I recently sat down with a colleague who had moved to a company that manufactures complex electronic components. One of the questions being asked of the project team was whether they should be looking at an industry specification such as S1000D for delivery of their operator, maintenance and training information.
The program had not been contracted to prepare and deliver content in S1000D at this point, however it was something some of the team members felt was worth looking at. One member of the team mentioned the following five reasons on why S1000D should not be considered:
- Only Defense projects use S1000D – Although the US DoD was a big driver of moving to this one specification, due to having to work with many different specifications across the four services over the years; many industries are now involved as detailed further in item 2.
- It’s only worth the effort for a Defense Aerospace Project – S1000D was written specifically with the view to target air, land and sea systems, and to adapt to support others. This has been proven in the fact that non-military sea (shipdex) and rail (raildex) industry projects now use the S1000D specification.
- It’s only good for writing Technical Maintenance data – Although the S1000D Specification is used to produce “technical publications”, the term “technical publications” covers a broad range of documents beyond “maintenance”. My documentation team currently use the Descriptive Schema to “describe our software applications”, the Crew Schema to write procedures for how to “operate our software”, and the learning schema’s to extend those procedures into the training environment for our customers.
- You can only deliver S1000D content with an expensive IETP Viewer – There are several things wrong with this myth. Some customers only request S1000D compliant data as a delivery because they already have their own IETP Viewer, some require HTML IETP’s (i.e. zero install of software or plugins onto desktops) and the final group will request an IETP Viewer, but based on the customers expectation of what functionality they require in the IETP will decide on the cost of the IETP. Don’t assume you have to pay for great IETP functionality though, there are highly interactive IETP Viewers that are free to distribute.
- You cannot produce print/PDF to our current print style – It is rumoured that S1000D content only outputs to the base S1000D print outline as detailed in the specification. However if you have a robust enough print publishing engine, you can modify stylesheets using industry standards such as XSL-FO that will make your S1000D data look like any traditional publication (See Figure 1 below). If you have chosen well, your S1000D software will even allow you to deliver Change Packages/Pages!
Figure 1 – User Guide Style output from S1000D Crew schema
For my colleague’s project, the team will need to look at broader potential risks and benefits of S1000D to make a final decision on whether it is the right way to go, but certainly the five reasons above are definitely not good reasons to reject S1000D.
The specification is free, and non-proprietary with many benefits that can be obtained from working with S1000D data at both a project and business level.
For more details on the associated benefits, take a look at this blog from February 16th