Single Source Summit a Success


December 1999

Single Source Summit a Success

CIDMIconNewsletter Heather Zollinger

When JoAnn Hackos asked attendees of the recent Single Source Summit to informally locate their single-sourcing experience within Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Lifecycle, the vast majority identified themselves as pragmatists and conservatives. The audience makeup showed us that while many in our industry recognize the benefits of single sourcing, they are waiting to see others’ successes before they adopt a single-sourcing approach of their own.

Fortunately, there was a full line-up of speakers and exhibitors to help the more than 200 managers, department heads, and writers in attendance sift through the tools, practices, and strategies of single sourcing.

The feedback from attendees was excellent. One attendee told us “I can’t wait to get started!” Another wrote to us “Wonderful! So glad you have collected all this expertise together. Extremely valuable.” More than 90 percent of those in attendance indicated that the conference met or exceeded their expectations.

Several people you’ve come to know through their involvement in the Center presented at the conference.

JoAnn Hackos opened the conference with a presentation outlining the coming opportunities for single sourcing. JoAnn focused on the potential that single sourcing represents: increased cost effectiveness in information development; decreased time to market; increased consistency of information; decreased cost of translation and localization; and increased accessibility, timeliness, and customization of information for end users.

Selecting the right tool for single sourcing can be a harrowing experience. Center Associate Ann Rockley outlined strategies for tool searches and evaluations. She described the differences between tools that enable single sourcing from both content- and document-management perspectives. We discovered that many of you are already using standard Help tools to do some conservative single sourcing. Among the tools we heard about are WexTech’s Doc-to-Help, ForeFront’s ForeHelp, Quadralay’s WebWorks 2000, and Blue Sky Software’s RoboHelp, which are lower-priced tools that facilitate content reuse. As with any other tool search, Ann argued, all the available tools may be useful, but you need to evaluate them against your own needs to determine which is best for your organization.

Judy Glick-Smith, another Center Associate, spoke on using a systems development approach to implement database publishing. She cautioned against simply purchasing a software product with the assumption that installation will automatically result in efficient and successful database publishing; rather, she instructed on how to implement database publishing using a rigorous system development life cycle (SDLC) methodology. Read Judy’s feature article in our October issue for a more complete description of her presentation.

No single-source methodology will work without structured writing and the use of templates. Center Associate Ginny Redish described how to structure documents to maximize reuse. Her session focused on the importance of structured writing, as well as on ways to go about planning and designing a useful structure. Ginny illustrated how, through efficiency associated with effective structuring, writers and trainers are free to focus their creative energies on information content and users’ needs.

Perhaps one of the most powerful justifications to single source is return on investment (ROI). Center Member Ben Martin of J.D. Edwards, along with Bill Hackos of Comtech Services and Adam Jones of SimulTrans, introduced a discussion on calculating ROI from single sourcing and achieving cost savings associated with single sourcing translated materials. Ben estimates that his translation and publication group at J.D. Edwards saw as much as a 270 percent ROI within the first year. Read more about single sourcing at J.D. Edwards in the October issue of Best Practices.

Steve Manning of the Rockley Group and SingleSource Associates and Lynda Sereno of Netmosphere focused on some of the more practical-and often overlooked-aspects of single sourcing. Steve provided keen insight into how we can identify what content is suitable for reuse and how to map it for delivery across multiple media. Lynda looked at these mapping issues in greater detail by showing us how information such as color, font, and tables, will be read in different media such as HTML and Help.

WinWriters’ Joe Welinske discussed the need to move away from the structure-only view of single sourcing and toward a “structure-function” viewpoint; he suggested that some well-funded departments with no other single-sourcing need except for print and online Help may choose to create completely unique information for the two media.

No single-sourcing conference could be complete today without an XML discussion. OmniMark’s Mark Baker and HelpCraft’s Scott Boggan brought their XML expertise to the fore in a discussion of how XML fosters information reuse, the production of virtual documents, and data interchangeability. Scott provided an overview discussion of the current and future states of XML while Mark discussed some of the practical tips for using it. He warned us that we should think about what we’re going to do with information as we develop it. We should be tagging information for multiple reuse from the beginning.

Several vendor/sponsors were available to discuss and demonstrate their products. Companies included Adobe, WexTech, Chrystal, ForeFront, Arbortext, Quadralay, Blue Sky Software, SimulTrans, and Hynet Technologies. For more information, see our review of Hynet Directive 2.0 in our February issue, of Chrystal’s Canterbury in our April issue, and of Arbortext’s Epic 3.0 in this issue.

Ideally, the Summit and the knowledge delivered by the presenters and vendors have helped all of the pragmatists understand the benefits of single sourcing. We’re still early enough into the process to join the last of the early adopters!

We’ll be covering more of these issues and tools in upcoming newsletters. CIDMIconNewsletter