The Importance of Software in the Process of Writing S1000D-Compliant Technical Documents
How should S1000D-compliant technical documentation software be?
The Importance of Software in the Process of Writing S1000D-Compliant Technical Documents How should S1000D-compliant technical documentation software be? S1000D is currently the most widely used technical publication standard in the military and aerospace industries.
How should S1000D-compliant technical documentation software be?
S1000D is currently the most widely used technical publication standard in the military and aerospace industries. The involvement of many stakeholders in the public and private sectors in the development of the S1000D contributes significantly to the development and maturation of the specification. However, the biggest reason for the S1000D’s being so widely adopted is that it provides an automatic and uninterrupted exchange of technical data between stakeholders across the industry using XML schemas. In this way, S1000D users have more than just a standard technical document.
S1000D users can;
- Automatically transfer product technical data to their ERP systems,
- Ensure that the operator and maintenance personnel act within the boundaries of the technical document,
- Ensure adequate supply and stock of correct spare parts and equipment,
- Update technical document from a single point and make sure that the update reaches the relevant personnel,
- Have an interactive electronic technical document (IETP) version as well as a printed technical document.
S1000D in Turkey
Along with the development of the aerospace and defence industry, the S1000D has started to be used in Turkey as well. Under the leadership of the Defence Industry Agency, Life Cycle Management studies initiated in 2018. This has led to a widespread adoption of the S1000D specification in local and international defence industry projects. Turkish companies that prepared S1000D-compliant technical documentation took two different paths: purchasing technical document writing service or preparing the publications in-house by acquiring a S1000D-compliant software. However, many of the companies preparing S1000D-compliant technical documents prefer the first way. Yet, the ability to publish S1000D-compliant technical documentation is essential for organizations in terms of information security and confidentiality.
Despite the confidentiality and information security risks, the companies do not prepare the technical documents within their own structure; mainly because of having a misassumption that they cannot use S1000D compatible software. Because many of the current S1000D compatible software have complex interfaces that require XML knowledge. In fact, even firms that have finished the S1000D compliance procedure have problems sustaining this process.
So, how can companies make the right software choice?
What Is Being S1000D-Compliant?
Before we get into the software, let's clarify what it means to be S1000D-compliant. S1000D collects compliance under two key categories: 'Core Criteria' and 'Aspect Options Criteria'
• Core Criteria requires the production of information (content) within the framework of the structure and rules presented in S1000D. For example, violating the schema structures specified in the S1000D would result in the loss of S1000D compliance. Similarly, preparing documents that comply with S1000D business rules is among the main criteria.
• Aspect Options Criteria consist of issues that have been decided in general, but the specifics have been left up to the specific business processes of the stakeholders. For instance, the content of data packages used for data exchange amongst stakeholders does not have to comply with the methods or formats presented in S1000D.
In short, compliance with the S1000D data model is mandatory in content production. However, publication and data exchange method are left to the user's preference.
The software use is inevitable, as it is practically impossible to carry out the entire S1000D compliance process manually. However, deciding which software to use might be tricky. Because these softwares were built for various user requirements at different times, so they have distinct functional features. In this case, which software should be preferred is a big question mark for users.
What Should Be Considered When Choosing S1000D Compliant Software?
By answering the following questions, you can find out important factors to take into account while selecting S1000D-compliant software:
Is the software’s XML editor user-friendly?
Many of the XML editors in today's S1000D softwares have quite complex user interfaces. These editors force technical writers to produce content between XML data elements in S1000D schemas. In this case, technical writers have to learn the XML structure. The authors' XML proficiency, however, does not improve the technical document's quality. Therefore, it is necessary to prefer software with user-friendly interfaces that do not force technical writer to learn XML structure.
Does the software support all S1000D schemas?
Preferably, the software should support all S1000D schemas. Yet, certain schemas (such as service bulletin, SCORM) are not supported by widely used softwares on the market. Although this situation may not seem to have an immediate impact on technical document writing, additional schema needs might arise in the future in line with different systems and customer requirements.
Does the software provide guidance and automatic validation in accordance with the Business Rules and BREX?
The software's ability to guide technical authors as per the business rules defined in the S1000D is a crucial feature, especially for those new to the S1000D. With the automatic verification feature, both experienced and inexperienced technical writers are prevented from human-induced mistakes.
Does the software support CSDB and CIR structure?
One of the important advantages of the S1000D is that it makes easier technical document writing by enabling the use of Common Source Database (CSDB) and Common Information Directory (CIR). With CSDB and CIR, technical writers can reuse data modules they create once. As a result, the time required to prepare technical documentation is significantly reduced.
Does technical support come with the software as well?
Software should not be the only factor when choosing S1000D compliant software. It is necessary to think about how and under what conditions the technical problems you're having will be fixed. Many existing software provide technical support under certain conditions and often with remote access.
Since this circumstance is against the defense industry's principle of confidentiality, it' best to use software that offers on-site technical support.
Does the software have integration and customization support?
While the S1000D-compliant technical document is being prepared, the integration of the software with the internal systems of the user companies both accelerates the writing process and enriches the corporate data source. For instance, the use of material information in the company's ERP system in technical document writing not only ensures that the correct information is used, but also transmits the information on which product and how much the material is used to the stock management modules.
Another requirement when writing technical documents with the S1000D is to publish in accordance with the format used by institutions. The software should have the customizations that will support the printing formats specific to the institutions. If not, you might be required to use specific formats provided in the S1000D when producing technical documentation, although this is not required.
Does the software provide local language support?
Most of the software used in the market only supports English Latin Alphabet. In this case, it is not possible to use some letters in Turkish (such as ç, ğ, ı, ö, ş, ü). If Turkish characters are used, erroneous results might occur during the printing phase.
Do I need to use other software along with the S1000D compliant software?
Being able to complete the technical document preparation process with a single software provides a great advantage to the users. Many of the widely used softwares, however, usually require purchasing an extra license or using different software for each step of the process. This situation causes direct costs while also making the technical publication process inefficient by prolonging it. For instance, you do not need to buy an extra license or use different software to convert the data modules you create to pdf format or to view them in IETP format.
As a result, choosing the S1000D-compliant software to be used in technical documents is one of the most important decision points. Starting off with the right software will ensure that the technical document writing process is efficient and uninterrupted, as well as having the additional benefits provided by the S1000D.
If you are planning to prepare S1000D-compliant technical documents or if you want to make your writing process more efficient, I recommend you to check the FORSDOC software designed in line with the requirements mentioned above.