Home > Resources > Blog > Uncategorized

3 Important Pre-Project DITA Training Goals

Joe Gelb

Joe Gelb

Yehudit Lindblom

Yehudit Lindblom

Subscribe: Subscribe

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.”

Home > Resources > Blog > Uncategorized

The 5 Crucial Roles in your DITA Project Team

Joe Gelb

Joe Gelb

Yehudit Lindblom

Yehudit Lindblom

Subscribe: Subscribe

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.”