The Benefits of CCMS, Structured Content, and DITA
By Damian Jewett
For the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on content management systems (CMS) geared toward the management of documents or publications, such as technical documentation, user guides, product specifications, etc.
If you’re unfamiliar with the basic concepts of CCMS, structured content, and DITA, definitely read these articles:
Some of the big names in this space are RWS Tridion Docs, AEM with AEM Guides, and Ixiasoft CCMS. Other solutions include easyDITA and DITAExchange’s Dx4. If we exclude DITA from the equation, we also have structured content solutions like Contentful’s topics and assemblies. For a summary of CCMS leaders, see here.
Some of the relevant industries include finance, insurance, tech, healthcare, manufacturing, electronics, automotive, aerospace, and professional services. This includes as many as 1600, mostly Fortune 2000 companies, of which roughly 280 use RWS Tridion Docs (holding the largest market share and often considered the industry leader).
Several studies indicate a solid compound annual growth rate of 10% or higher growth in the CCMS market over the next 6 years, increasing from a roughly 3 billion-dollar industry to a 6+ billion-dollar industry. There is also a strong trend toward increased adoption of the DITA standard. These trends are largely driven by content quality (e.g. single source of truth), time and cost reductions through content reuse, and improving customer engagement (e.g. through personalization). See here and here.
Yet, many people continue to question the benefits of DITA, as well as aspects of structured content management and component content management systems (CCMSs). This article aims to clarify what those benefits are; while providing compelling evidence by reviewing supportive metrics.
Here are some of the most cited benefits of CCMS and structured content, which very often leverage the DITA standard:
- Content reuse
- Creating a single source of truth
- Reduce time spent approving the same piece of content multiple times (due to regulatory requirements, for instance)
- More than just standard component reuse/linking (like in RWS Tridion Sites, for instance); we can also reference and reuse very granular, specific parts of specific components (using mechanisms like conrefs)
- Standardization, interoperability
- DITA content follows a standard, which fosters migration of content between systems
- Content modeling is done for you
- DITA provides out-of-the-box content models for various common component types, like concepts, tasks, and troubleshooting topics
- Fully extensible through DITA specializations
- Modularity allows authors to work in parallel on a single document
- DITA Open Toolkit can be used for the generation of documents in HTML, Word, PDF, and many other formats; this is one area where a pure headless alternative would likely be lacking
- Solutions like DITA Exchange provide integrations with familiar applications like Word so you can work in a familiar WYSIWYG environment, removing one of the biggest overheads of structured content management
Some other benefits normally seen in the broader CMS realm, but also present in CCMSs:
- Separation of content from presentation
- Dynamic retrieval of content on request (e.g. lazy loading for fewer and smaller API requests)
- Republishing at the individual component level
- Modern paradigms are typically supported, such as dynamic delivery, workflow, translation, personalization (through conditionals, metadata, tagging, etc.), omni-channel publishing, and some degree of headless solutioning
- Taxonomy integrations and semantic AI
Delivered value assessments
These are just a sample of publicly available metrics and case studies demonstrating the value of CCMS, structured content, and DITA:
- Over 80% of SDL customers reported an ROI on SDL Tridion Docs in 18-24 months or less
- RWS Tridion Docs case study for Nielsen Holdings Inc. showed:
- RWS Tridion Docs helped Nielsen increase project throughput by 750% and 98% of projects ahead of schedule
- Time and cost savings of 40-100%
- Estimated 2 million USD in savings over 5 years
- 20-80% content reuse
- 1500% increase in translation productivity
- Measurable improvements in content quality and consistency
- In this Adobe AEM with XML Documentation video case study with Palo Alto Networks, Inc., the customer describes a reduction in time to market of up to 75%, improved efficiency in publishing, ability to reuse content, and ability to drastically scale up content for a larger, more engaged user base.
- A case study for Sanofi S.A. from this DITA Exchange white paper indicates:
- A time savings of 70% to 80%
- Significant cost savings of $275,000 and $2 million
- Faster time-to-market
- In one of our very own case studies for RWS Tridion Docs, we measured the following value for a major restaurant chain, in which we helped implement an internal employee portal solution:
- Reduction of 25% in support ticket creation due to DITA-powered troubleshooting content suggestions
- Millions of monthly page views over thousands of locations of structured content delivered dynamically to various web channels in multiple languages
- In this Contentful case study for Telus Communications Inc., their customer support portal was able to achieve an increase of traffic by 10%, a decrease in support requests by 9.2%, and an overall reduction of support costs by 9%.
- Other case studies have shown metrics on staff reduction due to improved content creation processes, reuse, and streamlined approval workflows.
There have been some persuasive arguments against DITA. For instance, this article from Kontent. The article compares DITA against modern headless solutions, which on the surface does appear to be comparing apples and oranges. However, many of the arguments made in this article have been refuted with equal vigor – see Twitter thread here, as well as more in-depth community discussions.
Still, there are several other disadvantages to consider:
- Learning curve
- Implementation overhead
- Lack of ability to publish JSON
- Often slower publishing times due to compilation steps (e.g. DITA-OT build process)
- Some structured content solutions allow for granular publishing at the topic level, while others do not
While many consider DITA to be outdated, it is still widely adopted and growing within the adoption rate. The latest DITA standard, DITA 1.3, was released in 2015.
Remember, it’s important to consider all these factors and more when choosing your solution. You can learn more about customized solutions by reaching out or taking our Content Management Suitability Assessment.
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