DITA in the World Interview Series: DITA in India

Last time, we talked about the state of DITA in China. Today, together with Amit Siddhartha of Metapercept Information Solutions & Consulting, we are taking you to another country whose IT market is rapidly growing. Welcome to India!

Amit is the CEO and founder of Metapercept Information Solutions & Consulting (http://metapercept.com/). His company provides complete technical documentation solutions and consulting services in content management, single sourcing, information design, and technical writing.

Metapercept is a DITAToo implementation partner in India.

Alex Masycheff: How would you estimate the level of awareness of DITA in India?

Amit Siddhartha: I would say that around 75% of Indian technical writers working in the IT sector are aware of DITA. In general, technical writers in India tend to think of DITA as a solution just for authoring. Only a very few technical writers and information developers understand the entire DITA authoring and publishing process and realize how DITA can help in managing content in a controlled environment.


Alex Masycheff: Can you roughly estimate the level of DITA adoption in India?

Amit Siddhartha: In the IT sector, the DITA adoption rate is high. I would say that up to 40%-50% of companies are already using DITA or at least, moving to DITA. The percentage of DITA implementations in other industries is negligible.


Alex Masycheff: 40-50% seems to be a high adoption rate. Basically, it means that every second IT company in India is already using DITA or moving to DITA. So how can it be that many technical writers tend to think of DITA as a solution just for authoring and don’t clearly understand what it is?

Amit Siddhartha: It’s because all technical writers are working in DITA projects started in a parent company somewhere in Europe or US and moved to the company’s office in India. So, no writer creates a project from scratch. Indian technical writers are mainly responsible for a very small piece of the content life cycle. They just update DITA files, check-in them into the CMS, and that’s it. They are not involved in other stages of the documentation process and they don’t participate in the information design. Also, they are not aware of how content is managed, or how publishing works in DITA.

Only a very few companies have implemented DITA from the beginning to the end for 1-2 projects.


Alex Masycheff: What industries mostly adopt DITA in India?

Amit Siddhartha: DITA is mainly adopted by companies in the IT sector. It’s software, hardware, telecommunication, and service (for example, support, maintenance, and knowledge development and management) companies. It’s because they have to use cost-effective authoring and publishing solutions recommended by their clients. Another industry where DITA is implemented to a reasonable level is the automotive industry.


Alex Masycheff: What is the average size of a team that adopts DITA? I intentionally ask about the size of the team rather than the size of an entire company because from our experience I can say that there is no a clear and direct correlation between the size of a company and DITA adoption. Even in big companies where there are several documentation teams, often isolated from each other, DITA can be adopted by a certain team, while another documentation team keeps working in an unstructured way or uses a proprietary structured format. So what is the situation in India?

Amit Siddhartha: The average size of a team that adopts DITA is approximately 15-20 technical writers. There are a few projects when a technical writer has to work as an individual contributor. However, in such projects technical writers end up working using an unstructured documentation methodology or use a proprietary format.


Alex Masycheff: What is a typical profile of your customer that decides to move to DITA?

Amit Siddhartha: Our typical customers are those companies that consider their documentation very important. They want to get rid of legacy that causes huge investments in handling support and maintenance. Such customers face troubles in managing and reusing the content.

They decide to move to DITA due to recurring costs they have to spend on maintaining and updating the legacy documentation and producing various output formats.


Alex Masycheff: If the move to DITA is initiated by the parent company, who usually initiates moving to DITA there? Does it look more like a bottom-up strategy when content authors succeed to convince their management to adopt DITA or is it a decision initiated and made by the management?

Amit Siddhartha: Usually, a person at the executive level, such as CTO, Director Corporate Communication, or Director Technical Publication makes a decision about migrating to an advanced, cost-effective authoring solution based on DITA.

I know just a few cases when the initiative to implement DITA came from technical writers.


Alex Masycheff: What is different about DITA adoption or perception in India?

Amit Siddhartha: Because Indian documentation teams are mainly responsible for just updating the content or maintaining the project created in the company’s offices in Europe or US, writers have a very limited vision of what DITA is and how they could benefit. They usually know how to do very specific things in DITA. As a result, technical writers know basic DITA elements, but don’t necessarily see a big picture. You can hardly find a manager who would think of DITA as a solution for complete content authoring, publishing, and management solution for a project or an entire business unit.

I can see it from the requests that we, at Metapercept, receive from the attendees of our DITA training courses. People want us to cover the basics which would allow them to accomplish their work, but most of them are not very interested in learning advanced DITA techniques and tools.


Alex Masycheff: How do you see the future of DITA in India?

Amit Siddhartha: DITA started to get traction in industries other than IT, but there is still a very long way to go. The problem that I see for DITA in India is that DITA is not perceived as a complete authoring and content management solution. Due to this reason, DITA is limited within the scope of discussion for documentation managers or groups of technical writers. Another aspect of the slow growth of DITA is that technical writers consider DITA as a very technical authoring system that requires XML knowledge.

The DITA community is growing rapidly. Community members are trying to do their best to advocate DITA and encourage small and medium businesses to adopt DITA.


Alex Masycheff: What are the main factors that still prevent companies from using DITA in India? What could be done vendors, consultants, OASIS, and the DITA community in general, to eliminate or minimize these obstacles?

Amit Siddhartha: The main factor that prevents companies from using DITA is a lack of awareness about it. I noticed that most authoring software companies are promoting DITA, but it’s not enough. Authoring tools is just one piece of the puzzle. Educating technical writers in India just on authoring tools does not help in planning and choosing appropriate software required for DITA. There are numerous things beyond authoring. DITA’s core is single-sourcing, availability of the content for reuse, and an ability to create a wide variety of output formats.

People know some big well-known brands that develop DITA software. In very rare cases, a documentation team has an expert who knows how to evaluate and choose DITA tools. So they just purchase a software product from a well-known vendor not necessarily because it fits their needs, but because they know the brand name. As a result, many cost-effective authoring or CMS solutions are often ignored and thus results in stating DITA as a costly documentation solution.

This is where I think a thorough education on DITA should be conveyed by organizations like OASIS.

All these things can be achieved only if there is more information on importance of DITA. Vendors, consultants, OASIS, and DITA international community can help in increasing the awareness within technical writing and non-technical writing communities on various business, operational, and management benefits of DITA.

As a DITA consultancy and implementation company, Metapercept will be always happy to participate or help in conducting DITA-related events for the Indian technical publishing community.

Alex Masycheff: Thank you very much,  Amit!

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