Helping Arbortext Customers Get Started

After years of impartiality, we’ve decided to focus on what we do best: helping people get started. Regardless of your choice of doctype, we know that writers and publishers still need the right tools to be successful. We want to help people learn to take charge of their xml publishing projects.

After the acquisition of Arbortext by PTC, we saw an steady increase of new customers having problems implementing Arbortext based on insufficient information from inexperienced PTC sales staff and reseller-partners.

When I started working with Arbortext products, I was also learning XML, XSLT, publishing, content management, all at the same time. I was lucky enough to have a part-time expert consultant available to me to help get me started. She did the initial print stylesheet development, and taught me as she went. I was learning the technology while learning on a concrete example that, more importantly, was an actual deliverable! None of the training was generic or unrelated to what, eventually, I needed in order to deliver published documents on-time and with high quality print composition.

In addition, I was able to apply the lessons to begin the rest of the multi-channel outputs (3 versions of HTML, Palm Reader, and eReader) and have the expert consultant review my early work, help with hints to better optimize my code and polish my final output, as I took over and she phased out.

The expert was expensive, but we came in far, far under budget with respect to her. Having an expert do intensive training for me (as well as the early authoring staff), on our data, producing product-ready deliverables went a long way to getting me ready to maintain and enhance our publishing environment long-term.

It also got me ready a lot faster than we expected. We kept her on retainer for a period of time after the intensive training period. And we more than got our money’s worth. We were able to control our costs with regard to her: she was never sitting around or doing work that I was destined to do, or doing work that wasn’t a product of her expertise.

It was a system that worked so well, we’ve been doing the same for our customers ever since.

We signed on with PTC as a direct result of hearing customers cry out for expertise that would help them get their staff proficient in the Arbortext products and technology. These were customers with limited budgets, that wanted to keep the work in-house, and grow the necessary expertise with existing staff resources.

We decided that we would answer the call and help customers who wanted what we wanted: working, polished, reusable content that could be published easily and efficiently with staff resources who were capable of making it happen.

The Complete Triangle

Attempting single sourcing with help from only one side is a recipe for disaster: Customers spend large amounts of money, resources and effort but don’t get the system they expect. Customers should plan to research all three sides of the triangle and do a lot of planning from the start. Only then will they get a complete, extendable, and workable solution that benefits their entire company and sees return-on-investment from the very beginning.

Single-Sourcing Solutions experts have implemented successful solutions by paying attention to all three sides of the triangle. Our implementers have presented at conferences and written papers about their previous experiences and teach our customers to do it as well. We’re also one of those rare vendors who will look at your whole organization and let you know–absolutely and without question–whether or not Arbortext is a strategic fit for your business.

The Product Side: Vendors and Application-Specific Specialists

Product companies focus on developing full product suites to cover every possible customer. Their literature focuses on amazing application-specific features and why their products are the best choice for any environment. These companies work hard to sell products and consulting services to implement their full-scale systems.

Several vendors sponsor think tanks and white papers that help implementers understand the components to any single-sourcing system. Many provide resources for information on single sourcing and XML. Often these resources surpass the boundaries of their product line.

Some of the major players in the single-sourcing product space are:

  • Arbortext
  • Documentum
  • XyVision [Ed. Note, 2017: Now SDL]

The only problem with this side of the triangle is the problem that faces nearly every vendor. Competition is fierce. Products and implementation strategies are expensive (even if you DIY) and generally generic. Depending on the product, it can take a considerable amount of customization before you have any sort of working environment. These companies do their best to make sure their products fit your requirements—rather than making sure that your requirements fit their product suites. It’s a rare vendor indeed that recommends a competitive product instead of one of their own.

In the end, with any of these companies, customers will get an implementation that works. They all have professional services that provide expert implementation assistance. So, at that, they are very good. But this group too is missing the rest of the triangle. Often solutions are awkward and don’t scale well to meet changing requirements as companies grow: they’re focused on sales rather than the general theory and technology that are essential for a well-designed customer-specific solution. They miss the application-specific opportunities where documentation meets source development because they’re designing a system for the here-and-now. So again, we find that they are not alone.