Moving to structured documentation: migration stakes

Sara Chaoui, Margaux Chatelain, Julie Dezalay and Justine Gaillard

July 2013

Abstract

Technical documentation can be written and delivered in two ways: it can be  structured and will follow an XML information model; or it can be unstructured and cannot be validated against a model. Nowadays, companies tend to migrate their documentation from unstructured to structured content.
This article focuses on the stakes of moving from unstructured to structured content and explains the key aspects of this process. First, we will identify the reasons of the migration by studying different approaches in several companies. Secondly, the results and/or expected benefits of the migration will be discussed. Interviews of technical writers, documentation managers, and information architects will help us define what the advantages of structured documentation are. We will focus on the added value for the technical writer and for the documentation reader. Moreover, we will try to understand what the company gains from the migration. To conclude, we will draw five guidelines for a successful migration. Moving from unstructured to structured content is a challenging process and the best based on experience and know-how.

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