Entry #4 – Validation, Visualization, and Transparency: Creating the Tools and Culture for Content Quality
Company Name: EMC
Name of Submitter: Jason Holmberg
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
DITA is a robust information architecture that supports advanced content reuse, conditional information structures, and complex information linking to targets inside and outside a publication. The traditional table-of-contents (ToC) view presented by authoring tools, such as traditional publishing applications and XML authoring clients, does not sufficiently display the structure and relationships within modern publications intended for the web. Modern content developers are creating reusable, multi-purpose information maps that are sewn together by complex and varying relationship types. When content is conditionalized to serve specific user profiles, the difficulty in reviewing content – for company and industry standards, overall cohesiveness, technical accuracy, and functional DITA problems – increases significantly by the need to publish and review tens or hundreds of versions of a document. In the face of such complex content, organizations run a high risk of following inconsistent, ad hoc content review strategies and often have no means of scalably enforcing standards across functionally and geographically separated teams.
EMC’s IXT Team is comprised of information architects and software developers who create and deploy tools and processes to help content developers consistently deliver high-quality information products across a large enterprise. These tools are designed with the content developer and customer in mind, with a focus on increasing both quality and efficiency through an innovative approach to self-service standards reviews.
Validator – The Validator DITA OT plugin is a self-service component of EMC’s Standards Review workflow. Specifically, it generates an HTML-based report that allows writers and information architects (IAs) to review a publication for EMC DITA standards violations (technical and content). The IXT Team updates this plugin quarterly based on internal team review and feedback from our staff of content developers. Content developers provide suggestions for improvement through social media, which creates a customer feedback loop and acts as an “institutional memory” for continuous improvement as the users themselves suggest new standards review “rules” (i.e., known DITA combinations that are unsupported or problematic).. This tool helps prevent repetitive quality problems across multiple writing groups in DITA, while reducing the need for some resource-intensive peer reviews. See attachment 1 for an example.
Attachment 1. Validator content reports indicate problems to help prevent repetitive errors across a large enterprise, creating an “institutional memory”
- Are my publication’s topics well organized?
- Does my content include any intrinsic structural errors?
- Which topics link to which others?
- Which topics reuse content from elsewhere?
- How does the selection or removal of a condition change the overall content and structure of a publication?
Attachment 2. Visualizer Display of Complex and Conditional DITA Content
Transparent Content Review – To increase enterprise-wide collaboration during content development, EMC deployed review and collaboration software in 2015. This software allows information developers to initiate browser-based reviews with subject matter experts (SMEs) of their choice. This technology improves the quality and efficiency of technical review by centralizing review comments into a single interface (a web browser) where discussion among multiple SMEs can promote greater dialog and visibility into technical publications without the need to learn DITA. This model also avoids the confusing circulation of multiple PDF drafts and provides a workflow to concretely show that feedback from multiple sources has been seen, evaluated, discussed, and addressed.
By concretely implementing enterprise content validation, DITA structural visualization, and transparent reviews within the content development community, the IXT Team has created a platform to efficiently enforce content quality and promote effective collaboration and consistent workflow across disciplines. Use of these platforms is tracked internally, and Validator has risen to be EMC’s second most used output format (after PDF) while Visualizer is rocketing up the list since its release in June 2016. See attachment number three.
Attachment 3. Growth of Validator and Visualizer use at EMC
2. Customer Focus:
Validator is becoming a way of life at EMC. A few comments that have come in about Validator from internal customers include:
“Validator is great for error checking but also for a general report on the publication, quick way to scan / identify missing short descriptions … and other doc planning/management uses as well.”
“At VNX, we rely on the Validator results to keep our pubs in check.