DITA Conversion Enables Massive Product Support Archive
New product introductions are a staple of any telecommunications equipment manufacturer, which routinely create and market new features to improve communications and catch the public eye. But for one telecom, years of innovation also generated a vast library of hundreds of thousands of user manuals and technical documents, created and stored in a wide and sometimes incompatible range of formats. Many were produced in standard formats such as Framemaker, Microsoft Word and Excel, while others used proprietary in-house software and Interleaf and Arbortext.
In addition, many customers continued using the legacy products. As a result, those customers required support long after their products had been superseded with new ones. The manuals and support documents for the older products were packed with critically important technical details and illustrations, which meant that updating or maintaining that material was a time-consuming task that required the technical document team to pull content from multiple platforms. Meanwhile, the challenge of sorting and reusing material kept growing as the company introduced new products to market.
The telecom manufacturer recognized that converting the documents to XML would be a logical next step, since the markup language is designed to ease the sorting and reuse of content created in multiple formats. To ensure reuse, the data had to be indexed with an extremely high degree of accuracy. However, sorting and tagging up to 650,000 pages of legacy documents would be costly and time consuming for inhouse personnel, who would be better focused on other tasks. Instead, the company turned to Innodata Isogen, an experienced provider of XML data conversion services, with offshore units that could tag the data accurately and at a lower cost. In addition, the company’s professional services team could also help the telecommunications company automate the conversion of new documents to the XML style sheets.
After establishing a comprehensive work plan to index all content based on the manufacturer’s style sheets and document-to-document (DTD) protocols, Innodata Isogen then established two distinct teams. One was charged with sorting and indexing graphics rendering and the other with content conversion from the many formats used by the manufacturer.
Once the parameters were established, Innodata Isogen began analyzing the documents in the manufacturer’s content repository. They determined that many of the DITA-based DTDs were not stable and could not be converted accurately. This could have posed a huge problem down the road for the telecom’s technical writing team, who would have to recreate key components for those documents, instead of relying on the automated conversion.
To resolve the problem, Innodata Isogen's professional services teams modified the DTDs, developing style sheet guidelines for automating the conversion of the XML documents to HTML. They also built authoring style sheets that would make it easier for the company’s technical writers to create new documents in XML.
Once that was obstacle was cleared, the content services teams began sorting and converting content into XML. While one team converted documents adhering to the manufacturer’s proprietary style sheet, the other established links to the image files. Innodata Isogen customized its tagging tool to enable the validation of graphic callouts, so that any inconsistencies or errors would be reported to the telecom manufacturer to determine corrective action.
Innodata Isogen's content services team also established a multi-stage validation and quality control process to check the content before it was transmitted to the manufacturer’s document repository. Links between the converted content and graphics were registered to the telecom’s dynamic content assembly manager so documents could be created by assembling components from the thousands of data modules in the manufacturer’s document repository.
Thanks to a dramatic improvement in the ability to search and retrieve information, the manufacturer’s technical staff is no longer bogged down with cross-platform searches to provide product support. Instead, it can focus on what it does best – writing cogent material that details how to use the equipment. And with the framework in place to index new technical data, the company is poised to handle growth in demand of up to 50 percent beyond its prior capacity.