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The 5 Crucial Roles in your DITA Project Team

Joe Gelb

Joe Gelb

Yehudit Lindblom

Yehudit Lindblom

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Making the decision to migrate to DITA is the first step in what can be a challenging journey. In the next series of blog posts, we will focus on the initial stages of creating a DITA project plan that will ensure your success.

A project team that can plan your DITA migration will be crucial to its success. Every member of the team will bring his or her own expertise, experience, and perspective to your project. To succeed in the long term, your team needs to include:

1) Main project stakeholders

High-level managers and those in your company who are funding your project need to be involved in your project from the very beginning. They don’t need to be in every meeting, but they need to be kept informed.

Stakeholders should include the project sponsor, who is funding the project, and can include representatives from the groups responsible for localization, learning and training, marketing, and support.

When you start your project, consider who in your company might watch your progress with interest and who might want to join in later. Make sure to get wider consensus and buy-in from potential stakeholders. You will need their support down the road!

 2) Key technical writers

Your writers are the main users of your system and the producers of your content. The key technical writers will need to become evangelists for this initiative who will help other writers join later on, so they must be technically savvy. Your project team must include at least one or two writers who are:

a) Familiar with your content

b) Open to learning the new methods and tools

These writers do not need to be the most senior or entrenched writers in your team. They do need to be eager to learn the new tools and be prime movers in the process.

You need to be careful about who is on your team – it needs to include people who are optimistic and raring to go, people who are ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and work with you to reach the right solution.

3) Information architect

The information architect in your team needs to have a good understanding of the main body of your content and how it is (or should be) used. (Sometimes the writer and the architect are the same person, if it’s a small team.)

Often an external information architecture consultant can be very helpful in training your internal information architect and writers to perform a content audit and to help you to come up with the tagging policies and content models that you will use moving forward. However, do not leave this knowledge with the consultant — this is knowledge and experience you will need to bring in-house. Get training so that you have an internal information architect from the beginning.

4) Technical tools “guru”

You will need someone on your team who really understands your new toolset and the vendors you will be working with — someone who will understand your customizations and how everything works together.

This “guru” may be your writer or your information architect, it could be someone from  your IT staff, or it might be the Publications Manager who was managing the previous system. Someone on the team needs to understand how everything fits together, so that if later on something needs to be tweaked or adjusted (or even breaks), you have a member of the team who can works well with the vendors and speaks their language while also working well with your own IT department who will be hosting your environment.

This member of your team will also be a key evangelist in your organization, explaining what to expect in terms of changes to procedures and processes and getting your IT team on board.

5) DITA implementation consultant/trusted advisor

There are many aspects to a DITA project that you may not be familiar with. At some point you will need to hire or contract with someone who will:

  • Help you build a comprehensive project plan, including the dependencies of different pieces of your project
  • Help you coordinate with your external resources. These include the Information Architecture consultant, your software vendors, conversion experts, and style sheet developers.
    In the project plan, all these parts work in parallel. The better and more experienced your project manager is, the shorter your development cycle will be.
  • Have a broad and detailed view of all the moving parts and be focused on the success of your entire implementation
  • Bring experience to your team.

Now that you have built your project team, it’s time to train them. Tune in for our next blog, “Planning Your DITA Project: The 3 Pre-Project Training Goals.”

2 thoughts on “The 5 Crucial Roles in your DITA Project Team

  1. What would be the minimum size of a documentation collateral (in terms of words, pages, or topics) that justifies implementing DITA?

  2. In my opinion it has nothing to do with size. It has to do with your workflow. If you re-use content heavily, then DITA is worth it no matter how small your content set. Some examples: Recombining the same pieces in different ways for different products and versions; several different output formats that organize the content in very different ways, such as on-line help, knowledge base, social media, and PDF; publishing in multiple languages. If on the other hand, you write once, publish once, and never touch that content again, DITA might not be worth it no matter how large your content set.

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