I’ve waffled on about single source and our plans for long enough so, as we are finally starting the process itself, I thought I’d capture some information as we go along. However, it’s probably good to set the scene, so I’ll cover that stuff first. Over time you’ll be able to see all the posts related to this work here.
By this point we have completed analysis of our content (looked at a few sample chapters and identified the main types of content that we have), we know the problems we face now and in the future (lack of intelligent structure, no re-use of content, slow turnaround, and limitations around the tooling) and what we need to do to fix them (rewrite/repurpose the information appropriately). We know the tool we are going to use (Author-it) and are confident it is a best fit to our needs. Which leaves one further question.
When do we start this work?
Which is where we are now. We have the tool, and I’ve just set up our content database. Next up we are looking to pull together some high-level scenarios for how our product is used so we can match those to the new structure for the documentation. Yes, that’s right, we are also considering restructuring the documentation. Well, why not, we’re having to chunk and import the information so may as well get the output structure correct as well.
The scenarios should also help us decide what content to migrate first as there is little value in migrating content that doesn’t need to be updated or re-used. The idea of using scenarios came from one of the team and the more I think about it, the better a fit to our needs it will be as it should allow us to build better documents and help systems, as well as focus the migration process on the areas of highest priority.
Ultimately it may turn out that we never migrate some areas of our legacy content. The only reason would be to reduce the reliance on an ageing toolset but even then it will be a decision of cost.
As with most projects of this type, where you have a long timescale, there are other concerns we need to take into account which include rebranding the company and a push (which I’m involved with) in getting a company wide information strategy in place. A lot of that will drive other work as we are aiming at gaining better consistency of information and messaging across all the areas of our company which is yet another reason why our single source solution will be a great asset to the company as a whole.
The current plan is for the rest of the team to work on new information purely in Author-it, whilst we create Content Plans to make sure we migrate the correct information in time for the next release. To allow the team to continue to work I’ll be handling all of the migration so, probably some time next week, all work in FrameMaker will stop and we’ll take a ‘cut’ of the documentation which will, from that point onwards, be our main stream of work.
The Content Plans should allow us to rebuild the documents we need, slotting in the new work that the team have been working on… seamlessly… I hope!
Fingers crossed, the countdown has started.