Are you coming to Lavacon 2012?

Announcement: S3I Lavacon 2012 presentation: How to get buy-in for single source projects

Lavacon is always a great conference. It’s one of the few remaining conferences that isn’t run by a vendor. It always has a theme that guarantees lots of hot topic presentations and a great speaker line up.

This year, we’re talking about how to get buy-in when you’re trying to launch a project within your company. It’s always one of the biggest questions that people considering moving to a single-source environment have. There are two sides to this question: How do I get buy in from management? And how do I get buy in from my team?

Single-sourcing projects require new skill sets, new roles, and significant changes that forces productive and successful team members out of their comfort zones. It requires resources, dedication, and sponsorship from the enterprise as well.

Some things can be driven from the bottom up and some from the top, but regardless of where it starts, moving to a single-sourcing environment requires buy-in by all those whose process is affected directly or indirectly.

An entire body of literature is dedicated to change management. This presentation will share advice, guidance, and lessons learned from a variety of customers in a range of industries who have made this transition.

If you’re not coming to Lavacon — Don’t panic! We’ll be posting the slides to our slideshare channel and to the Member Forums. Members will have access to the talk’s transcript as well. If you’re not a member, and you don’t attend the presentation, then you’ll have to keep an eye out on the event announcement page for the slideshare link.

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.

Start with Tools, Process, or Change Management?

Over the last several years, now that all the pieces needed for dynamic information product delivery are under one roof, PTC has been working on an application that erases the boundaries between the mix-and-match components that have traditionally made up single-sourcing systems over the last decade.

But that was then and today, things are different. I answered a posted on another blog last month. The poster had been part of an evaluation and implementation team for a large-company dynamic publishing project years ago. He’d recently changed companies and missed the convenience and power that an XML publishing system brings. The technology had changed over the years; his new company was a small company; the budgets, resources, and everything was different.

Still, he knew what a system like this can bring. My advice to him?

While working on the presentation that Single-Sourcing Solutions gave at a conference earlier this year, I spent a year talking to companies — large and small. I’ve seen successful implementations at companies with teams as small as 2 people or as many as 800 writers. Their needs are as different as the resources available to them — including hard and soft costs. Regardless, each one had seen their ROI returned to them many times over and they all felt that it gave them a strategic advantage over their competitors.

I agree that the cost can look a bit intimidating at first blush. Just as with any other business, you need to analyze the business needs first: What are you trying to solve from the bigger picture?

Then you need to look at ROI. ROI gives you an idea as to when you will reap the benefits from the outlay of cash. Choose your solution wisely based on your company needs and not what appears at first to be the least expensive. Don’t be fooled by the cheap ones, there are usually a great deal of hidden costs. This trap happens even in the most successful companies…

Things to look for: Ease of use, Ease of implementation, Support for training, Is there an active user community that is willing to give advice, Updates and upgrades for licenses, Does it solve the needs end-end, One vendor vs. many, Available skills among existing staff, etc.,

The world is different today than it was 10 years ago. There are end-to-end solutions; there are disparate pieces you can mix-and-match, and there’s the good old DIY model. If you understand your needs, can articulate the ROI, you can navigate these waters and find a solution that resolves the bigger picture.

If you saw our websession on the ROI of XML, you heard similar comments from the presenters. It’s a story we hear from anyone who’s seen success over the long term, and it’s the story we hear, in lament, from those who took the tools-first approach (without fail).