Systems Documentation, Inc.



DITA in the World Interview Series: DITA in Finland

Our CCMS partner DITAToo recently interviewed Peter Acs and myself about the adaptation of DITA in China (with Peter) and Finland (with yours truly). The first part, concerning Finland and DITA, was just published by Alex from DITAToo and we did not want you to miss it. What are the experiences and adaptation rates in your country and what are the challenges faced in adapting DITA? Let us know!

Alex Masycheff: How would you estimate the level of awareness of DITA in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: The DITA awareness in Finland is quite good and more companies are moving towards DITA or at least are considering DITA as we speak. The adoption of DITA by several large companies (such as Nokia, NSN, and Kone) has given a significant impetus to the spread of DITA awareness and interest over the past few years.

Alex Masycheff: Can you roughly estimate the level of DITA adoption in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: The adoption is increasing, especially among larger and/or internationally operating companies. Among the large companies in Finland, I would say approximately 50-60% is using or implementing DITA in one way or another. Among the small to medium-sized companies this is much lower, probably more towards 15- 20% as adoption is only starting to spread as we speak.

Alex Masycheff: What industries mostly adopt DITA in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: The frontrunners to adopt DITA were Kone, Nokia and NSN, so large companies with a significant multilingual requirement and with a recognized need for reuse and single-sourcing.

Most companies that have adopted DITA or are considering moving to DITA have multilingual needs high on their agenda. Heavy industry seems to be trailing behind as they tend to be a bit more conservative in adopting new technology solutions.

Alex Masycheff: What is an average size of a team that adopts DITA? I intentionally ask about the size of the team rather than the size of the entire company. From our experience, there is no a clear and direct correlation between the size of a company and DITA adoption. Even in big companies where there are several documentation teams, often isolated from each other, DITA can be adopted by a certain team, while another documentation team keeps working in an unstructured way or uses a proprietary structured format. So what is the situation in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: Initially, it was 15-20+ sized writing teams which started to adopt DITA, as they had the manpower and financial backing to investigate DITA implementation. However, we now see lots of companies interested in DITA who only have one to two full time writers at most. Thanks to DITAToo DITA CMS, oXygen and others, DITA is becoming much more “low threshold” for small companies and teams.

Alex Masycheff: How would you describe a typical profile of your customer that decided to move to DITA?
Hans Garritzen: The average company adopting DITA in Finland is working in the IT sector, depends on multilingual export clients and is no longer satisfied with a PDF-only policy. The companies understand that investing in XML and DITA is an investment in the future, even if they decide to not get everything out of it in the first phase.

Alex Masycheff: Why did your customers decide to move to DITA?
Hans Garritzen: Many clients notice that their current unstructured documentation sets are reaching the end of their practical life, with a lack of reuse, high copy past/maintenance requirement and with higher localization costs. Reuse and reduced localization costs are high on most clients’ list

Alex Masycheff: From your experience, who usually initiates moving to DITA? Does it look more like a bottom-up strategy when content authors succeed to convince their management to adopt DITA or is it a decision initiated and made by the management?
Hans Garritzen: As DITA is mostly familiar to documentation-savvy people, the initial proposal usually comes from the bottom, through writers and documentation architects. While the writers are usually attracted to the efficiency of reuse with DITA, money usually talks with management and a clear financial justification is required. This is when we often come in with calculations and support. The low-entry approach of DITAToo has also been an eye-opener for many, often fearing exorbitant CMS costs in advance.

Alex Masycheff: What is different about DITA adoption or perception in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: With Finland being a relatively small nation, the word about DITA has spread very fast and the adoption rate is gaining pace. There are quite a few technical writers that are familiar with at least the basics of DITA. Being a country dependent on export, Finnish companies certainly see the advantages of localization with DITA.

Alex Masycheff: How do you see the future of DITA in Finland?
Hans Garritzen: At the moment it looks very positive, with more and more companies adopting, or at least seriously considering adopting DITA. There is always an investment accompanying the adoption of DITA, though with an easy-entry DITAToo and an increase in ROI numbers becoming available, this investment becomes less and less of an issue for companies.

Alex Masycheff: What are the main factors that still prevent companies from using DITA in Finland? What could be done vendors, consultants, OASIS, and the DITA community in general, to eliminate or minimize these obstacles?
Hans Garritzen: Depending on the company, the main prohibitive factors for adopting DITA are time, money and a “fear” of DITA. While DITAToo certainly reduces the threshold of adopting DITA, including serious savings in conversion of existing content, it still takes careful planning, a gradual migration and of course financial investment – and the time and finances for this may not always be immediately available, despite the relatively quick ROI companies will have. DITA has unfortunately also on occasions been too mystified by several of the DITA “gurus”, creating an image of an unrealistically high learning curve and thus scaring people away from DITA – especially after many years of comfortably working in MS Word or similar.
Breaking down that barrier of “nobody but me can write real DITA” presented by some of the advocates would ease the entry of many people into the adoption, taking away many prejudices towards the architecture that exist right now.

Alex Masycheff: Thank you very much, Hans!

Coming next: an interview with Péter Ács, the Operations Manager of SDI China. We'll be talking about how DITA is adopted in China. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Hans Garritzen

Hans Garritzen is the VP, Business Development for Europe with SDI. With over 13 years of content creation, migration and localization experience, Hans is constantly looking for improving content creation processes. Hans is an active member of the Finnish Technical Communications Society.

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