There’s more to life than S1000D! OK, let’s get real, the technical publication is a requirement of product support. We can argue about what constitutes a professional technical publication, from a simple installation card through to a full-on interactive technical manual, and we may be asked to produce a wealth of support information types.

The problem that I see in the market today is that often we are being asked to produce technical content that conforms to S1000D, whatever that means (a blog for another day). For us to create S1000D content, we need to have the S1000D specific tools and required know-how that enables us to produce the S1000D ‘conforming’ content.

Now the S1000D market offers some excellent software tools available to us all requiring a different level of financial and skill investment.

The Problem?

Many of the S1000D software vendors focus purely on the requirements of S1000D and seem to forget that we as producers of technical content have to support multiple source files (sometimes incorrectly referred to as legacy data – yet another blog for the future), outputs and structures, far beyond ‘just’ S1000D.

In our market, our products have very long life-cycles, its not unheard of that our products are in service for 20+ years. We are still managing and maintaining technical publications that were produced well before structured languages became popular, indeed well before S1000D was born.

As technical publication managers, we have to manage an array of technical publications in assorted flavours, and we don’t want to invest in and run multiple software tools to do so.

Technical Publication Building Blocks

Even if we were producing and managing S1000D content alone, there is an issue; we need to control and manage technical publication building blocks.

For example, the management and control of stylesheets and templates is a real problem. Many vendors ignore this and force us to maintain these building blocks external to the CSDB! Why? These building blocks are as important as the content in their own right.

A Story

I was recently asked to support a technical publications workshop for a client to bounce ideas off. During the meeting, there was a discussion of what to do with the management of technical publications from 1974!

These manuals are still being used by MRO’s and updated by the technical publications department today. This discussion exemplified for me the challenge professional technical publication managers face today, the management of these mixed document file types and also having to produce modern content to specifications like S1000D.

So my message to the software vendors.

Please do not forget that in our market there are practical and real management issues we have to consider. For many organisations, your software will need to act and behave like a mainstream content management system as well as a CSDB for those that have to support these requirements.

How are you managing your content today?

Does your CSDB support all of your needs and requirements? Do you have to work around the limitations of your CSDB? Let me know.

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Mike Ingledew

A trained aircraft engineer (rotorcraft), I entered in to the field of technical information writing S1000D data modules on a major European military platform.

After a series of high profile project roles and the privilege of supporting clients worldwide, I ended my 'employed' career at a subsidiary of Boeing Aircraft after I decided to leave and focus on TDW full-time.

From my time supporting clients worldwide, I could see that there was a market need for an independent organisation that could be a trusted advisory source for those needing to implement successful technical information strategies.

I am passionate about the art of technical communications and the process, software and skills needed in our market.

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