Why move out of traditional publishing tools?

I answered a question recently

What IF you were CEO of a (i) big pharma., (ii) medical device and (iii) health service organization (hospital, HMO, etc.)? What changes would you have made and why?

There is no question lots of companies in the pharma., medical device and health service (hospital, HMO, etc.) industries are struggling to survive and/or prosper in today’s fast changing global business environment where laser-beam decision making accuracy and speed, flexibility, agility, business model rethinking are core requirements.

Given the above reality that all of us experience first hand, what changes YOU would implement IF you were CEO of a (i) big pharma., (ii) medical device and (iii) health service organization (hospital, HMO, etc.)? Why?

What do you think the above industry sectors need but no one has offered yet?

What does the future hold? Where are we going?

I would pursue a move to automated publishing.

There’s two ways to improve profit: sell more or spend less. Why not do both at once? If you’re looking to sell more, by going to European markets, then you’re looking at translation costs that can be sky high if you’re tired to traditional publishing tools (Word, FrameMaker).

For Med and Pharma companies, translation is a requirement. The products are health-related and the users must be able to make informed decisions, understand side-effects and usage requirements. This means the documentation surrounding the product (labeling, usage manuals, repair manuals, product inserts) are all tightly controlled and must be in the native language of the person taking the medication or using the product. The liability otherwise, if they do the wrong thing, is just far too high.

First, if you’re authoring using traditional tools, a change that cascades changes to the following pages looks to a translator like all the following pages have changed — as, indeed, They Have!

And you, as a company having documentation translated, are charged for every single page that the translator has to verify.┬áNot just the changed bits you’d prefer to pay for.

With an automated authoring and publishing system, layout is automated (to all the formats listed previously). There’s no costly verification of pages that only changed because of cascaded layout differences.

Second, if you’re using monolithic, proprietary systems like FrameMaker or Word, what you have is an isolated silo of information. You can’t have plug and play modules that contain boilerplate information, or reuse information for common components across product lines. Each page is authored, copied and pasted, and stored in the silo document.

In an automated authoring and publishing environment, you can gather fragments together, reuse at will, mix and match your bits of documentation just like you mix and match parts in your products.

The first time you translate, you translate everything, but after that, because you’re reusing information components, you only have to translate new components or changed components. You can track, measure, and verify that other components are guaranteed not to have changed, and then automatically merge and create the product documentation after having only the new/changed information translated.

Again, costs are far, far less because you have the ability to mix and match at a smaller than document level in a nontraditional authoring and publishing environment that is built to leverage reusable components, to automate layout, and minimize impact of changes to every product in your portfolio.

Essentially: you can sell more, to more countries, and not have to spend a fortune to do it.

Let me say one more thing:

One of our customers was offered a discount by their translation vendor to get out of Frame and move to an automated publishing system. A discount in this economy is hard — and great — to find.

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Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley has founded two companies, sits on the boards of three non-profits, and is constantly coming up with new ways to share knowledge in the technical communications and content industries. https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethfraley/

4 thoughts on “Why move out of traditional publishing tools?”

  1. Hmm…Liz, seems you’re really enjoy using Arbortext…

    Btw, Liz, would you mind giving me some information about post-purchase charges related to this software, like annual fee (maintenance fee, how much per year, per license)…

    Thank you, again….

  2. We are an Arbortext partner. We have been using it for nearly a decade because we feel it is the best application for the job.

    While we can help, please allow me to point you to the community resources:

    1. Mailing list hosted by PTC/User
    2. The Adepters Information Archive
    3. Mailing List hosted by Yahoo Groups (Advanced Print Publisher)
    4. Introduction to DITA: A User Guide to the Darwin Information Typing Architecture Arbortext Edition – JoAnn Hackos

    You can find more information about where to find these resources here:



  3. Nice thought…

    Hi, my company is going to make an operational manual based on our business processes which is used by all of our employees. And, our company has been purchased Arbortext Editor with Styler version 5.3, but we still have a MEGA-lot of problem because this software is unrecognized yet in our country, and we’re having difficulties to dig all of its features.

    What do you think about this software, is it good? Really need to know your opinion.

    Thank you

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