Re-Designing Your Processes

By Eric Severson  |  Posted 2009-02-18 Print this article Print

Re-designing your processes

In the classic book-oriented world, each publication is sent out as a whole to reviewers, and then published as a whole once it's been approved. This is straightforward, but typically results in multiple, redundant reviews of the same information.

With DITA, topics are written to be standalone and reusable, and information is only authored once. This means that they should be able to be reviewed only once, independent of any specific publication and use. But how does this work in practice? Does a new review cycle begin each time an individual topic is completed? The answer to this depends on three factors:

1. How the reviewers or subject matter experts are organized. - In a topic-oriented world, reviewers should focus on the set of topic for which they have expertise-regardless of the output deliverables in which they appear. Therefore, reviewers should get an extract of the topics in their specific area-not the whole output deliverable-usually once all topics in their area are complete.

2. How the output deliverables are organized. - In some applications, the core set of output deliverables are already arranged by area of subject matter expertise, even though there may be reuse beyond this core set. In this case, it would make sense to have the reviewers work directly on these core deliverables.

3. How often changes are made. - Normally it would be very inefficient to feed reviewers one topic at a time, and it might be difficult to have enough content to review. But for certain information that changes infrequently, such as legal boilerplate, it might in fact make sense to immediately put a single topic through the review cycle.

Typically, we recommend using separate DITA maps for review, organized to fit the needs of reviewers. These can be the entire publication, or a portion, if appropriate. They can also be just groupings of similar material for a particular subject matter expert, completely independent of a publication.

Eric Severson is co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer for Flatirons Solutions Corporation. Eric is also on the board of directors for IDEAlliance and is a former president of OASIS--both XML industry consortiums. He can be reached at

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