As a smart information service provider, we naturally write day-after-day in our customers' systems – or in Word, sometimes also in InDesign, FrameMaker, or other tools that the younger ones out there among us no longer know. When asked about their choice of programs, the statements of customers are actually quite comparable: "We've been using the XY tool for many years and everyone is familiar with it; it's not really great, but we're doing quite well with it...". So far, so good. Then comes the point where either the Technical Editing department revolts or the management decides that, in the interests of the future viability of the company – (and thus of the documentation), a new, future-proof, easy-to-use system must be rolled-out.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are essentially two scenarios: You begin your own selection process, which then ends in purchase, implementation, and data migration – or you use external help in a few selected steps. This all costs money so it has to be weighed carefully. This speaks for the personal contribution: As soon as there are experienced Technical Editors at the company, who may have even learned these tools during their studies and can therefore contribute their own experience, the selection process can hopefully be shortened. At the same time, you will be able to establish valid criteria for the assessment of various solutions. You must express your hopes and wishes for a system landscape that you don't yet know. Many IT investments have already failed because of this factor. In addition, if you have sufficient project time to not only invite the vendors (which you will accomplish with external help), but to also conduct the evaluation properly, you can probably also manage the process of selecting the appropriate Content management System (CMS) on your own (i.e. internally). In most cases, however, it lacks one or more of the limiting conditions mentioned above. When you consider what (and how many) project costs will be incurred during the course of the purchase, implementation and migration, the advice and support in selecting an appropriate system comprises only a tiny percentage. At the same time, this know-how is the key to a successful project. Questions such as:
- Which criteria with the system, but also with the service provider, are important in the long run (i.e. years after the initial purchase)?
- With what effort must I adapt my existing processes?
- Can my current – and my future – employees use the system easily and intuitively?
- Can the system be flexibly adapted to meet future requirements?
And many more can be clarified in a relatively straightforward, upstream consultative process.
Now, it is additionally important that those stakeholders or companies that guide this process, as well as after the purchase of the appropriate tool, take the necessary steps – not only for the implementation, but also for the "learning to walk" stage, and then remain permanently available as a trusted partner. So not only is the investment hedged, but employees are also sustainably motivated to maximise the benefits of a CMS, and so permanently increasing the efficiency and quality of the technical editing process. Placing this entire process in professional hands – whether it be internal or external – is definitely a good decision.