Faster ROI through Socialization

Single-Sourcing Blog

About Arbortext, DITA, and bringing the two together.

While writing my review of the PTC/User conference last month, I couldn't help thinking about the CMS/DITA NA 2010 conference that had happened two months earlier.

At the 2010 CMS/DITA NA conference, there was a major shift in awareness. For the first time, there was little talk of tools, and a lot of talk the importance of business issues, especially the importance of organizational socialization:

The projects that were successful were those that had properly socialized the impact of the project to all parts of their organization. You can’t treat a DITA implementation like a line item.

Most of the presentations that had people talking were those that were by companies who were 3-5 years in and that laid out business lessons learned. Intel was starting over because they had originally taken a tools-centric approach rather than a process-oriented, business-requirements approach.  NetApp had done a great job socializing upwards, but because they hadn't socialized laterally they were seeing a delayed ROI: They had to convince partner organizations one-by-one, from scratch, over and over and over.

Recognizing the importance of socialization represents a major shift in community awareness, although it is a behavior that we have always encouraged in our customers. Historically, as an Arbortext partner, customers have come to us from one of two perspective points in the adoption process; Business Solutions or Tools Selection.

Those who have come to us from a business perspective have seen their ROI returned again and again and in a shorter period. Invariably, those who have come to us from a tools perspective have had the longest ROI realization times and experienced the most difficult implementations.

Our presentation at CMS consisted of success stories, the result of extensive interviews we conducted with customers who were 5-10 years into their implementations. One hadn't touched their stylesheets in 6 years; another supports hundreds of writers with only one or two staff members. (They wouldn’t allow us to mention their name because it gives them such a huge advantage over their competition.) In every case, these customers had not approached the initiative as a tools question. They repeated this message over and over: Technology cannot solve your problems or save the day. The reason for their success was in the detailed analysis they conducted before they selected the tools.

Supporting this was Rebekka Andersen, a professor from UC Davis, who did her PhD research on why CMS implementations failed. She concluded quite emphatically:

Tools should be <10% of project implementation; 50% of any implementation is change management and 40% is process management.

She noted that there's a mismatch between what the vendors and customers feel are their respective responsibilitities. She described it as almost a language barrier prohibiting knowledge transfer from one to the other (and it goes both directions). Each vendor has a sense of where their responsibility starts and ends and where someone else’s tool picks up. For the DIY solutions, there's a huge implication that the customer will take the time and invest resources becoming experts in both the tools and the technology. Customers don't always recognize the complexity that implies. It's a precarious position to be in.

At Single-Sourcing Solutions, we all started as customers doing these kinds of projects. We used to see these lines in the sand all the time, and we know how tribal every bit of that knowledge is. It's part of why we take a different approach. We come at it as partners with our customers, with a lot of communication through a lot of different channels and a lot of mentoring. In fact, Dr Anderson’s recommendations were a huge validation for us.

So, when I went to PTC/User, it was thrilling to discover that PTC has actively been taking steps in this direction. They announced a new product that's been the focus of product development since the acquisition of Arbortext by PTC in 2005:

Different products are no longer simply stitched together: they’re blended. They resonate with each other rather than act as sources of discord or cause friction for customers. The result, and the resulting strategy [of the Arbortext Business Unit], is to provide what is truly an out-of-the-box full solution and not simply a set of tools. They are crossing the lines in the sand that traditional vendors have drawn.

Once again, Caterpillar, long an innovator and early adopter of technology, is leading the way. For 20 years now, they've understood how important content is to the entire enterprise. They've had Arbortext for close to 15 years and because they started so long ago, there was no option but to home-grow systems.

Today, they see a better way and they’re ready to move forward with a true enterprise solution. It’s simpler for everyone. They’re looking at PTC as a partner, who will help them implement this truly integration solution. A partner that will deliver a strong strategic solution.

They socialized their implementation many years ago and continue with that process today. They're on the cutting edge integrating documentation with other business functions and making their customers--and their partners--lives easier. For me, their story rounded out what turned out to be an enlightening conference season. Socialization, adoption, implementation, ROI--these are all things that are a direct result of the approach you take to your single-sourcing project.

It sums up best this way:

The companies that take the discussion of information design and delivery out of the silo of techpubs groups and socialize it to the broader organization are the ones who will be successful in the long run. They’ll be the ones beating their competitors to market and winning again and again.

By adopting a perspective of business solutions and not tools selection, you can change the success of your information design and delivery initiative. Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
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