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3 Important Pre-Project DITA Training Goals

Joe Gelb

Joe Gelb

Yehudit Lindblom

Yehudit Lindblom

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You’ve appointed your project team. You have sponsors for your project and your writers include technology evangelists. What’s next? Training! In this blog post, we will discuss the training goals for your team and when and why to schedule a second round of training.

Once the members of your project team are on board, they will need training. DITA training is a prerequisite for planning your project, and training for your team should be scheduled as soon as your project team is set.

The training goals for this initial stage of training are:

1)      Providing your project team with the knowledge they need to make nitty-gritty, detailed decisions about their requirements, priorities, and preferences for content.

Your team will need to make decisions regarding every stage of content creation, from how content will be structured to the look-and-feel of the final output. That means that your team needs to know what is possible, what the best practices are, and the pros and cons of each decision they will make.

2)      Giving your team a good understanding of the process and vocabulary: what DITA is, what the different terms are, the basics of information architecture, and what kind of custom specializations and style sheets are possible.

3)      Giving your team hands-on experience.

This is a crucial goal of your initial training. Hands-on training should include exercises with your own content. While you can learn aspects of DITA by working with random “sample content,” nothing can compare to real, familiar content for helping your team learn best practices that will take your content creation forward.

In addition, hands-on training with your own content will help you set realistic expectations regarding your content production. Practicing on your own content, you will better understand what you need to start working on from day one and what decisions you will need to make going forward. What are the stumbling blocks that you will need to deal with in your move to DITA? Training using your own content will clarify all these issues.

 A Training Reality Check: Training Round Two

While the training outlined above is a prerequisite for beginning your project, a lot of it may be forgotten weeks or months later when it’s time to actually start working with DITA on an ongoing basis. In addition, there are writers who will be working with DITA regularly who were not on the initial team. You will need to schedule a second training session for the writers when it is time to move into production, using the actual tools your project team has chosen. Remember to budget for this second round of training when planning your DITA project!

There are two important factors in this second round of training:

1)     Your DITA trainer should use plenty of hands-on exercises based on your content and your information architecture, content model and metadata model.

2)     At this stage, training will include writers who were not “on board” in the beginning, some of whom may be very resistant to change. Your writer evangelists (remember our last post?) should be prepared to be ongoing cheerleaders and handholders during this round of training as well as the initial stages of ongoing DITA work by the documentation group.

Now that training is scheduled (and completed?), we’ll continue to the next stage: the content audit! Tune in next time for “4 Necessary Steps for Your Content Audit.”

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