Who is Using DITA and Where is it Being Used?
What originally started out as a modest personal project to discover which companies are using DITA for their technical documentation has blossomed over the course of the past year into a comprehensive listing of firms and organizations that are implementing DITA. If you are using DITA XML, know that you are in good company, as close to 400 firms have been identified as using the documentation standard. Undoubtedly there are more firms out there waiting to be discovered. (The most up-to-date version of the list can always be found at: <www.ditawriter.com/companies-using-dita/>).
Where Does the Information Come From?
The information comes from a variety of sources, including conference listings, customer references by CMS manufacturers, people emailing directly saying that they are using DITA XML in their documentation process, and other online sources. When I positively identify a firm as using DITA, I note where the HQ for that firm is located. This may or may not be the same place where DITA is actually being used—in some cases it may be only a single division or group within a company that is using it—but the results that emerge are interesting and point to some real trends in where and who is using DITA.
There are also a number of caveats I want to acknowledge regarding what the data does and does not represent. For example, this data does not comment on how mature DITA usage is within a firm: often the only piece of information that I can track down is that a firm is using DITA, not for how long they have been using it. So there are undoubtedly cases where a company listed has only just started using DITA, which gets the same placement in the list as one that has been using DITA for years. It is also not an indication as to how pervasive DITA is being used within a company; there are several cases where DITA is only being used by a single documentation team within a particular division of a large firm that has several documentation teams. Finally, there’s no guarantee that a given firm listed is still using DITA; often the references I find are from a certain point in time, and it could be that the pioneering documentation team has moved from DITA to something else. When I get information that a firm is no longer using DITA I remove them from the list, but again there are likely some “false positives” within the list. Having said all that, for the most part I believe this information to be valid and current.
Where in the World is DITA Being Used?
It will probably come as no surprise that the majority of firms and organizations using DITA have headquarters based in North America. The actual breakdown per continent can be seen in the pie chart in Figure 1.
Here’s a per-country breakdown of countries where DITA is being used in descending order:
- USA (61 percent)
- Canada (8 percent)
- UK (5 percent)
- France (3 percent)
- Germany (3 percent)
- The Netherlands (3 percent)
- Japan (2 percent)
- Australia (1 percent)
- Belgium (1 percent)
- China (1 percent)
- Denmark (1 percent)
- India (1 percent)
- Israel (1 percent)
- Finland (1 percent)
- Norway (1 percent)
- Sweden (1 percent)
- Switzerland (1 percent)
One of the critiques of DITA is that it is perceived as an English-language-only phenomenon, and yet the number of European and Asian firms that are using it would suggest otherwise. While a number of those firms are likely also authoring original material in English, it is unlikely that all of them are.
The highest single concentration of DITA-using firms within the United States is in the San Jose/San Francisco area, with almost 70 companies in and around the Bay Area using it. The other hot-bed of DITA usage in the States lies along the east coast, from Boston down to Washington, DC, comprising an almost equal number of firms to those on the West Coast. After that are hotspots in and around the rest of the country, including Chicago, Rochester NY, Detroit, Austin, Houston, Atlanta and Denver. (For an interactive map of firms using DITA worldwide, see <http://bit.ly/X4BOYv>).
Who is Using DITA?
Along with tracking where a company using DITA is located, I also recorded what industry sector a firm belongs to. In previous versions of the listing I was using Wikipedia to help classify the firms. My problem was that almost 40 percent of the firms had no page on Wikipedia, leaving me to make some educated guesses. Then I found that LinkedIn provided a more comprehensive alternative, with industry categories listed for each firm in its database, so I started using this information instead. A breakdown of the major industry sectors that use DITA can be found in Figure 2.
It should come as no surprise that computer software firms comprise the largest single category, making up a quarter of all firms using DITA. A short list of some of the firms in this category reads like a Who’s Who of the software industry:
- Platform Computing
- Jack Henry and Associates
- Progress Software
This list is from a selection of the nearly 100 firms representing this category. DITA had its origins in this sector and many of its early adopters also come from this industry segment, so clearly there is considerable history and momentum driving DITA adoption.
Following software is the “Information Technology and Services” industry category, with 17 percent of companies using DITA. This category is broad in its definition, comprising everything from consulting firms to computer components, management services, databases, and more. It seems to be a catch-all category for companies that are known for having more than a single focus. As you can see from the following summary list, this category is comprised of a diverse set of companies:
- Absolute Data Group
- Dell Kace
- Hitachi Data Systems
- Tech-Tav Documentation
Next come two well-defined categories: telecommunications and semiconductor firms. These include phone manufacturers (Ericsson, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Sony Mobile Communications), related equipment and research (Alcatel-Lucent, Hughes Network Systems, and Tellabs), related software (Symbian and Sandvine), and telecomm networks (Telus). Given the number of firms in this sector (25) it is no surprise that there is a DITA telecommunications specialization in the works.
One of the questions I have been asked is how pervasive DITA usage is within a particular sector. The semiconductor industry is a relatively well-defined sector, and as part of a presentation I did last year I compared my list of semiconductor firms against the “Top 20” such firms as defined by the market intelligence firm iSuppli. What I found back then—and is still true today—is that about half of the firms are using DITA in some way. I have not been able to add any of the “missing” firms over the course of the past year, though several are on a watch list of firms that I strongly suspect (but can’t as yet prove) are using DITA, so I believe the percentage to be higher than is represented in Figure 3.
Medical Device and Machinery Companies
While in many other sectors I suspect that I am simply discovering firms that have been using DITA XML for some time, I believe that there is significant growth happening for DITA adoption in the medical device and machinery sectors. I can’t point to any specific fact that leads me to think this, other than it seems like there are significantly more firms in these sectors than I found when I last ran the survey. The first category includes firms producing information technology for the health care sector. For example, Allscripts provides electronic health record technology, Elekta and Varian Medical Systems produce radiation therapy equipment, Horiba makes automated analysis devices, and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics creates in vitro diagnostics products. Given that this sector is heavily regulated, it tells me that the relative success of DITA adoption in this sector proves that it cannot only stand up to rigorous regulatory scrutiny, but due to the myriad tools and CCMSs available, likely makes this process easier to manage.
Firms in the machinery sector are a mixed bag, including the likes of
- Husky Injection Molding Systems
- John Deere
- Joy Mining Machinery
- Massey Ferguson
There’s a significant portion of agricultural machinery firms in this category, mixed in with those that make mining equipment and machine parts.
The 2 Percent Category of Firms Using DITA
While 2 percent may not seem like a lot, given the size of the Companies Using DITA list, it means that I have been able to track down at least six firms that fall into this category. The categories themselves are diverse:
- Electrical/Electronic Manufacturing (Samsung, Schneider Electric)
- Internet (Amazon, PayPal)
- Oil and Energy (Chevron, Schlumberger)
- Publishing (XML Press)
- Writing and Editing (iDTP, Paradigm Information Services)
- Computer Hardware (Epson, Nvidia)
- Education Management (Kaplan, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX))
- Higher Education (Brigham Young University, Northern Arizona University)
- Hospital and Health Care (Agfa Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare)
- Mechanical or Industrial Engineering (Carrier Corporation, Johnson Controls)
- Pharmaceuticals (Lorenz Life Sciences, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention)
As you can see, a very diverse set of industries is using DITA, which speaks to the versatility of this XML specification if nothing else. The sheer diversity of the industries that use DITA is staggering, demonstrating the wide variety of subjects that DITA is being put to.
DITA and Company Size: “One Size Fits All”
When doing my recent revamp of the Companies Using DITA listing, the information available on LinkedIn not only included the industry category that a company belonged to, but also the size of the company in terms of the number of people it employed. My expectation from my experience as an industry consultant was that it would primarily be the larger companies that are using DITA, but that turned out not to be the case, as the graph in Figure 4 makes clear.
All of this depends on what you call a “small company” and what you call a “large company.” While the distinction is somewhat arbitrary, if you use the yardstick that the US Small Business Administration uses, the average cutoff point between a small and large business lies somewhere in the 500-1,000 people range (this depends very much on industry, but broadly applies to the types of firms being looked at here). If we take 500 employees as the cutoff point between large and small, then yes, a majority of “large” firms are using DITA. But at 63 percent this is not exactly overwhelming, and to me suggests strongly that DITA is a “one size fits all” solution.
A Slice of Diversity
While seeking other patterns in this data, I found that Computer Software and Information Technology and Services are well represented throughout the full range of industry sizes, while some industry types tend to the small side (Writing and Editing, Consultancy) and others to the large (Biotechnology, Financial Services, Oil and Energy). No matter how you look at it, the size spread of industry sectors using DITA is diverse.
As an example, Figure 5 shows a breakdown of all of the industry sectors represented in the second-largest piece of the pie, the 20 percent of companies using DITA that have between 1,001-5,000 employees.
While Computer Software and Information Technology and Services firms dominate this slice in terms of the sheer number of firms (which is the same for most of the slices of this pie), it is interesting to see the diverse number of industry types that are represented.
It is clear from this “slice” that the industries using DITA are many and varied. The spread of DITA within the corporate world is broad, not just in terms of company sectors but in terms of company size as well as its geographical spread. While my listing of companies using DITA on DITAWriter.com is nearly at 400, it is clear to me that there are many more firms out there that are so far unreported and that the results here represent the tip of the iceberg. The trend is clear: DITA is rapidly becoming the way to do technical documentation.
About the Author:
Keith Schengili-Roberts is a communications consultant and an award-winning lecturer on Information Architecture at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. Formerly the Manager of Documentation & Localization at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), he led the transition of his group to DITA XML (using Ixiasoft’s DITA CMS software) beginning in 2006. He also worked as their Information Architect, redesigning their documentation and training deliverables and the processes behind them. Keith has become an evangelizer of DITA, speaking at conferences worldwide on improving documentation processes and improving the quality of localized content through its use. He runs an industry blog at ditawriter.com, and was a founding member of the Semiconductor DITA Implementers Group (SDIG), a popular informal monthly online forum for those who actively use DITA XML. He is also the author of four professional technical titles, the most recent being Core CSS, 2nd Edition.