I came across a question today on LinkedIn asking “What’s stopping the wider use of DITA within your company?”.
Some of the responses that were given included reasons like
- I don’t have time right now to do this
- I did this at my last job, and it cost me my job
- Too hard to migrate content to DITA
- Too expensive to buy the tools
What really surprised me was that I don’t think most people really understood the question. I believe the question was asking, what is stopping other departments using DITA, not what is stopping more technical writers on more projects using DITA.
In my experience, which is very broad, the key factor that is “stopping the wider use of DITA within organizations” is that DITA is a content model designed to meet the needs of producing technical product documentation, more specifically software documentation and is not applicable, or even easily adapted outside that use case. DITA was after all designed by IBM to meet their internal requirements and has not changed much since entering the public domain.
The other major factor is that outside professional writers, like technical communicators, users lack the skills, discipline, and desire to be able to understand or use the complex set of technologies and tools required to make DITA work. It’s simply too hard.
To make matters worse, even professional writers struggle with DITA and many organizations are abandoning their DITA (and other XML) implementations in favor of less complex and more user-friendly solutions that can be easily adopted across the organization by users of all skill levels.
Last year we replaced dozens of DITA and XML based implementations with Author-it, in large and small companies alike. I remember meeting with one particular group that had been working with DITA for about a year and was very adamant that it was the only way to do it. During the presentation of Author it we showed them how easily they could migrate their DITA content, do everything they were doing with their XML based tool set, and much more, while continuing to use the DITA content model and validation within Author-it. Needless to say they are now happy Author-it users.
Founder and CEO
Author-it Software Corporation