With the help of IXIASOFT, Sybase’s Documentation Team maximized performance, decreased localization costs, and increased efficiency.
With DITA CMS to manage its complex enterprise software suite, Sybase is a content king.
The story of how Sybase’s Documentation Team is driving content reuse and creating brand cohesion across 20 enterprise solution suites with the help of IXIASOFT: a true partner for the management of DITA content.
Awarded over 140 patents with 185 more pending, Sybase is the market leader in data management, analytics, mobile messaging, and enterprise mobility. The company also pioneered the term ‘unwired enterprise.’ It is no surprise that 91 of the Fortune 100 depend on Sybase, now celebrating 26 years of innovation.
Greatness is not without its challenges. As a software manufacturer grows, its products mature into solutions, which may unify into suites able to be bundled and customized. To remain profitable during this evolution, a software maker must maximize the performance of both its intellectual and human capital. These forms of capital often intersect within the Technical Publications division.
The Technical Publications (Tech Pubs) group at Sybase needed a Component Content Management System (CCMS) to improve content reuse and ensure brand consistency, both ingredients essential to the corporate bottom line. The decision to select IXIASOFT’s DITA CMS required careful consideration.
A brief blueprint of Sybase’s Technical Publications team mirrors many global organizations:
- Multiple languages including English, Chinese, French, Japanese, and German
- Complex team: over 25 writers, a dozen information architects, 50+ reviewers, and several editors and managers
- Quick version releases: less than six months
- Geographically distributed team: US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, and Singapore
Several help formats available: WebHelp, EclipseHelp, and PDF, supporting context sensitivity for all formats
Sybase is a $1.2B software maker with 4,000 employees in 60 countries. Its Technical Publications division consists of over 50 users.
Migrated from DocBook and FrameMaker.
Primary drivers for a CMS:
- Content reuse across a wide array of software suites and bundles
- Needed common look and feel
- Localization costs were increasing
- Geographically disconnected workforce
- Improve content accuracy
Why a CMS: Maximizing the Promise of DITA
Sybase originally heard about the promise of DITA—modular, reusable content—several years ago. The old processes, which leveraged DocBook and FrameMaker, were cumbersome and did not enable content reuse. More products in development and shorter times-to-market inspired Sybase to consider DITA.
After the Director of Technical Publications attended her first DITA conference, she was cautiously optimistic: “Sybase had too many suites and bundles for the conventional, isolated processes to suffice. We needed all of our content to behave and appear as a single, cohesive product. And one of reliable accuracy. Moreover, we have fewer writers employed than years past, possess more work than ever before, but had near-zero visibility into content reuse. We certainly wanted to give DITA a try to evaluate its potential to further streamline our documentation process.”
Sybase began with an in-house migration from DocBook to DITA, using transform scripts. During the transition, Sybase fashioned a homegrown build system based on the DITA OT. Over a few years, this custom build system not only gained user popularity but also became a symbol of success with DITA.
After supporting a few product lifecycles with DITA, the Tech Pubs management felt a genuine improvement in content reuse. The managers could not, however, maximize DITA’s value nor escape the feeling that they could do much better. Sybase first moved to DITA within small teams but sensed greater benefits could be reaped through a larger-scale migration, necessitating a unifying CMS.
The DITA migration still left a few questions unanswered:
- When are we going to see localization costs finally decrease?
- Why do our documents still lack a crystal clear look and feel?
- How do we know which version of a topic should be used for a specific product release?
- What can we do to avoid bottlenecks in workflow and disjointed collaboration?
- How can my writers reuse the content if they cannot find it first?
- Where can we eliminate inaccuracies in our published media?
We are now entrusting our flagship product—Adaptive Server Enterprise—to IXIASOFT, which has delivered beyond our expectations.
Anna Hartman – Manager, Technical Publications Solutions
A Winning Business Case
To obtain funding for a CCMS, the Sybase engineering director who owned the budget requested a clear business case outlining potential savings:
- Decreased Localization Costs: streamline the localization process by increasing content reuse and sending less content requiring localization.
- Increased Efficiency of Technical Writers and Editors: searchability and content reuse can make the average writer more than twice as productive (seen in other IXIASOFT customers’ document delivery speed).
- Avoid Product Launch Delays: launch delays cost the average billion-dollar enterprise $5 million for every two-week delay.
Assessing DITA CMS Vendors: The Revelation of Integrity
The Technical Publications division secured budget to find the best DITA-based CMS available. An RFI was broadcast to the leading vendors, including an opensource provider. Every vendor claimed that its CMS could support Sybase (and Eclipse) but only three of these claims were found to be authentic. In fact, authenticity was perhaps the most elusive character trait among CMS vendors.
As Tech Pubs Manager Anna Hartman observed, “DITA is still in its early adoption phase. Therefore, among the three to four dependable CMS products out there, none of them will be perfect out-of-the-box. And vendors will say anything to keep your attention. So it really came down to this: which vendor did I trust to be a long-term investor in my company’s success?”
Sybase was impressed with IXIASOFT’s expertise and total commitment to DITA. Sybase observed the IXIASOFT R&D team dependably refining and perfecting the solution. Hartman was also impressed with both the flexibility of the CMS and the integrity of IXIASOFT sales consultants.
“Smaller vendors made swift promises that they later could not keep. And larger vendors would not budge on reasonable requests. In refreshing contrast, IXIASOFT was honest, dynamic and responsive. It has a clear, long-term vision for its CMS and welcomes customer input into what new features could be implemented to maintain its best-in-class nature. We are happy with the evolution of the DITA CMS, which today is a mature and innovative solution,” says Hartman.
Real World Implementation: Rise of a True Partnership
From contract to go-live, the implementation lasted three months—on time and on budget. IXIASOFT’s consultants and engineers hit the ground running with a levelheaded approach to rapid CMS integration, which requires a much shorter learning curve compared to the original DITA transition. All key Sybase stakeholders were summarily brought up to speed and had their concerns addressed.
In addition, Sybase and IXIASOFT jointly created a healthy environment for a DITA-based (Component) CMS to thrive. These best practices include:
- Appoint and equip DITA CMS champions within the enterprise, mentors that will support new users’ adoption.
- The existence of fluent DITA knowledge within your Documentation Team.
- Present a business case to the entire documentation team: clearly state the vision for moving to DITA and the benefits expected. Give them a voice in the transition process.
- Create a custom DITA transition plan for each technical writer and subject matter expert, helping them to “own” their own transition at a reasonable pace.
- Hold Accountability Meetings where current processes are discussed to ensure the CMS is deployed exactly as the customer expects. Allow CMS vendor visibility into existing IT infrastructure to optimize CMS deployment.
- Custom training—unique training sessions to address the needs of different user and administrator roles. Host follow-up sessions since knowledge is easily forgotten and needs to be reinforced.
- As with all enterprise implementations, unexpected needs and challenges arise.
- “Fortunately we chose a true partner in IXIASOFT, which is committed to our success,” says Hartman. “IXIASOFT consultants remained knowledgeable and nimble while navigating the ongoing requirements.” IXIASOFT was responsive and attentive to details to make sure our requests were taken into consideration for the design of new features:
- The DITA CMS publishing engine was customized and integrated with Sybase’s homegrown, value-added build system, a paramount requirement for Sybase.
- A user-friendly relationship table editor was developed to accommodate our specific use case, allowing us to easily create links between documents without breaking the connections that enable content reuse.
- A “dependencies” view (i.e. “Where Used” feature) was created with a drilldown graphical view of the relationships between objects.
Given its customer-driven approach to product development, IXIASOFT considered these Sybase requests an opportunity to improve the overall CMS. IXIASOFT perceives long-term partnerships as an advancement of both parties.
Reduced Localization Costs. Smarter Content Reuse. Brand Management. No Compromises.
Today, Sybase continues to realize the tangible benefits of IXIASOFT’s DITA CMS. First, the DITA CMS empowered Sybase to take back control of its localization costs. In the enterprise software space, localization budgets average $500,000. Even under a new CMS learning curve, Sybase has seen localization costs reduce by 14%.
Hartman explains how:
“In the past, we would send the Frame files to the localization vendors, and they would handle all workflow thereafter, including processing, translation, and generating output. Today, with IXIASOFT, we have brought all the workflow back under our streamlined processes, except for the translation itself. Now, with true content reuse, we guarantee that only net-new content is submitted for translation.”
Sybase requires far less outsourced localization support. Localization savings are expected to increase to 30% within the next few years.
The DITA CMS allows Sybase to quickly and easily track content across all types of media and at varying stages of development. The Tech Pubs team now experiences one-stop shopping via a single content repository and polished user interface. Another Sybase insider says; “Content reuse is a breeze with IXIASOFT’s powerful search features.” Along with maximum content reuse, brand cohesion is a natural byproduct rather than a far-fetched aspiration.
In the weeks after this writing, Sybase plans to quantify the mythical ‘productivity’ metric, though subjective feedback suggests a 30% improvement thus far. To measure and improve productivity, Sybase will use the CMS’s built-in reporting tool, allowing them to powerfully mine the CMS for relevant data such as document publishing time, topic reuse rates, content development speed (by author and project), etc. If the reader hopes that business-as-usual in Tech Pubs would see a revolution, let IXIASOFT pull the trigger.
Business questions a prospective buyer should ask every CMS vendor:
- Do you have in-house DITA expertise and were you involved in shaping the DITA standard from the very beginning?
- If your solution needs improvements, will I have direct access and input to your research and development team?
- Do you have reliable references willing to discuss their experience with the solution and the company?
- Before implementation, will you agree to a detailed specification analysis, assuring all my requirements are addressed and providing a transparent vision of every step in the implementation?
- Is this a DITA-specific CMS solution? Does it support the DITA standard 100%?
- Do you have a native XML database, ensuring seamless management of DITA Specializations?
- Are DITA specializations supported? If so, HOW are they supported (with emphasis on the “how”)?
- Can we easily configure your workflow engine to accommodate our own processes?
Is the solution fully UNICODE-compliant, guaranteeing compatibility with Asian and Middle Eastern languages?
The original DITA implementation yielded several benefits. However, the Tech Pubs team believed that they could do much better.
- Brand consistency was still out of reach
- By itself, DITA offered no mechanism to reuse content efficiently
- Inaccuracies still plagued published documents
Key Benefits of the IXIASOFT DITA CMS:
- Specialized CMS designed to manage DITA content
- Unified interface to author and manage content with easy navigation
- Tools to quickly locate and reuse content
A DITA CMS for Software Manufacturers
IXIASOFT’s DITA CMS is well positioned to address the specific needs of software manufacturers. The Sybase Tech Pub team understood why the IXIASOFT DITA CMS made particular sense for them, a software maker:
- Shorter product life-cycles benefit from content reuse and rapid turnaround
- Complex product bundles result in large volumes of content
- Customer-facing branded content must be cohesive and unmistakable
- Software providers reuse content across the broadest swath of media: print, online, and within the software itself
Software companies employ above-average (technical) subject matter experts, architects, and engineers, many of whom are more agreeable to adopt a new technology.