Vesa Purho
Research Analyst, Information Design, Nokia Networks

Lately, OEM has become some sort of a curse word in our information design groups. At Nokia, as at other telecom and datacom companies and possibly at other industries as well, not all the products that companies use in their systems and solutions are produced in-house but instead are produced by other vendors. These vendors seem to be specialising more and more and supporting standard, open interfaces so that their product can work with everybody else’s products.

Naturally, standard, open interfaces within the product are good for the customers because they can choose a product that has the best quality and price to meet their needs without being concerned if that product will integrate with other products.

However, for those of us in information design, OEM development brings many challenges or, dare I say, problems. The products may use standard interfaces to communicate with each other, but the document sets surely don’t use any standard language, terminology, structure, or media. In other words, the document sets do not have a standard interface, which results in questions like “Why should we unify our document sets within our company when we will have so many OEM products that don’t follow the same logic?” or “Why are we moving into modular documentation when the OEM documentation won’t be modular?” The document sets of each OEM product may be well designed, but without a standard interface, the customers will have problems because they will have to learn and remember the logic behind each document set before they can fully utilise the products together.

Therefore, customers would like to have all document sets look the same and use the same information access methods, and most preferably they would like to have only one document set with all the information for each OEM product integrated so they won’t have to know that some other company has actually developed the information rather than the company they bought the system from. Integrating OEM information is the ultimate single sourcing challenge. Not only must we reuse information within our own companies but we also must reuse information across industries. We have the tools to meet this challenge if we only have the will. We can develop industry standard XML DTDs, namespaces, and information models and convert our data to these common DTDs and structures. I’m not talking about only telecom and datacom industries but other industries as well. In these times of specialising and having a solution-driven approach, I certainly hope that we will begin to see companies develop documents sets with a standard, open interface to end our “misery.”

This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia Networks.