Technology, People, and Successful Projects

Focus on the people; you’ll find the right technology that matches your situation and you’ll see success.

I was reminded recently of Rebekka Anderson’s presentation at DITA North America a couple of years ago. Her conclusions mirrored what we see every day:  Technology is only 1/3 of the things that you need to consider when looking to solve and implement something like dynamic publishing or DITA successfully. I’ve been at this for over a decade and every time I see someone looking only at the technology, their projects fail.

You need to make sure that you know what it will take from an organizational perspective to implement a solution like this before you start down the path to implementation.

Things like:

  • What are the processes I have in place?
  • What is the culture of the organization?
  • What skill levels of people do I have?
  • What skills do you need to have?
  • Do you have to change processes?
  • Do you need to bring on people?
  • What’s this thing actually going to look like?

You need to look at the organization as a whole, and do deep dives into the groups that intersect with information creation and delivery:

  • Technical Publications
  • Engineering
  • Product Development and Product Lifecycle Management
  • Marketing
  • Web Team
  • Localization partners
  • Packaging
  • Training
  • Support
  • Service centers and maintenance
  • etc.

It’s not just the technology (and the cost of it) that you’re looking at. You’ve got to look at all these different things together. The other costs are there too, lurking, and they can blow a project’s budget beyond all recognition.

Not all products are for all situations. Not all partnerships are the best for both sides. You can’t know anything without fully understanding what your needs and what you want to accomplish from an organizational perspective.

I started by talking about Rebekka Anderson’s presentation. She found that Tools and Technology are only 10% of what it takes to get a project done. Change management and process management are the biggest factors in successful project completion. She’s right.

Get people involved early. Force never succeeds and, in fact, will back fire on you. Hard. As a wise friend told me once, “Customers can hurt you more, but a bad team will hurt you faster.” He was talking about internal sabotage, people who are acting out of fear or can’t see what’s in it for them to work with you, to implement the solution you know has benefits.  You need them on your side. They need to invest in the effort and participation early on has multiple benefits for you: (1) they have skin in the game and (2) they’ll take some of the work off your hands.

Focus on the people; you’ll find the right technology that matches your situation and you’ll see success.