The first day of this year’s DITAWORLD kicked off with its familiar techno theme music, and the bright welcomes of our expert hosts, Stefan Gentz, Adobe’s Senior Worldwide Evangelist, and Matt Sullivan, CEO of TechCommTools. We kicked off this year’s DITAWORLD with several information-packed talks. Let’s review the day’s events.
In this post:
- [Welcome Note] Dr. Michael Fritz: “Intelligent Information for an Intelligent World”
- [Keynote] Cruce Saunders: “The Next Generation of Intelligent Customer Experiences – Are you ready to take off into a new orbit of opportunity?”
- Divraj Singh: “This is not content. This is an experience. – How to make content channel-agnostic, search friendly and highly relevant for your end-users””
- Andreas Wolf, Markus Wiedenmaier: “Connecting Worlds – How HOMAG integrated Machinery Documentation into SAP workflows with Adobe FrameMaker and DITA”
- Matthew Cristoforo, Bernard Aschwanden: “Driven To DITA: A Case Study – How and why Global Automotive Manufacturer MSX International Migrated to DITA”
- Ulrike Parson: “From DITA to iiRDS – Why DITA and iiRDS are a perfect fit and will become the information backbone of Industry 4.0 and IoT”
- Tom Aldous: “Cooking with Gas – How the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) moved from Word to FrameMaker and DITA”
- [Keynote] Michael Priestley: “Put your Customers First! – Why you need to break down content silos and coordinate content across every department”
Intelligent Content for an Intelligent World
Dr. Michael Fritz, Managing Director at tekom, started the day off, introducing the audience to tekom, a European organization with about 9,500 technical communication professionals. Tekom supports many activities, but mostly focuses on education and training, promoting technical communication job profiles, especially in Europe, and lobby the EU on tech comm issues.
Also, tekom promotes international and national standardizations for technical writing and tries to have an influence on how that works. Part of that includes the eDoc standard and the iiRDS standard (the latter which can be found at https://iirds.org/).
Tekom’s goal is to promote the business case for Intelligent Information. According to Dr. Michael Fritz, tech products are highly developed, but the product performance ROI often is low, yet information performance ROI is generally higher.
Dr. Fritz wanted to speak particularly about iiRDS, which is a new open-source standard for “intelligent information request and delivery.” It was developed by tekom between 2016–2018 and can be used in commercial settings, so it’s open to all companies for free! They are working on making it an ISO/IEC standard right now.
The idea behind iiRDS is that when information needs to be accessed, an XML request would be sent to the cloud. The results would be sent back in iiRDS format to see it in a standardized way. This is a standard that’s intended to prepare for use with Industry 4.0. Fewer R&D efforts would be needed because all companies can use the iiRDS ontology for free.
We’ll be learning more about iiRDS from some of the other presentations from today, but this is where Dr. Fritz’s talk ended.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the iiRDS Consortium, you can find more information here: https://iirds.org/iirds-consortium/
The Next Generation of Intelligent Customer Experiences
Are you ready to take off into a new orbit of opportunity?
When Cruce Saunders, CEO at [A] speaks, he has a calming, soothing way of explaining how Intelligent Content works and weaves a narrative that is compelling as you listen to it. Today’s talk weaved in a nautical theme to creating Intelligent Content. According to Cruce, we are all creators and communicators of customer experiences. We need to create more content, which is an ocean of opportunity in a complex environment! To do so, we need to be adaptable like an octopus!
Customer usage of information flows with the current, along the path of least resistance. Customers will always follow the path of least resistance, so content needs to provide fluid experiences that live and breathe in fluid content across channels.
Smart businesses are always tapped into where the customer will go for minimal effort. For example, Blockbuster video stores didn’t initially have Netflix on their radar. But now Blockbuster is nonexistent, and now Netflix is dominant. Why? Netflix removed the obstacles so that customers could remove friction points. With Netflix, customers didn’t need to go to a store, not having enough choices, time choosing, driving home, then watching, and then returning video. While initially, Netflix mailed movie rentals to you, it’s even faster to provide those services now digitally. Netflix took that mailing friction point out eventually, too! We all want less friction!
The Customer Journey is the Customer Experience, and content is at each step along the journey. Customer experiences are getting smarter, as smart companies and adaptive organizations are starting with the power of strategy, engineering, and operations to bring it to life.
Another example provided is Disney, as it’s driven by omnichannel and omnisensory content experiences. In fact, they’ve been doing it since the 1950s! (Cruce showed a diagram for Disneyland from that time!)
Smart organizations realize that content is part of the Customer Experience. They look at content as the core business driver for the future of their organization. They understand that customer experience drives business. We can’t put customers through hunting and pecking to find what they need. It has to be done in a conversational way.
Cruce quoted David Bowie speaking about web content in 1999, saying, “It’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about … The gray space in the middle is what the 21st century is going to be all about.”
We need context for the customers and understand their intent. Modular Content is essential in Customer Experience as it completes the trifecta of customer, content, and context—creating an exceptional customer experience. It’s all about relevance.
It’s a mess everywhere—some of the biggest, smartest organizations on the planet are facing huge problems. Those who see the scalability of advancing ahead get ahead. The problem is that customers buy and experience horizontally in any order they want, but we create content vertically. Enterprise publishing and brand publishers face massive technical debt. A cluttered IT landscape and disconnected content silos make it hard to create new experiences.
Intelligent Customer Experience (ICX) asks us to evolve people, processes, and technology to move from one-off page design to the assembly of fluid experience using fluid content. We need a middle path—a master content model that will watch customer movement, listen to customers, and guide us in gathering and understanding customer intent.
ICX uniquely assembles interactions between an organization and a customer in which the content RESPONDS to the customer’s specific context. In this way, ICX is:
- Channel agnostic—It facilitates customer journeys across more channels, devices, and platforms while decreasing per channel production costs
- Contextual—It targets structured content to a customer’s changing needs and context, and anticipates needs and recommend solutions
- Fluid—It assembles unique experiences by moving beyond page-based thinking and towards modular content as a service, flowing intelligent content into many views and containers
- Automated—It personalizes at scale, streamlining content production and publishing while adapting for an uncertain future
- Conversational—It listens to customer intents and delivers relevant content responses with real-time semantic matching, reducing friction, and building loyalty.
The Master Content Model® (MCM) promoted by [A] provides a representation of content that can be mapped to the different representations across the content lifecycle, entirely from end to end. The significant shift will happen when the content assets are valued as intangible intellectual property on the corporate balance sheet. It will happen when C-suite executives understand the value of content assets as a significant strategic drive of market value.
The Five Steps in Realizing ICX:
- Start with a vision for ICX. Get customer experience stakeholders together, build a vision, and know the goal.
- Understand the content ecosystem. Map the content process today and where it needs to go. Assess talent, bandwidth, and capabilities and know the content.
- Build content orchestration by building a content model. Develop structural and semantic standards and share them.
- Upgrade and align content technology. Integrate tech platforms and content templates to use standards. Map context data to structured content using shared tags. This is a process that doesn’t happen overnight!
- Update organization and operations. Build new patterns around content development and management to support the creation and use of content fragments.
We need to invest in more than technology—we need to invest in the people and process. Creators who build the future of CX have the power to make the world more beautiful, humane, and inclusive!
Intelligent CX can be:
Cruce closed by letting the audience know that if you want to learn more about the Master Content Model, you can start at simplea.com/academy. If you want to learn how to adopt an octopus consciousness, he recommended the book, Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.
This is not content. This is an experience.
How to make content channel-agnostic, search friendly and highly relevant for your end-users
We’ve traveled on a journey as content has evolved, from:
- Page-based to component-based to modular
- Static to dynamic to personalized
- Hosted (restricted access) to syndicated (delegated) to content-as-a-service (CaaS)
- Unstructured to structured
- Single-channel to multi-channel
- IT-managed to business-operations-managed to easily-managed
Content Maturity is based on the progression of content that is:
- Basic—Authored with focus on a single website
- Tactical—Meeting line of business needs by providing mechanisms to manage and reuse content,
- Enterprise-level—Consolidating web initiatives and offering content across the enterprise (such as CaaS),
- Engaged—Providing a framework for marketing, e-business, and operations to use online channels to achieve business goals that are structured and context-aware.
Factors that affect great content experiences are when content is:
- Socially enabled
Currently, content is either created as structured authoring or as CaaS. If you bring the best of both those methods together, you get the best situation for content modeling. We need a central repository for both.
The optimal, one-stop solution is:
- combining a hybrid CCMS for its efficiency, ease of use of over a traditional CMS,
- flexibility, and scalability of a headless framework,
- the power of DITA due to its structured authoring, multiformat delivery, and metadata at a granular level.
The result is single-source, search, distribution, and context-aware outputs through the best of both hybrid CMS and DITA for a combined advantage with analytics integration.
Divraj showed how this all integrated into Adobe Experience Manager during a live demo. He showed how reference files can be used, how tasks can be assigned to topics, then concept files, each with different topic types, content classification with conditional attributes, and content tagging. He was able to show search results based on metadata, and contextual content could become intelligent and more accessible than APIs, provide personalized content delivery that could be user profile-based and platform-based, and provide consistent content delivery across platforms.
How HOMAG integrated Machinery Documentation into SAP Workflows with Adobe FrameMaker and DITA
HOMAG is the largest global manufacturer of woodworking machines used for both big industry and small shops. The company needed to get documentation in many languages that would be easily accessible for findability. Their objective was also to be able to provide appropriate output on the machines themselves.
Andreas Wolf, Head of Technical Documentation at HOMAG Group, explained that the situation HOMAG dealt with was complicated. They created their documentation in Microsoft Word and translated it into up to 33 languages. The Word documents for the components were stored in a file system and organized by numbering systems. The translation of Word docs was time-consuming and laborious. The effort for administering documents was very high, as each site has its own local storage space. Half a million Word documents were available and needed migration.
For the publishing process, they had a solution to generate documentation for completed machines from individual documents automatically. PDFs were mapped to parts list items of different components of a machine. The machine would configure the composition of the document. In context, any document content would be used by the machine as help text, warnings, or maintenance instructions directly in the machine control for users to interface with. There were about 20 document types to deal with that, in turn, had to be translated into 33 languages, mostly in Word, and published as PDFs for digital and print.
HOMAG’s main issues were that they had to maintain the publishing process as-is. The translation had to be simplified and optimized, and there needed to be an integration of external translators in the workflow, and documents required versioning.
Why DITA? It’s a global standard, media neutral, topic-oriented documentation method. It optimally works with third-party data exchanges, is flexibly open for future scalability, and it’s easy to integrate content provider information. This would allow maintenance and machines to be connected. Both types of work and interval are described in the documentation and can be transferred to machine control as XML, where the information is processed in the machine controller.
To create the right system and environment, Markus Wiedenmaier, CEO of c-rex.net, came in and helped set up component-oriented documentation, which was the key to success. The components make up part of the component hierarchy. The top component is the machine, the machine is connected to order, then the documents are mapped to another component. All the documents are one “Macro-Topic,” and the “Macro-Topic” is managed in SAP. Markus’s advice: Don’t try to manage single DITA topics in SAP!
Integration was about the big picture. The process is straightforward from a CMS perspective. You check out SAP information into Adobe FrameMaker (using a custom plug-in), edit the document in FrameMaker, and finally check in the document again to SAP. The document would be saved back to SAP and released for further usage. This also made translation work on XLIFF files with SAP more manageable, as the data could be converted into SAP, and the process can be checked out to FrameMaker the same way. So, if a new order comes in for a machine, there’s a built-in composer that knows how to pull all the needed components for that specific machine and published instantly to the machine.
C-Rex created a plug-in called HOMAG DITA eXchange Package (HDXP), which is a zip file to make the conversions to several formats. This was customized to reduce complexity. Its purpose was to keep it simple! They added special semantics for technical data, utilities, step groups, etc. Topic types were specialized, such as enhanced concepts with software domain, preview images to integrate into software, resource ID, distinguish dialog, and parameter descriptions. It allowed outputs to be published to PDF and context-sensitive QT help as well as PDF slides, Slides with notes to PDFs, handouts, and HTML5 slides. Markus demonstrated how it looks in the HTML5 slides output.
The way the documentation connected to the machine was that on the screen of a machine, it would display the output of the documentation to show maintenance messages. Originally written as a machinery task in Word formatted in a way to show the component of the machine, the chapter title, comments for authors, machine-control information which includes the name of the task, and the maintenance tasks trigger code that goes to the compiler interface so that the machine knows what it needs to do based on the XML file.
The next steps for HOMAG include the integration of feedback from users, services, and machines into the documentation. They are working on live connections from the machine to the documentation to be available on mobile devices. Topics are linked dynamically via metadata, such as machinery events, to solutions. They also are working on an “Intelli Advice System.” A service that will be sold to clients to allow them to get information about various events for the machines to the cloud and can alert the client before the machine breaks down.
Driven to DITA: A Case Study
How and why Global Automotive Manufacturer MSX International Migrated to DITA
Matthew Christoforo, Account Director at MSXI and Bernard Aschwanden, CEO of Publishing Smarter, were tasked with helping one of the “Big Three” automotive manufacturers move to a structured solution. The client was working with the various user manuals that come with the vehicles they manufactured, which included some federally mandated information. It had to be global for translation and distribution, and the client needed a secure CMS and authoring system as they had to author content regarding vehicle safety and features.
The client was impacted mostly by the collaborative review process and publishing composition. They had specific yet undefined requirements that had to scope on multiple users and reviewers. They also needed to publish with complex layouts and multichannel output with reduced staff with conditional content upon publish.
The project centered around the Owner’s Information Program, which published just about any output that could help a customer see how to use and understand your car, such as owner manuals, user guides, Quick Reference Guides, etc. They had to deal with 31 vehicle lines, 15 publications, 13 markets, 28 languages—hundreds of possible, and subject to approval on a market-by-market basis. In context, they produced 197 unique US publications annually alone, plus 121 unique international publications annually.
The main issues and concerns were that they couldn’t come up with a “one size fits all” solution. But with the right vendor and enterprise-level planning, they found the help they needed with Adobe, and Publishing Smarter.
The business concerns were that there was no authoring/review/publishing system in place. Challenges were multiple program scope changes, undefined publication styles, demanding review system requirements, onboarding timing, the need for matched quality. And MSXI had only 6 months to pull this all together!
The concerns focused on data migration, DITA transformation, capturing publication styles and specifications, identifying author tools to create/preview/publish DITA, automating publishing and composition, being able to publish quickly and be server-based, have translation and multilingual capabilities, and work within time and budget constraints.
MSXI decided to use Adobe Adobe FrameMaker in combination with XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe FrameMaker Publishing Server. Adobe FrameMaker is ideal as a full-featured XML/DITA authoring tool.
You can see the content structure and have a full WYSIWYG experience.
The rendering of DITA XML while authoring, is precisely what you will get when publishing to PDF. FrameMaker also allows authors to preview conditional content, review a preview of markets and measurement (think miles versus kilometers), and a thorough review process. Authors and reviewers can see the layout, all content in context, and use the same templates with a mix of the content of TOC, Text, Images, Tables, etc.
Quality was achieved as reviewers could see all content in context, publishing used the same template and rich mix of content. They worked with undefined publication styles and matched quality by creating a style guide that worked with what they had, and created a basic template within DITA. This yielded to automated templates once they were created. Even adding watermarks was simple when setting up properly!
As another part of the review process, if errors were found, it was consistent across outputs, so if changes were made, it worked across the board. The final part of the puzzle was creating templates and documenting the templating process.
Next steps: MSXI is looking to reduce overall page counts, address review system feedback, and address conditions utilizing a holistic approach. Publishing Smarter will be there to support them in those goals. Ultimately, the goal is to have MSXI be independent of Publishing Smarter, and have Publishing Smarter be solely supporting instead.
From DITA to iiRDS
Why DITA and iiRDS area perfect fit and will become the information backbone of Industry 4.0 and IoT
Content delivery and intelligent information are about delivering smart content that’s safe, searchable, modular, linked, dynamic, contextual, variant-specific, and retrievable, especially for use with AR and VR. It’s for right-here-right-now information, said Ulrike Parson, CEO at Parson AG in Germany.
Intelligent information is made up of content modules that can be reused for different target audiences and scenarios. The content is structured, format-neutral, and enriched with metadata, making it suitable for automatic processing and display on different devices—for people AND machines.
Content delivery is the delivery and the supply of comprehensive content assembled from different sources. We use this term as we don’t say “publishing” anymore.
From multichannel to omnichannel content, all of it is coming from multiple sources, authored by different groups that get mixed on online platforms. Reuse and consistency are expected. Content must be findable and discoverable. The harmonization of formats and content models is required.
Omni-content and metadata are what the user sees. It’s a puzzle that is built together from different pieces to create something comprehensive. The puzzle pieces need to have the same shape and content model so they can fit into each other. And they need metadata. There are three main puzzle pieces to fit together:
- Harmonized content types
- Consistent terminology
- Common taxonomy (metadata)
This can be a challenge!
This is where standards help us. International standards facilitate the orchestration of content within and across organizations and are essential for the connectivity of technical components and the associated product information. In this way, DITA and iiRDS can work together in the industrial world.
Requirements can vary since we have to accommodate different scenarios. For example, if an error message displays on a machine, an administrator is notified of an error. The administrator wants information about how to fix the problem to put the system back into operation without losing data. Another example is information for maintenance. A service technician needs to find the necessary information required for the scheduled maintenance fast. Which tools and supplies are necessary for the scheduled maintenance? Technical documentation provides this information.
There are two primary components of iiRDS:
- Package format for delivery—it’s a structured zip file
- Standardized metadata—a vocabulary for technical documentation which describes what the output is; the labels for the content with standard terminology
The metadata format is delivered as RDF (Resource Description Framework) XML.
The metadata provided in iiRDS includes the following:
- I-class Information Unit types—representation of metadata for technical documentation content
- P-class Product metadata—marketing info, product variance, component variances, uses
- Administrative metadata Governance information—who owns the content and content originators
- Functional metadata: Supports specific content delivery needed, like the output list for tools required for maintenance
Not all of it is mandatory, as it’s dependent on the delivery format, but it’s also useful for company-specific taxonomies.
iiRDS can be extended by company-specific metadata. DITA and iiRDS supplement each other. The general process of using both follow this process:
- Author (author > classify) using a CMS and an authoring tool
- Transform using an iiRDS generator, such as CMS or DITA plug-ins
- Publication and use (import > use) by the iiRDS consumer, such as a content delivery portal or web app
Benefits of DITA + iiRDS include:
- Established standards developed by experts
- Open sources with active communities
- Supplement each other
- Together they cover the complete process from authoring to publication
- Provide machine-readable formats and mechanisms for extension and specialization
As mentioned by Dr. Michael Fritz in his Welcome Note, iiRDS is an open-source standard with an industry consortium of 33 members. The Consortium includes working groups for technical tasks of developing the standard and coordinating with other standards groups like OASIS. They promote international standards, reference implementation, and tools. Check out iirds.org. New members are welcome!
Cooking with Gas
How the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) moved from Word to FrameMaker and DITA
This year’s talk from Tom Aldous, CEO of The Content Era, appeared to be the sequel to his presentation at last year’s DITAWORLD: “How the US General Services Administration (GSA) uses DITA and the flexibility of Adobe FrameMaker to deliver content faster.”
The FDA’s business drivers:
- Government-wide initiative to streamline tasks and improve process efficiency
- Speed up the release of emergency regulatory content
- Too many human touchpoints before change approval, slowing the release of Food Code (FC) content
- Growing unstructured content becoming harder to manage under tight release schedules
- Needed to be implemented in phases—never to miss a release
Government efficiency initiatives:
- They recognized the need for automated practices that have historically lengthened content release schedules.
- Needed to introduce standardization (DITA) to comply with future trends toward global document standards within the government,
Emergency release schedule issues:
- Food Code versions of emergency and non-emergency content releases happen at different times.
- The process was getting harder to manage in Word as content grew.
- Supplemental sections of the Food Code are released to get vital content out sooner until the larger version is published.
Human intervention was an issue, too:
- Approval of changes to regulatory content is a significant component of the government content lifecycle.
- Needed to eliminate any accidental formatting changes—streamline the process.
- Need to reduce the number of human touchpoints.
There were growing content and concerns:
- The content was created and edited in Word.
- Multiple style tags with duplicate formatting.
- The process was prone to accidental deletions and errors from too many hands on the content.
- With content growing, it was becoming hard to keep track of and maintain in an unstructured environment.
- Everything was manually created.
- It was “managed” in SharePoint.
- There were limited ways to share the content downstream.
The Content Era’s solution was rolled out in phases. Project Phase 1 included:
Conversions to DITA composite topics
Built conversion utilities within Adobe FrameMaker to convert each chapter and annex into its own topic/content.
- Separations of code into chapter and annex topics.
Creation of a composite book of a DITAMAP and Adobe FrameMaker-generated navigation components (TOC, Index, etc.)
Saved the DITAMAP as an Adobe FrameMaker Composite book.
- Creation of a customer FrameMaker template, EDD, and other specializations.
- Customization of the attribute functionality to target user needs.
- Preservation of the original food code formatting by mapping style tags for authoring continuity.
Training for users and administrators to use the new workflow
Trained in DITA concepts themselves; web-based training with labs to show the workflow and administrative training for workflow
- The transition from adobe FrameMaker (2017 release) to Adobe FrameMaker (2019 release) went flawlessly—no transition issues.
- Made a smaller alternative version by creating a secondary template; they only needed one or two people to manage the book in FrameMaker.
Tom then showed what the original document looked like in Word, and how it looks now in a Framemaker DITA conversion. Big improvement! It’s now searchable, automated content, and adaptable.
Phase 2 plans for fuller implementation. The plan is to integrate this project into a fuller digital repository for all the federal regulatory codes.
In the end, it’s really about being a business to market issue. You need to decide what the main drivers are, and move from there on items that you can implement in phases.
Tom relayed that there is a seven-part video series on the Content Era website on making the conversion from unstructured to structured content for anyone easy.
Put your Customers First!
Why you need to break down content silos and coordinate content across every department
Michael Priestley, Senior Technical Staff Member at IBM, was one of the original pioneers and creators for DITA from way back with the first iterations while at IBM, and he’s now in marketing analytics related to Information Architecture (IA).
Information Architecture reinforces and enables the DITA portability of content that ties together analytics, IA, and content engineering into a cohesive framework, each supporting the others.
Interest-driven, IA asks, “What do customers want?” The answer stems from search data and leads to content taxonomies and lists. “What objects should we organize around?” We should focus on primary objects that have a direct and persistent interest and secondary objects that have an indirect or transitory interest.
We should have primary pages with governed taxonomies that match values in taxonomies. This can vary depending on the perspectives on product objects. From there, we need to link secondary pages to primary pages and variants. This ties everything together in an object-oriented way to connect most of the content on our site.
Relationships follow metadata through links from topic pages to topic-specific pages in each category and back. Selective links between pages share a relationship with a common topic. Links tied to metadata are controlled by taxonomies—products, topics, audience, etc. To summarize, primary pages inject structure into the site.
Relationship-driven reuse follows the content relationship. Subjects and sources are shared across audiences and throughout the journey and across formats/channels/apps. This provides excellent reuse in the journey when classified and shows reuse opportunities.
Reuse follows organizational relationships by focusing on customers, metadata, and relationships. It also creates common priorities and common data.
Reuse breaks boundaries! Some barriers do exist, but using any connections where possible is good. LwDITA (Lightweight DITA) has changed things because it is closely aligned to Markdown and allows for more flexibility as a standard with both XML and DITA and allows for reuse.
Will it Work? It might. The steps would:
- Bake rules into the tools
- Report on conformance
- Show effect on performance—quantifies the value
- Provide ongoing governance
(You may have to repeat this process a few times.)
At a higher level, try to move from a vicious cycle to the virtuous cycle. Instead of bloating your website by adding competing and irrelevant content, consider fixing what’s there before creating new. Collaborate, don’t just innovate (What do customers want? Do we have it? Update, or create and relate. Did it work?)!
Put customer interests first—Deliver value through relationships.
Day 2 will be jam-packed with plenty of additional DITA info, so stay tuned!