JoAnn Hackos, Comtech Services, Inc.

CIDM in 2012 had a record year. We hosted three international conferences—Content Management Strategies/DITA North America in April, Best Practices in September, and Content Management Strategies/DITA Europe in November. Attendance was up at every event, with participation by 600 people from 21 countries.

In 2012, as we do each year, the Advisory Council held a series of web-based meetings with the members in small groups and individually when members renew their memberships or join for the first time. From these conversations, we learned that CIDM members

  • Continue to invest in content management solutions and the DITA standardTwo members asked us to review their homegrown implementations and evaluate their effectiveness and efficiency next to the DITA standard and DITA-compliant CMSs. The review will help them decide on a best course of action.Many managers are looking into DITA implementation as a way of managing content more efficiently and reducing costs.
  • Are challenged to invest in new media and mobile devicesThe rate at which information developers are moving to video production and publishing for mobile devices has surprised me. A year ago, it seemed that these investments would be slow in coming. 2012 changed the picture, perhaps because the innovators were demonstrating that customers respond well to new ways of finding and using content.
  • Are learning that their customers want solutions-based information rather than descriptions of product features and functionsMore than 20 years ago, I delivered to many groups a talk titled, “Stop Writing Documentation and Start Working for the Customer.” I’ve always been discouraged by the emphasis in much traditional content on descriptions of product features and functions, accompanied by tasks that explain their use. I finally feel vindicated. Many more information developers appear to be investigating their customers’ goals and their need for scenarios of use, often referred to as solutions-based information development. In 2012, I learned of many more teams that were pursuing this new approach, which often requires a significant culture change among the team members.
  • Need to learn more than ever how to use measurements to present their business plans to senior managementWe focused at the 2011 Best Practices conference on measurements, through the insights of our guest speaker, Douglass Hubbard. In 2012, we continued the focus with more presentations of the value of knowing the numbers associated with our businesses. But, we’re definitely not done with this topic until we get every manager to establish a dashboard of valuable measurements to describe the functioning of an organization. It still feels like a crusade but we’re committed at CIDM to giving our members an MBA in information development.
  • Are aware of the need to factor in Search Engine Optimization when designing topics and topic metadataFor a long time, information-developers have told me that they have no influence on their corporate websites. They know that customers cannot find the information they need, but they have been hamstrung by IT professionals who manage the sites and appear reluctant to make improvements. That situation appears to be changing, largely driven by the improvement in browser-based search engines. Customers expect corporate sites to operate in the same way as Google searches. Consequently, information developers are working to understand how best to deliver content. They are considering a network of topics rather than monolithic PDFs. They are interested in adding metadata to support better searches. And they are beginning to understand that the way they write content, especially titles and short descriptions, has an affect on the findability of the content.
  • Work on partnerships with other content contributors throughout the enterpriseDuring the first phases of the move to content management and the DITA standard, information developers focused on their own work, looking for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. More recently, information-development managers, spurred by the example of IBM’s Total Information Experience and other customer-focused initiatives, are reaching out to other content contributors in the enterprise and among customers. We are seeing partnerships with training, instructional design, customer support and service, knowledge management, marketing, and human resources as only a few of the departments that affect content. The excitement around content councils and customer partnerships is palpable and shows every sign of gaining even more momentum in 2013.
  • Are optimizing translation processes to reduce costs, speed global shipment, and enable multi-language authoringReducing translation costs has made the business case for a move to topic-based authoring and content management since DITA was first widely adopted. It remains the most cogent argument for DITA implementation. Nonetheless, the pressure to handle translation projects efficiently continues to mount as organizations are required to produce more content in more languages than ever before.

CIDM membership continues to grow with now over 100 corporate and individual members. We extended 23 memberships to individuals who told us that they were either individual contributors or were looking forward to management roles. Our small department memberships are now at 32 corporations and our large departments, with more than ten department staff, are also at 32. Vendor membership has also grown to 23. If we conservatively estimate an average of 10 individuals per member organization, CIDM has well over 1,000 members. Membership saw a 15% increase from 2011 to 2012.

In addition, we have 1,794 members on our very active LinkedIn site. Based on feedback from members attending Best Practices in Monterey, we added a new LinkedIn subgroup, Next Generation DITA Requirements. This discussion site is intended to promote ideas that members hope to see from the next generation of DITA-compliant CMS, authoring, quality language, workflow, publishing, and other systems. If you haven’t already joined the subgroup and are interested in contributing your requirements, please do so soon.

In early 2013, we will launch a second subgroup, this one focusing on a partnership between our academic experts and our practitioners. The academic/industry panel at Best Practices 2012 focused on the importance of working together. We hope to ask managers to fund research projects by our academic experts so that those research projects provide insight into solutions to genuine industry problems. We hope that our academic colleagues also use the knowledge and experience of our management members to better educate the information-developers of the next generation.

Membership rates for large departments have stayed the same for all 14 years of CIDM existence. In 2012, we raised small department membership costs from $1500 to $2500 to account more reasonably for our organizational costs.

Remember that a small department membership includes one complimentary attendance at Best Practices and a large department membership includes two. Membership also includes the bimonthly Best Practices newsletter, the monthly e-news, free attendance at CIDM web events, and substantial discounts for public workshops.

If you receive this newsletter or belong to the CIDM LinkedIn site, remember that you will benefit from “official” membership. The monetary benefits are important but they pale beside the community of thoughtful and insightful managers and team members who contribute to and benefit from the conversation. Please consider joining us in 2013 and helping us to discover the trends for next year.

Dr. JoAnn Hackos is the CIDM Director.