
us and helping us with design, development, and implementation. We could never have
designed and built the Word add-in that integrates with MarkLogic Server on our
own…and that’s a critical piece of the solution.”

“Our IT department has also been instrumental to the project’s success.” We have a good
relationship with IT, and they were included from the start. IT is also a key representative
on the Standards Board.”

“We also got lucky. It was a fortunate coincidence that Word 2007 delivered XML
support that, along with the MarkLogic Toolkit for Word, made integration with
MarkLogic Server feasible. Without XML support in Word and without a native XML
server like MarkLogic Server, our system would absolutely have been much more
complex. The match between our needs and the available XML technology was
fortuitous and simplified things quite a lot.”

Major Change Is “It’s been tough for our Crewmembers to get out of the mind-set of manuals-based
Always Difficult documentation, Murry says. “Major change is always difficult, and we’ve had some
resistance to the changes resulting from our new approach to documentation.”

“Folks go back to books as a reaction when things get difficult,” expands Chris
Beckmann. “We have to find a way to change the way they think about accessing work-
based information. BlueGuru’s context is different from what they’re used to seeing.
There’s a natural tendency to cling to what you know, which, in our case, is book-based
knowledge. It’s funny. BlueGuru has been as much about social engineering as it has
about software engineering.”

“Many of our Crewmembers have embraced the new system,” Murry counters. “The
SMEs that ‘got it’ early have become evangelists for BlueGuru, informally promoting the
system internally and helping with supporting and coaching.”

“We knew that the organization ran on structured content,” Murry Christensen concludes.
“So, we’ve been confident that our approach to operational content as a hierarchy of
items with rich and flexible metadata would be an effective solution. BlueGuru applies
excellent technologies to create and manage documents that describe the way that our
Crewmembers do their work. The new approach is so much better than the old manuals,

Patricia Seybold Group © 2009 25

better for our company and better for our people. Our documentation management
processes are already much more effective and much more efficient than before.
Consistently putting the focus on ‘the work’ rather than ‘documents’ has been a bit of a
revelation for all of us.”

26 Patricia Seybold Group © 2009