REVIEWER: John Barrow, technical publications manager, McAfee, Inc.
BACKGROUND: McAfee, Inc. delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that secure systems and networks around the world.
HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Dell 1850 PowerEdge server, with clients running on Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The product runs on SQL Server or JET database; clients use their own Win32 applications from AuthorIT.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Originally I was using FrameMaker and RoboHelp to create our documentation, working with 25 engineers while managing 25 manuals and four help files. When information changed in the product, it was a nightmare to figure out which manual needed rewriting. And when similar publications contained similar information, finding which one had the correct information was time-consuming. AuthorIT allowed me to worry about the content in a single location, despite the number of manuals affected. With AuthorIT, changing the documentation for a feature in one location propagated itself to each manual that contained that feature.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: AuthorIT manages information on a topic level rather than a documentation level, allowing me to track the status of key topics in any paragraph or sentence. I can even determine whether the document is a first draft, whether it's been reviewed or needs changes or if a topic has been sent out for localization (translation). I create my content topic by topic and group the topics into a "book." Then I can publish the book to any output format, whether it is XML, Microsoft Word, HTML or specific help formats such as Microsoft CHM files. Organizing our information by topic lets us share that topic through multiple books and publications. If I need to change anything - even one topic - I can revise it and simply republish the documents affected. I can even review the topic's relationship history to see what is affected by editing it. With AuthorIT, one writer manages documentation containing more than 500,000 words published twice a year. Productivity has increased more than 400 percent, mainly because AuthorIT manages the presentation of the content, and I can just worry about the content.
STRENGTHS: Overall content management ability is AuthorIT's main strength. Specifically, the product's ability to share information in multiple documents is a major plus, as is the ability to send out topics rather than entire documents for localization, which saves 30 to 40 percent in localization costs. The localization team no longer needs to review as many words to find the ones that changed.
WEAKNESSES: Working over long distances using the same database is a problem. AuthorIT provides an offline library, which checks out the topics I'm working on. But it can be frustrating when multiple people work on the same project and someone has a topic locked because it's in his offline library. AuthorIT is very effective over a local area network (LAN), but slows the response time on a wide-area network (WAN). This problem has been solved by the introduction of AuthorIT Live, a Web-based version of the AuthorIT product.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The price was great for a content management system (CMS), and the fact that it was a CMS was the clincher. The opportunity to increase productivity by 400 percent in 30 days was incredible. I told my manager that I would bet my career on the benefits we would see, and I was right.
DELIVERABLES: We currently deliver over 30 different documents, including five HTML-based help files, two CHM-based help files and 30 PDF files. We update them twice a year.
VENDOR SUPPORT: I work largely with online support in Yahoo! user groups. Some of my peers work directly with technical support; they are helpful and quick to respond. The online support groups made up of hundreds of people around the world always seem to know what I need to hear. I start with them, and if there are no answers from the users, I seek help from the technical support team.
DOCUMENTATION: It's frustrating when I can't find answers to my questions in the documentation of a company that professes to be made up of technical authors. Still, because the documentation is online, it is easy to find. AuthorIT has a very good knowledge base of tips and ideas on how to make things work better in AuthorIT. Although the documentation wasn't as easy to use as I wanted, we were still able to run the product right out of the box. After configuring it for a month, I had it completely adjusted to meet my needs and have rarely changed its configuration over the past four years.
AuthorIT 4.5 Content Management System
AuthorIT Software Corporation
5 William Laurie Place
Auckland, New Zealand
64 (9) 915-5070
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