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DITA or No DITA – Answers from 20 Years’ Business Experience

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When was the last time you heard or read of DITA? In German-speaking regions, this XML-based structuring standard was touted as the cure for everything in technical authoring again and again. Not so long ago, DITA was a hotly debated topic at tekom conferences as well. But especially in the context of tekom, the hype around DITA has clearly subsided.

The next tekom conference is about to take place, and we’ve decided to contribute to the discussion about DITA at tcworld, the international chapter of the conference, as in the English-speaking world (where the standard was invented) DITA still counts as state-of-the-art.

Marcus Kesseler, one of SCHEMA’s founders, will talk about our experiences as system manu-facturer (lecture IN10) and what we learned about companies’ requirements over many years. Can DITA really help?

With today’s post, I’d like to introduce you to the topic, and maybe we’ll be able to discuss this further in Stuttgart. We’d like to invite you to our lecture and look forward to an interest-ing exchange of minds.

If DITA Is the Answer – What Was the Question?

From what we know of the business, companies are looking for solutions to concrete prob-lems, which in our case means solutions for professional information management. Compa-nies want to create different output formats from one source, reduce translation costs, and efficiently design authoring processes. If technical authoring is your home turf, you know these buzzwords well.

DITA is a standard, offering solutions for this area in the form of an information model. With concepts such as topics, maps, attributes and entities, DITA offers the basics for standardiza-tion, modularization, and reuse.
Undoubtedly, these address the success factors of modern content management. But is an information model by itself enough to be a solution?

What the Business is Answering

The answer is a clear no. At least when you look at what decisions companies in German-speaking regions are making. By implementing content management systems such as SCHEMA ST4, they are relying on standard software. This standard software has mastered the above-mentioned concepts of standardization, modularization, and reuse, and makes these concepts applica-ble. Whether DITA, PI-MOD, or Docbook doesn’t really matter that much in the end.

Here are some concrete numbers in this context: According to the latest tekom business KPIs, DITA is irrelevant for 86% of all companies. Fewer than 7% use DITA as information model. (from http://www.tekom.de/fileadmin/Dokumente/de/tekom_2015_07_08_Branchenkennzahlen_2015_DE.pdf, page 44)

The topic is interesting from a global perspective as well. The user base of content management systems worldwide is larger than that of DITA. The 1300 companies which have implemented CMS sys-tems by manufacturers belonging to DERCOM (www.dercom.de), have more users than the worldwide DITA community (http://www.ditawriter.com/companies-using-dita/).

Participate!

You see: Companies are quite unideological and pragmatic about the DITA question.

As is Marcus Kesseler in his lecture, to which again I’d like to invite you.
The fairly critical tone is evident in the title: 5 Reasons Not to Use DITA from a CCMS Perspective (IN10)

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2015
  • 11:15 am – 12:00 pm in room C7.2 OG

More information in the official tcworld conference program.

Author: Sebastian Göttel

Seit 1998 bei der SCHEMA. Anfangs in der Entwicklung, dann in der Beratung und schließlich im Vertrieb. Seit 2005 Leiter Vertrieb. Je nach Blickwinkel Abstieg oder Karriere. Denkt sehr gerne darüber nach, wie man komplexe Anforderungen mit unserer Standardsoftware abdecken kann. // Since 1998 with SCHEMA. Initially in development, then in consulting and eventually sales. Since 2005 Director Sales. Depending on your point of view descent or career. Thinks often about how to meet complex requirements with our standard software.

5 thoughts on “DITA or No DITA – Answers from 20 Years’ Business Experience

  1. If you missed the talk, you can find the slides at http://de.slideshare.net/MarcusKesseler/5-reasons-not-to-use-dita-from-a-ccms-perspective. A summary can also be found in the conference proceedings at page 131 – http://tagungen.tekom.de/fileadmin/conference/H15/tekom_tcworld_2015.pdf

  2. Interesting points, I wonder though. German-speaking businesses chose to opt out of DITA and that is an argument proving its lack of merit. However, equally so, there is a valid argument pro-DITA since the US adopted it so widely. I am not sure whether we are not looking at more of a cultural difference than anything else.

    I am a technical communicator working in Poland, and I wonder how our budding market will place in this discussion. Will we go with the disruptive qualities of DITA, or follow our German colleagues in supporting specialized XML vocabularies. I can definitely see the benefits of both approaches.

  3. @PawelKowaluk What do you mean by disruptive qualities of DITA?

    • Disruptive in the sense that it created a following and a lot of communities and experts grew around it. Same way XML replaced SGML in people’s heads, DITA replaced XML in that it is “the XML for technical authoring.” The point could be disputed whether DITA is “the” XML, but it certainly seems to have a strong hold on a segment of the market.

      I hope that makes sense. If not, perhaps I am not using the word “disruptive” in the right way.

      • Thanks for the explanation. It does make sense. I was already in the market – poh, I am getting old – when XML replaced SGML. That was disruptive. In a matter of 2-3 years, there was a myriad of systems supporting XML instead of SGML. Almost all new projects used XML. Different story with DITA. DITA exists now for 10 years. In my (limited, biased) view of the market, there are still more Non-DITA-specific CCMS around than DITA-CCMS. So in my opinion DITA is not disruptive, but adds a flavor to technical communication.

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