Part 2: The Cost of Customizing PTC Arbortext
In my last post, ‘The Benefits of Customization,’ I told you I would review the cost of customization in my next post. If you missed it, you can find it here:
Of course, the benefits of customization don’t come without some associated costs. Some examples of the costs involved in customization include:
The most obvious cost is the cost of initially developing and testing the customization code. This will vary based on how extensive the customizations are. Also, don’t forget to keep maintenance costs in mind. Bug fixing, adding new features, and adapting customizations to changing requirements all require additional investment.
When you develop customizations, you generally work with a specific version of Arbortext. Depending on how extensive the customizations are, there is a chance that some part of the customization will break when you upgrade your Arbortext software to a new release version. In that case, you have two choices: either spend the resources to update the customization for the new Arbortext version, or commit to remaining with an out-of-date version of Arbortext to keep your customizations running.
Proprietary User Skills
With customization, you will need to take user training into account. For new features that don’t come out-of-the-box, you will have to develop your own training and support materials, and make sure your end users are up to speed on how to use the new features. In addition to the direct costs, this can also make recruiting new staff more challenging. There is a lot of DITA expertise in the marketplace, which you can leverage if you are using standard DITA. But if you are using a custom doctype and customized Arbortext Editor interface, you may not be able to get the same advantage from potential employees’ previous experience with XML editing or with Arbortext.
Technical Support Complications
PTC’s tech support staff know the base products quite well, and can help troubleshoot problems with out-of-the-box installations pretty quickly. However, with a heavily customized environment, troubleshooting can be more challenging, for PTC tech support as well as for yourself. In some cases, it may take extra time to determine whether a problem is due to a bug in the base Arbortext software, or something wrong with your customization code, or some kind of interaction between the two. In some cases, PTC’s advice for resolving the problem may boil down to “remove the customization.”
EAC has created a tool to help eliminate some of these costs allowing you to publish faster, cheaper, and better. QuickPubs is an EAC product for PTC Arbortext that removes the cost of development and provides a user-friendly interface.
While Arbortext comes with some publishing capabilities right out of the box, most users will acknowledge that they often need to customize the document stylesheets to meet their publishing standards. Customizing the stylesheets isn’t difficult, but it often requires prior training or hiring someone with the appropriate skilled and experience, both of which have an impact to turnaround time and cost. EAC has packaged attractive stylesheets for Operator Guides, Service Manuals, and Part Catalogs into QuickPubs so you can publish manuals that look as good as your products from day one. Should you need to modify the document stylesheet, QuickPubs also offers an easy interface to customize the style layout and formatting with a few clicks.
Stay tuned for the next post where I will discuss things to consider when deciding to customize or not.
If you would like to learn more about EAC QuickPubs and how you can publish faster, cheaper, and better, download the brochure here!