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.
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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.