Doug Gorman, Simply XML


We’ve come a long way, baby.  We’ve got Social Media including Facebook and LinkedIn.  We’ve got streaming video and online ordering and Apple Pay.  We can ask Siri a question and often get a good answer.  Our phones can tell us where to go and how to get there.  And if you want to know how old some movie star is or what the weather is going to be in Oshkosh B’gosh you can find that information quickly.

Tech pubs has gotten control of content using XML and HTML and EPub and DITA.  They’ve got intelligent content, including properties, attributes, multichannel publishing, shared repositories, and content reuse.

Marketing has HTML and great web sites, drill-down, one-button buying, and free shipping.  They’ve also got intelligent content, including properties, attributes, multichannel publishing, and content reuse.

My iPhone is smarter than your Labradoodle.

This is great, isn’t it?  But why doesn’t it feel so great?

It’s only great if information consumers get only information they need when they need it on whatever device they happen to be using.  It’s only great if they get it in their primary language.  It’s only great if it’s efficient.  It’s only great if they don’t have to tell you exactly what they need and how they need it before they get the answer to the amorphous question that they haven’t even been able to state.

It turns out that there are many kinds of content silos.  IT and Tech Pubs have embraced intelligent content and they can slice and dice, reuse and publish XML-based content.

Marketing can create a web site that uses intelligent content to let customers drill down into product information, compare products, and place an order.

So why can’t intelligent content in tech pubs, or training, or marketing, or your partners be created, stored, published, and accessed easily?

Content Silos

We all talk about the content silos among the different departments, but, if you look around you, there are content silos everywhere.

  • Function Silos—These are the silos where, for example, training can’t use content from either tech pubs or product management.
  • Authoring Tool Silos—These occur when technical writing uses FrameMaker or XMetaL and Marketing uses Microsoft Word to create content.
  • Repository Silos—These occur when organizations have multiple ways of storing content in SharePoint, File Systems, or CMS systems like Componize, OpenText, SDL, or Documentum.
  • Support Silos—These includes either technical or end-user support organized by geography, function, product, or something else.
  • Language and Culture Silos—These are apparent where different geographies need content in their own language with their own cultural conventions.
  • Information Consumer Silos—Consumers want just enough, just in time, and just the right content on their PCs, on Paper, on their tablets, and/or on their smart phones.

Maybe it’s not so great!  That’s not Kool-Aid I’ve been drinking.  I’ve got a headache, a Content Hangover, and I don’t feel so good.

Dealing with your Content Hangover

The solution is obvious.
People, information, and technology need to work together. (There you have it!)

But implementation success has been elusive.
Here’s what you need to do over the next few years to implement a successful enterprise content architecture:

  1. Embrace a content architecture at the enterprise level. The architecture must work for all types of content. On top of this architecture will be structured content. Underneath that architecture will be XML.  DITA is an XML architecture that can work with structured content to support an enterprise content architecture.
  2. Provide authoring tools that can support that architecture. The operative need is the support of multiple authoring tools including Microsoft Word, browser-based tools, and traditional XML editors. To each, his own.
  3. Implement the architecture and provide the tools that embrace the needs and capabilities of the various authors.  Some are very technical with very intricate needs and some are the furthest thing away from technical with very simple needs.  You need content repositories with various people using multiple repositories and various repositories supporting multiple people.
  4. Deploy this architecture in every department so that eventually, you have a system that hangs together and works for authors, editors, reviewers, management, and, of course information consumers.
  5. And finally, delight your information consumers with better information while delighting your bosses and their bosses with a value-based cost structure.  Some want the conclusion and then the justification, and others want to build a justification up to a conclusion.


You don’t have to boil the ocean here.  You can focus initially on the places with the most pain, information consumers who are starving (or drowning) or areas that are most receptive and best in profile.  But do that with a shared XML architecture underneath.  Keep it simple, smart-person, and you will make great progress this year.