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June 2012

How to Make the Business Case for a DITA CMS: Report on ROI—Measurable Success with Epson America

CIDMIconNewsletterMarianne Calilhanna, RSI Content Solutions

The technical publications department is traditionally viewed as a necessary evil, a cost center that provides no tangible revenue. When things run smoothly, praises are unsung. Yet, when poor documentation is published or help files are far from helpful, the costs of that cost center are highlighted in a most uncomplimentary light. In this series, “How to Make the Business Case for a DITA CMS,” we’ll share success stories that companies have employed and provide tips that you can bring back to your CFO.

Technical documentation specialists understand that content management is a pivotal piece in their publishing environment. But budgeting for a content management system (CMS) initiative can quickly scale to the point where executives question why they should stray from the status quo for a department that provides no direct impact to the bottom line revenue. There is no better way to help build an ROI business case than to point to real-world success at other benchmark companies.

Case Study: Epson America

Epson America, Inc. is the US affiliate of Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, a global technology company at the forefront of technological revolutions in imaging, robotics, precision machinery, and electronics. Epson offers an extensive array of award-winning image capture and image output products for the consumer, photographic, business, and graphic arts markets. The company is also a leading supplier of value-added point-of-sale (POS) printers and transaction terminals for the retail market.

The documentation team at Epson America produces end-user documentation in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese for US, Canada, and Latin American markets. The team documents about 90 products a year, taking 6 weeks per project, and publishing in four languages simultaneously. The team creates user guide kits, including printed guides and setup sheets, online HTML and PDF manuals, and videos. Content is delivered in print, on CDs, and via the web.

Epson needed a solution to keep up with its growing workload. The technical documentation team understood the business reasons for moving from unstructured to structured content:

  • Facilitate content re-use
  • Establish an architecture to promote automated translations
  • Speed up propagation of changes across projects
  • Ease revisions of content
  • Streamline the production of documentation across teams and product lines
  • Efficiently deliver multilingual content deliverables simultaneously to a global customer base

The documentation team understood that the creation and storage of content at the topic level, instead of document level, would benefit the search and discovery of content and the re-use of that content in similar documentation. From a workflow perspective, structured content would allow the team to change writer assignments from one writer per project to multiple writers working on multiple projects, resulting in quicker and easier update cycles. Finally, the ability to strongly leverage content reuse would lead to dramatic reductions in translation costs and turnaround time. The challenge for this team was selling the CMS concept in-house to decision makers and finding a solution that would not require in-house programmers to setup and maintain a system.

Money Talks

While researching various solutions, Epson understood that one of the greatest drivers to establish the business case for a DITA CMS was to illustrate a cost-effective approach to publishing its documentation. There are several key areas where they were able to illustrate how a DITA CMS would realize real cost reduction and elimination of duplicate effort. Examples include:

  • Storing “chunks” of reusable content (for instance, a “topic”, a “task”, a “concept”, a “warning”) that can be shared by multiple documents eliminates the inefficiency of copying/pasting content. It also helps ensure consistency of information across multiple deliverables, because a writer can change a component of shared content in one place and everything that points to it will automatically be updated and accurate.
  • Automatic link validation greatly reduces the time and effort required in the quality assurance process—no more time spent manually checking that all of the links in your help file point to something (or point to the right place).
  • Version control reduces the time spent moving files back and forth between different locations and eliminates the possibility of multiple people making updates to the same content at the same time.
  • Automated workflow makes it more efficient for writers and translators to manage their projects and for management to track project status and overdue tasks.
  • Single-source publishing allows writers and translators to update content once and automatically publish to all required output formats, such as PDF, HTML, and online help. Because authors no longer have to worry about the formatting of the content they are writing, they can spend their time increasing the richness and usability of the content.
  • Dramatic reduction of localization costs is achieved because of the efficiencies of re-used content components, which reduce the amount of content that must be translated in each project cycle. In addition, built-in translation memory eliminates the need to export/import content for translation or align the translation memory with current content.

The Solution: DITA XML Component Content Management

Epson selected a DITA-based component content management solution. DocZone DITA Publisher was implemented to manage its publishing process from content creation through translation and delivery. Based on Epson’s business needs—along with a requirement that the entire project be completed without the assistance of in-house IT or programming staff—DocZone DITA Publisher, with its SaaS licensing model, was the solid choice. Together with Epson America, DocZone developed Epson’s pilot content and first publication to help identify needed features of the system. Critical to the success of its CMS initiative, Epson demanded no interruption in its documentation process.

Key Factors for Epson America’s ROI

While implementing and instructing users in how to use the new system, Epson America knew that it needed to track key points to measure ROI. Following are the factors that were employed.

  1. Reuse and filtering. Create topics that are reusable from product to product and can be conditionally filtered for differences.
  2. Conref control. Store source content for content references in separate topics, control the allowable elements, and publish the available conrefs for authors to use as a reference (see Figure 1).
  3. Gather metrics. Gather metrics from the CMS on topic reuse from product to product (see Figure 2).
  4. Report results. At the end of a project, report on reuse metrics to date (see Figure 3).
  5. Track time. Track project development and translation hours per project to report on efficiency improvements over time (see Figure 4).
  6. Built-in translation. Translate and publish, and maintain translation memory within the CMS to eliminate a separate translation management alignment step (see Figure 5).
  7. Translation metrics. Plan for localization resources by providing translation metrics (see Figure 6).
  8. Image variants. Automatically insert low- and high-resolution images in the output for all languages (see Figure 7).
  9. Version history. Build a history of content changes from notes required upon check-in to aid in research (see Figure 8).


Figure 1: Published Conrefs


Figure 2: CMS Metrics


Figure 3: Reuse Metrics to Date


Figure 4: Efficiency Improvements


Figure 5: Maintain Translation Memory


Figure 6: Translation Metrics


Figure 7: Image Insertion


Figure 8: History of Content Changes

3 Years of Measurable Success

Epson America has been in production with its DITA content management and publishing environment for more than 3 years. There were some realities that Epson America had to accept and could not change in its content development environment:

  • Some topics are not reusable and shouldn’t be forced to be reusable.
  • Reviewers must review whole documents, not topic chunks.
  • Localization of content involves managing localized content, not just translation of source language content.
  • One main writer must still be responsible for a project, even if some sections are shared.
  • Just because you can create something in DITA doesn’t mean that you should, because
    • you can make it too hard, frustrating, and error-prone
    • you can remove too much context from topics and make troubleshooting and translation more difficult

Proof is in the Metrics

As Epson America has ramped up its use of the system, it has been able to quantify the actual savings and efficiencies through formal measurements—and the results are impressive:

  • 70 percent to 90 percent reuse of components from project to project
  • 50 percent reduction in time spent researching source content and revision histories
  • 100 percent reduction in time spent formatting output separately for four languages
  • 40 percent more products documented using the same staffing and resource levels
  • 70 percent reduction in translation time over projects produced outside of the CMS. This allowed for 40 percent more product translations using the same staffing and resource levels.

The CMS webhelp output won Best in Show in a regional STC competition and won a Distinguished Technical Communication award at the STC International Summit Competition and was displayed at the 2012 STC Summit on May 20 to 23.

The staff continues to meet increasingly tight multilingual publication deadlines by translating only changed or new content and eliminating separate formatting and translation memory alignment tasks. The team has increased collaboration and accuracy of content. Overall, the technical documentation department has streamlined content creation by re-using topics in a globally searchable repository so they can author and publish documentation more efficiently and produce better content for their audience.

DITA and the Cloud: A Proven Solution

Implementing or upgrading a DITA content management environment is a significant undertaking. Maintaining ongoing production schedules, while introducing new workflow and technologies, is always a challenge. Additionally, there are many options available today for consideration. If you properly define your business needs, stick with solutions that conform to standards, start with a small pilot project, and look for rapid ROI models, your chances for success will increase dramatically. While technical documentation solutions also highlight the technology and groups spend a lot of time and money finding the right solution, equally important is educating staff and ensuring that new processes have been communicated to all team members and executives. CIDMIconNewsletter

Marianne Calilhanna

RSI Content Solutions


Marianne is a marketing and publishing professional with more than 20 years experience seeing the business impact effective structured markup and content management can have in organizations. She currently works as the director of marketing at RSI Content Solutions, a software solution provider, serving publishers, media companies, and technical publishers. RSI Content Solutions’ products include RSuite CMS (a content management system for publishers), DocZone Book Publisher (an end-to-end book publishing system), and DocZone DITA (a SaaS XML component content management system for technical publishers). For more information, please visit www.rsicms.com.