Case Study Highlight: IBM Microelectronics

Enabling semantic technical collaboration and publishing using familiar tools.

Client: IBM Microelectronics

Situation: Complex specifications for microelectronics design manuals were gated by traditional methods of acquiring, reviewing and publishing technical updates.

Key Challenges: To shorten the path from input to publication, the goal was to enable engineers to contribute directly to the design manuals and provide reviews and sign-offs online.

  • Legacy content was in a format that required expensive licenses that could not be deployed to the large number of both IBM and consortium contributors for the design work.
  • The legacy book model limited the ability to review or print current subsets of content on demand.
  • Contributors (electronic design SMEs) were members of consortia companies; conducting timely reviews across different business process controls and information firewalls was time-consuming and indirect.
  • Engineers typically are not expected to understand and work with the markup languages and content management tools mandated for technical publications.

Actions: To lower the barriers for Subject Matter Experts to contribute more directly to documentation, several key recommendations were made.

  • The system would be designed as a wiki-like enterprise collaboration application.
  • The XML format selected to manage content in smaller units and with improved semantic representation of key data was the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA).
  • A DITA specialization was designed to represent the machine-consumable semantics of Design Rules.
  • A dynamic XML viewing and commenting interface was designed to enable direct interaction with DITA source.
  • A vendor tool (Omsys MIF2GO) was evaluated and selected for writing the conversion scripts to migrate the legacy content into this new DITA specialization.
  • A commercial XML/DITA editor (Quark XML Author) based on Microsoft Word as the platform was selected for authors based on familiarity of the operations and the tool's ability to hide XML markup from engineers who "just wanted to write."
  • An XML/DITA-aware CMS (IBM FileNet) was integrated to manage the new business processes for authentication, review commenting and disposition, and publication.
  • Besides the always-available dynamic preview of the XML content via the wiki-like application, permitted users could request PDF instances of subsections of the content using a remote request to a server running the open source DITA Open Toolkit.

Key Benefits: All of the projected benefits were achieved. In particular, stakeholders cited:

  • Able to accomodate hundreds of authors supporting thousands of consumers in a timely fashion.
  • Allows authors not to have to know anything about XML.
  • Multiple authors can edit content at the same time within a single, easily-learned interface.
  • The time from creation of content to publication was decreased by 40 percent, with further improvements likely.
  • Initial data indicate that the planned return of 5 times the investment is on track to see millions of dollars saved in process and cycle improvement.