Sorry I have not been updating things here as regularly in the past — I have recently taken on a new role at a new company and I have been crazy busy (and enjoyably so!) of late. I promise that you can look forward to more posts and updates to the other pages on this site in the near future.
More recently I managed to get together with Noz Urbina who has been organizing the Content Agility conference that is happening in Crawley, U.K. June 25-27, 2013 next month and ask him a few questions about the conference and what attendees can expect. (Read to the end for a special offer!)
DITAWriter: Can you explain what “Congility” means?
Noz Urbina: Simply put, “Congility” is the combination of the words “content” and “agility”. Bringing agility to content means making content portable, reusable, manageable and ready for new dynamic needs. After nearly 13 years in structured content, I’m constantly amazed at how the industry is still wrapping its head around how profoundly different our work can be if content is freed from proprietary, unstructured formats. Writers want to collaborate and produce content faster and to more audiences and devices, and the way we structure and store the content itself—at the most basic level—needs to be up to the job. Content with agility is ready for today’s market demands and applications.
Please, however, don’t just take my word for it. Check out the answers the 2011 speakers gave when asked what Content Agility meant to them. Just a note, we’ve called the conference this year “Content Agility” to distinguish it from the background Congility organisation and team, which puts out webinars and other events at other points on the calendar. It’s a subtle change but we think it’s important.
DITAWriter: What is the theme for the presentations this year?
Noz Urbina: This year we’re looking at “The Next 5 Years” and mastering content in a multi-channel, world. The “next 5 years” is not to be confused with “in 5 year’s time”. We’re looking at what organisations have already done, and can be doing during the next 5 years, so that when 5 years goes by, we’re not caught out. Many organisations were caught out by the introduction of the internet, the mobile web, and now we have native apps and all sorts of devices on the horizon. We’re trying to help people start thinking of what this year, next year, and the years in between need to look like, so that in 5 year’s time your organisation is not going to be left behind and scrambling to catch up.
When we say muilti-channel, we could have added, “multi-device”, “multi-format”, “multi-national”, “multi-lingual”, “multi-audience”, and the like, but no matter how we say it, the world we’re living in has multiplied the complexity of content work. We see that content projects—especially revolutionary ones—take years to go from inspiration to production. This means that even those who need to be thinking about reuse across deliverables and devices in 3-5 years time need to be laying the groundwork now; rejigging their mindsets, and networking with those who have the required skills.
Many of us are still wrestling with just reusing content inside one format, or managing two formats for the desktop, but the Content Agility conference and all Congility events are suited to those just learning about the future skills and formats to anticipate for this year and the years to come.
DITAWriter: There are a few conferences every year that tackle DITA. What makes this conference different?
Noz Urbina: Although we’re not specific to DITA, invariably it features highly on our agenda. The Content Wrangler just released a report that 81% of structured projects in techcomm are using DITA. The report also cited that lack of a content strategy was the market’s biggest challenge. Content Agility is unique in the market in that it is a dual-focus event, bringing together Content Strategy and Structured Content (most of which these days is DITA).
We gather the best DITA minds in the industry – people like Tony Self, Eliot Kimber, Charles Cooper – and have household names and multinationals like eBay, Motorola, SAP Business Objects and more presenting their case studies (yes, there’s some smaller companies in there too, but you’d probably not know their names because… well, they’re smaller companies). Then we pair that with content strategy thought leaders who will help those DITA projects work successfully. We bring in names familiar in the DITA community, and others that you may not know. This year I’m particularly excited about Kevin P. Nichols who manages content strategy and an army of content strategists at the biggest web agency in the world and the presentations from people like Ray Gallon, Sharon Burton, Anne Caborn, Lindy Roux who have decades of combined experience in regulated, challenging environments that tie content into business process and organisational goals.
Any decent thought-leader in this space will tell you that the DITA technology, tools, and methodology are things you’ll need to tackle, but also the human, business, process and strategic issues around DITA will kill your project dead if not properly addressed. Doing DITA without a proper content strategy is foolhardy and potentially costly. A failed project can set your DITA initiative back years – it takes ages for managers and users to trust you again! So, at Content Agility we bring you both to make sure you’re DITA capable and skilled up in all the required related areas as well.
DITAWriter: It seems as though DITA and related XML documentation standards are beginning to make an impact in UK companies. Is that what you are finding too?
Noz Urbina: Definitely, Congility is a UK-based organisation backed by Mekon Ltd., which means we’ve been at the centre of DITA in the UK since its inception at X-Pubs back in 2006. Each year we see a larger number of DITA-related case studies being submitted to our conference, and others. There are persistent myths and misconceptions about DITA and its uptake, but there’s a growing fire. The enormous dominance in the U.S. and Canada makes DITA and structured content a sort of eventuality in the UK as partners, competitors and head-offices make the move there’ll be a natural ripple effect as there is so much trade and business between the two.
DITAWriter: What’s the audience you are trying to reach and what do you expect them to learn by attending?
Noz Urbina: We’re looking at content professionals. Note that’s not necessarily technical communicators, but we do have a strong base in the techcomm community and the majority of attendees are definitely still techcomm folk. However, as I said, we’re trying to push people to think content, not be boxed into silos. This means that having a pure techcomm focus would be contrary to the message that techcomm needs to evolve and think outside the box to keep up with the change in market demands.
We want attendees to see that with user demands spiraling ever higher and ever more platforms to support with our products or content (or both), we are in more danger of providing users with a fragmented experience if we don’t start to think strategically. Today we need to at least make a entry-level effort to align with the rest of the organisation – this is what Kanban, Agile, LEAN and so forth all recommend too. Without better cross-silo collaboration, productivity and quality suffer across the organisation. Once they’ve seen the issues, we hope to teach attendees how they can tackle them in their own careers.
DITAWriter: I was genuinely impressed by the quality of the speakers who were at the last Congility conference I attended. Where do you find these people?
Congility interviews and hand-picks every speaker, and again, because we have one foot in the content strategy community, we have a wider pool of expertise than most techcomm or DITA-focused events. I try to make sure I get some phone time with speakers to go over the vision for each year’s conference, and get them fired up and focussed on what people have been saying they want to hear.
Noz Urbina: I understand this year’s conference will have a number of workshops scheduled. What do you have planned?
The workshops this year alone are worth more than the price of the conference. The fact that you can get a chance (if you act fast!) to get in to not one but two of them is really a great thing to be able to offer. We’ve never been able to offer this kind of value before.
We are proud to have Tony Self – author of the DITA Style Guide and the world’s only PhD in DITA – delivering one of his famous workshops. I’m also delivering one on the ever-challenging subject of topic-based information development. I’ve found across many projects that topic-orientation is one of the biggest challenges to DITA, so it’s great to have someone of Tony’s pedigree addressing it.
I’ll also be delivering one with my colleague Mark Poston on Dynamic Delivery, as this is a much-talked about but much misunderstood area. We’ll be defining and exploring it and looking at how any why organisations are moving to this type of delivery around the world right now.
Our Platinum Sponsors Schema and Adobe will be contributing a workshop each. Schema will be bringing their years of component CMS experience to the table to look at how today’s complex documents can be effectively and efficiently managed. They’re reference experience includes laundry-list of fortune 500 companies including Siemens, Bosch, Philips, GE, Toyota and more.
Adobe – working with Jang Graat, a well respected name in Europe’s DITA community and frequent conference speaker – to deliver a session how you can move to structure in an organisation that has to keep delivering against their usual schedules and doesn’t have resource to throw a dedicated team at the problem (i.e., just about all of them!).
We’re offering this level of value on the workshops to encourage early booking. European conference goers like to leave booking to the last minute, so to make sure people get a move on, we’ve offered them on a first-come, first-serve basis. So if people want to get a spot, they need to register early.
To get people going, I’m pleased to announce the I can offer DITAwriter.com readers a chance to win two free tickets to the conference if they’re the first to register on this special ditawriter.com registration form: bit.ly/ca13FREEdw
The first two registrants only get full access to all three tracks for both days, they just have to cover their own travel and accommodation. Workshops are not included (we’re not crazy!) but they can get them at a discounted Workshops-only price.