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, 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 Misinformation, which includes out-of-date information, inaccessible information and inconsistent information, is not only unfortunate and time-consuming for all involved, it is plain bad business.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 Information developers are confronted with a number of challenges, including outdated technologies, duplicated content, content inconsistencies, difficulty in describing certain features or functions, delayed time-to-market or delayed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.
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:
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.
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!
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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