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CSOFT’s 2011 Operations Summit: JoAnn Hackos on the Awesomeness of DITA

We had the great privilege and pleasure of welcoming Dr. JoAnn Hackos of Comtech Services to our World Localization Summit last week. In addition to the great honor of having her compete in CSOFT’s annual Stump the Experts game, it was most enlightening to listen in on her keynote presentation on The Role of the OASIS DITA Standard in Translation Management, which outlined the importance of information management and the impact DITA can have on managing translation.

The following is a brief summary of JoAnn Hackos presentation.

JoAnn Hackos
JoAnn Hackos, presenting at CSOFT’s 2011 World Operations Summit.

Everybody wants good information

In this day and age, when so much content is available to us, we all want to be able to obtain the right information in succinct, easily accessible packages. As JoAnn put it, a customer needs information:

  • to learn and be productive.
  • to solve problems.
  • to be successful.
  • to recommend the product to colleagues.
  • that is in his/her local language.

From a supplier”s perspective, these desires are also echoed. Misinformation, which includes out-of-date information, inaccessible information and inconsistent information, is not only unfortunate and time-consuming for all involved, it is plain bad business.

Challenges to good information

It sounds simple, but good information takes work to develop. Information developers are confronted with a number of challenges, including outdated technologies, duplicated content, content inconsistencies, difficulty in describing certain features or functions, delayed time-to-market or delayed localization… the list goes on and on. In the midst of these challenges, multinational corporations also have to somehow maintain low costs for product support, localization and the overall deployment process.

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Enter the DITA OASIS response

In 2002, the DITA Technical Committee at OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, formed the DITA standard. With JoAnn’s permission, we borrowed one of her presentation slides to nicely sum up what exactly DITA is:

A graphic image explaning DITA, the XML-based information architecture.

The basic concept of DITA is founded on a collection of topics, which qualifies as a standalone piece of information that is the answer to a single question. Each topic includes a concept, the background information, a task,  which details procedural steps, and a reference, which includes quick access to relevant facts. By organizing information into topics and these subsequent categories, information is consistent, organized, and also highly reusable. The same information can be assembled into a variety of document types and outputs to create consistent brand and useful documentation.

DITA and Localization

DITA enables companies to significantly reduce the amount of time and money needed for content development, management and translation. Because of its topic-based approach, DITA content is not only more reusable and consistent at the source level, but is also more translatable. There are several reasons behind this. First, highly structured source content is easier to translate because it is syntactically more precise and to-the-point, which reduces ambiguity during the translation process. Secondly, since technical documents often include a fair amount of repetition (depending on the industry), DITA not only helps increase content leverage at the source level, but also enables organizations reuse translations of said content with the targeted use of CAT (computer-aided translation) and terminology management tools. In terms of translation and localization, DITA facilitates a greater amount of content reuse, thereby increasing the consistency across languages and reducing overall translation (and post-sales support!) costs.

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And when all is said and done, we would really like to thank JoAnn Hackos yet again for delivering such a riveting and clear presentation on this important topic. We had a blast and can’t wait until next time!

ETA: For some more specific and compelling metrics from JoAnn’s presentation, check out this blog entry by the gentleman and scholar, Mr. Keith Schengili-Roberts of DITAWriter.com.

About Comtech Services

Since 1978, Comtech Services has focused on helping its customers provide effective products and information to their customers and employees. Its staff of senior consultants and specialists in the design and development of content-management solutions, usable products and technology, and organizational management work with you to analyze customer information needs, devise strategies that add value to products, information, and services, implement strategies using the best technologies available, and recommend tools that will enhance market reception, decrease support costs, and increase productivity.

Comtech’s services are designed to help you understand your customers’ and your employees’ information needs, learn what will make them productive and successful, find strategies to increase information access, learning, and performance, reduce support costs, and increase the profitability of your products, services, and internal processes.

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CSOFT International is a translation, localization, and globalization services provider that helps international businesses reach out to customers around the world.

3 thoughts on “CSOFT’s 2011 Operations Summit: JoAnn Hackos on the Awesomeness of DITA

  1. Hey, Keith! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for giving Kenneth some direction.

    Keith’s a DITA Jedi, Kenneth, so both he and his blog are very worth following if you’re interested in learning more about DITA. And obviously, JoAnn’s CIDM website, as Keith mentioned, is chock full of tons of information that will help you get started.

    Also, I believe the AMD-related post to which you were referring is the one about our VP of Global Strategy’s impressions of the DITA Europe 2010 conference. You can find it here: http://blog.csoftintl.com/dita-europe-2010/

    Thanks for stopping by, gentlemen!

  2. Replying to Kenneth:

    I think you have two different questions you want answered. One is “How much/how long does it take to implement a DITA-based solution?” and the other is “How do you localize content once you have it in DITA?”

    There are a lot of web resources out there which can answer this. JoAnn Hackos’ own Center for Information-Development Management organization (http://www.infomanagementcenter.com/) is one solution, and the OASIS group’s forums is another (http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/dita/). Start with those first.

    Hope that helps!

    8-{)}

  3. Where can I get more information about DITA implementation? Including costs and how long it would take, etc.?

    I’ve seen information before on your blog before about how much content leverage it enables during the localization process. Is this common, or is it special to the organization that achieve those results (I believe it was AMD)?

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