Jennifer Goodman

With the advent of Interactive Electronic Technical Publications (IETPs), companies have struggled with how to author content that can serve the needs of both electronic and print media. First generation SGML, and in many cases XML, was authored for book constructs. Although this encoding was well suited for print and PDF media, its publication orientation limited flexibility when the target was an interactive or electronic delivery channel.

As system vendors began to support IETPs, new DTDs were developed that enabled the logic engines in IETPs to support the new ways of viewing and interacting with technical data. Getting from traditional publication-oriented DTDs to more flexible DTDs typically required significant data conversion, or in many cases re-authoring. In addition, with the exception of some highly regulated industries, the DTDs were not standardized or universally accepted, thus limiting the possibilities for reuse and data interchange.

Enter S1000D, which originally sought to provide a common framework for technical documentation based on American Air Transport Association specification ATA 100 and similar specifications in use among military programs. The first version of the specification was released in 1989. Over the years, international involvement grew and the specification evolved to its current version, which was released in 2003. Despite its origin in aerospace, the current version has been expanded to include land, sea, and air systems. With the release of S1000D, vendors now have a way to author content that is truly single source, with the promise of broad adoption.

Although the specification prescribes the use of a DTD or schema, S1000D is really about authoring and maintaining data in what is referred to as a Common Source Database (CSDB). The CSDB is populated by units of information called Data Modules (DMs). Working in concert with a Publication Module (PM), the DM is ordered and sequenced for print or electronic publication.

One result of this highly granular DM approach is that there are many “pieces” of content to be managed, versioned, and tracked to determine status, approval, and readiness for publication.

Solid planning and a suitable infrastructure are critical to success. The challenge of S1000D that will confront managers most quickly is determining which DMs are required for a particular project. In product-oriented approaches, planning largely surrounds production of books and electronic manuals, with the implied costs of reuse and re-authoring buried under the surface. In a modular approach, the problem of identifying hundreds of products is supplanted with the problem of identifying thousands of DMs to support the hundreds of products. These data modules will then require consistent project tracking and validation, along with version control and delivery management. Let’s explore these four challenges in greater detail:

1. Data Module Management
Each project must develop, maintain, and adhere to a coding scheme based on both system engineering and information needs. The architecture must support this coding scheme, and it must be implemented across the entire framework. Each DM must have a unique address that defines the system it describes and the type of information it contains. Once determined, the codes must be marked up in the “idstatus,” resulting in a unique Data Module Code (DMC) that might look like


While many authors will become intimately familiar with the DMCs used in particular subsystems, there remains a need to search the repository for DMs based on the content they contain or more “user-friendly” metadata other than the DMC. A Content Management System (CMS) managing S1000D content can provide a variety of search capabilities which can include the DMs, metadata, keywords, or a combination of all three.

2. Project Tracking and Validation
The more granular the data, the more components to be managed, resulting in an increased need for someone to keep track of it all. All required modules and publications are identified by the Data Module Requirements List (DMRL) and PM, but project managers need tools to manage and track status and completeness of work packages. A CMS with integrated workflow can clearly distinguish between work in process and approved, publishable content; it can control viewing and access to DMs based on user roles and project status; it can provide locking mechanisms to prevent inadvertent parallel editing; and it can provide information and reports on due dates and the status of DMs in the review process.

Validation is key. Managers must be able to verify which DMs are not present, and based on business rules, be able to create them and assign them in an efficient manner. It is critical to know whether references within the DMs are valid, including image references. When working with PMs, it is important to know that all of the components are available for publication. All of this validation should be readily available in your CMS.

3. Version Control
Managers must know not only which DMs exist, but also their status and the version of the DMs that have been released. Further complicating matters is that in large systems, there are likely to be variants of DMs based on effectivity rules. Often it is crucial to be able to “roll back” content to earlier states. A CMS can provide the life cycle perspective on a DM. Through use of the DM’s metadata, a CMS can find, report on, and if needed, assemble those modules that are at a particular effectivity level or at a given status point.


4. Delivery
All is for naught unless DMs can be assembled in print and electronic products that serve the needs of information consumers. Thus, your CMS must provide for ways to assemble DMs properly, while providing for your multi-channel delivery requirements (print, IETM, etc.). It must also be able to find and assemble DMs dynamically through an efficient interface and programmatically in the background.


S1000D provides a standardized information architecture that lays the foundation for an automated, efficient process to author, maintain, and deliver critical technical information. That foundation can be enhanced by using an object-oriented CMS that provides automated workflow, multiple views of the data in storage, and the ability to assemble, publish, and deliver the S1000D content to multiple channels. Implemented correctly, a project based on S1000D will deliver higher quality information more quickly and at less cost than traditional approaches. It does so by leveraging the content reuse capabilities inherent in the S1000D architecture and by applying the consistency and automation afforded by adhering to an industry standard.

For additional information about leveraging S1000D for optimal content management, or to receive your free copy of XyEnterprise’s S1000D white paper, please contact Jennifer Goodman at (781) 756-5338 or by email at