Reusing content from oddball sources


“Aggressive Gosling” produces a variety of highly technical documents. One document is derived from information in a product development database. The technical publication group at Aggressive Gosling periodically generates a report from the database, and updates the document based on any changes.

The problem

Generating the report is easy, but reviewing it for changes is dreadful and extremely time-consuming. Aggressive Gosling needs an automated way to get the information from the database into the related document. But the database is a homegrown project, and the output is custom markup that is unique to Aggressive Gosling. Aggressive Gosling needs a way to extract information from the database and publish it into a variety of formats using the established publishing workflows.


The solution

Before the rise of XML, the answer would have been to write a custom database-to-publishing tool connector. This answer is still viable, but it is usually more expensive than the XML-based alternative. So, the solution becomes to:

  • Extract information from the database in whatever format is easiest
  • Convert the extracted information into XML
  • Integrate the XML into the existing workflow and use the established publishing tools

Using XML as middleware

The business case

This is a straightforward case of eliminating tedious manual work with an automated, repeatable process.

Table 1. Estimated costs
Item Implementation cost (one-time)
Write database extractor $5,000
Convert database extract into XML $10,000
Build automated import from XML into current authoring tool $10,000
TOTAL $25,000
Table 2. Cost savings and revenue generated
Item Cost savings and revenue generated (per year)
Quarterly review of database extract to identify updates (10 hours @ $50/hour, 4 times per year) $2,000
Manual insertion of updates into authoring tool (60 hours @$50/hour, 4 times per year) $12,000
TOTAL $14,000

The payback period here is just under two years, but it is also worth noting that a process that takes nearly two weeks (70 hours) per quarter is now done in minutes. The value of that increase in velocity is not quantified here.


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