The Elephant in the Next Room

The Elephant in the Next Room


Posted on June 2016


Frank: Hey, Doug.  We've been hanging out for quite a while in the Tech Com room.  It is OK in here, but I'm getting a bit itchy.
Doug: I know, Frank.  In this room most of the people are technical and we have certainly learned a lot.  They speak "Techie" including XML, DITA, and other languages that used to be foreign to us.  We can now understand them, for the most part.
Frank: Remember when we worked for Information Mapping, with a focus on structured writing?
Doug: Yes, I remember.  Almost no one spoke Techie.  Our customers wrote important documents like policies and procedures, white papers, training materials, and user guides.  We taught them structured writing and gave them some limited tools, called macros to help them format their writing.  Our customers were very good at desktop publishing (DTP).  But DTP took too much time and there are new tools that make content authoring, shared storage, and publishing much more efficient. Well, Frank, all these people in the Rest Of The Organization (ROTO) are in a huge room next door.
Frank: Do you know that, like you, I sometimes sneak back into the ROTO Room, where there are a lot more people and where they don't speak Techie?  There are soooo many people in there doing different things and writing stuff with Microsoft Word.  That room is hundreds of times larger than the Tech Com room.
Doug: Yes the ROTO Room is very large and I know that a few of our direct Partners from the Tech Com room go in there and make friends by showing our product Content Mapper. But many go into that room and come running back to the Tech Com room with a look of fright on their faces.  Some come back in tears when they can't speak any language other than Techie.  They try to tell the people in that room about how cool DITA is and how much can be accomplished with a traditional XML editor.  But it is Greek to the people in there.
Frank: People in this Tech Com room are amazed that you can go back and forth, seemingly at will, between the two rooms.  Maybe it is time to tell them what you know about "The Elephant in the Next Room."
Doug:  The Elephant in the next room is named "Organizational Productivity."  He is a big guy who thrives in all sorts of nooks and crannies of the organization.  He knows that most of the people in that room are measured on a host of varied tasks and functions that are not viewed as technically related.  They will use technology if it helps them do their jobs better, but they don't want to understand the bits and bytes, or DITA, or S1000D, or of the latest technology.  So when the Elephant sees someone speaking Techie without taking the time to understand the culture and real needs of the ROTO Room, he roars and sends them back into the Tech Com room.
Frank:  Is there any hope?
Doug:  There is always hope, Frank, and some of the people in the ROTO room also want to use technology, but in a stealth sort of way. They want technology to be simple, easy, and largely invisible. There are people who want reusable content and flexible publishing and even XML and DITA. They know they can't lead with XML, or DITA, or with a traditional XML editor.  They have to meet the rest of the organization (ROTO) where they are at.
Frank: Hey, look Doug, there are a couple of our new friends from the Tech Com room moving cautiously and mixing with the people in here.  I see the guy from Oxygen talking about Web-based authoring and the Stilo guys teaching someone how to use AuthorBridge. Jan from FontoXML is here.  And there's Jason from Quark making some new friends in here.
Doug: Yes Frank.  Some of our friends are listening and helping the millions of non-technical people in this room to better manage the content supply chain. They are doing it without talking Techie.  And they will be welcome in the ROTO room.  Working together we all have something to offer to ROTO.  And it will make XML a behind the scenes standard and the world a much better place for content to be created, managed, and used productively.
Frank: Thanks, Doug.  Some day we are going to tell them about the Marketing room and the Elephant that is in there.
Doug:  That will be a story for another day, Frank, here's a cookie!