On September 27, 2007 STC Silicon Valley chapter presented IBM’s Andrea Ames and Jennifer Fell’s discussion of Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) at VMWare’s offices in Palo Alto.
We want information anytime, anywhere and on any platform so it was appropriate that this IBM presentation take place at VMWare. IBM has managed to navigate almost a century in the technology business and VMWare has just started its journey. Both want to get useful information to customers.
IBM is a big tent these days with a lot of different people in it. Gone is the stereotypical white shirt and black tie. I still run into people who have worked their entire lives there. I know people who are second or third generation IBMers, an unimaginable possibility to most workers these days. Technology changes too fast for most companies to adapt, and yet IBM managed to do just that by hiring people like Andrea Ames and Jennifer Fell.
Traditionally, large corporations have silos where information and processes flow from top to bottom and seldom across the organization. Writers are responsible for their product’s documentation and seldom see that used beyond their particular turf. The customer demand for information breaks down these barriers. Customers do not know or care that the hardware comes from one division and the software another. They want the information from two or more very different sources to merge and work together as well as the product they buy.
Ames and Fell told the story of how they helped change the mindset of “my product, my manual” to “my technologies, my solutions”. DITA helps break down the barriers and allow documentation components to be moved and integrated across product lines. Writers need to keep in mind all the ways their work will be used. In many ways the process broadened their understanding of the company and its customers.
If you get the chance, hear their story and learn how it can be done.
Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.