Re: any cons to single sourcing?

Subject: Re: any cons to single sourcing?
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 11:28:54 -0500

C. Traynor wrote

> Hi folks. I'm in the midst of researching single sourcing for the purpose
> of putting together a business case. I'm well aware of the benefits, but
> how about the other side of the story? Any difficult experiences or failed
> attempts to implement a single sourcing process? What were the obstacles?

Just a few off the top of my head:

1. Lack of a good theoretical basis leads people to expect Cadillac results
from Lada investments.

2. Writers may be unwilling or unable to give up ownership of documents and
work in a shared-resource model.

3. Vendors promise the moon, but most available tools offer only a moderate
level of assistance.

4. People adopt single sourcing based on success stories from other
organizations with completely different business models and business

5. People implement single sourcing systems that solve the exact problem
they have today. By the time the system is installed, they have a different
set of problems. When I was at Really Big Company, we did not even finish
our first round of experiments in CD-ROM design and delivery before the Web
made them virtually obsolete and presented us with an entirely new problem.

6. There is no well documented technique for determining what kinds of
content is amenable to single sourcing. Even if there were, most people are
unwilling or unable to do a thorough analysis.

7. Single sourcing has high up-front costs, with a payoff down the road that
is often hard to justify to management, and is often not realized due either
to insufficient commitment to changing business processes or insufficient
analysis of business needs and the nature of the problem to be solved.

8. Single sourcing forces writers to work without the context of a single
information product output. It is hard to provide a substitute context. It
is hard to get writers to accept the substitute context. Writers will find
ways to cheat in the neutral form to produce the effect they want in one of
the output forms (e. g. marking text as a "caption" in order to get a
paragraph in italics.)

9. This is pioneer territory. The roads ain't paved and the trails ain't
marked. There is quicksand, alligators, and sudden steep drops ending in mud
pits. There is also gold in them thar hills, but only for those who are bold
and ready for adventure.

You can't buy single sourcing, plug it in, and expect it to run. You can buy
some useful tools, and some that are no use at all. You can get some useful
advice, and some that is worse than useless. You have to take all this, and,
with courage and ingenuity, and the willingness to make mistakes and learn
from them (and management's willingness to let you), and build a single
sourcing system yourself.

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