CASE STUDY (AUGUST 2001)
NRMA Case Study
Please note that we no longer develop or sell content management solutions. This case study demonstrates the basis for our current content management experience, and we now focus solely on providing vendor-neutral advice regarding CMS selection and implementation.
We have been very pleased to have worked with the NRMA, one of Australia’s fastest growing insurance corporations, in the development of a leading online help publishing system.
This system has allowed the NRMA to produce an online help resource containing more than 8,000 pages of information. They have done so quickly and efficiently, rapidly adjusting to changing requirements and shifts in business focus.
It is safe to say that, without this custom-written solution, a help system of this quality would have been impossible in the available time.
The publishing solution that we designed and developed for the NRMA is built around the principle of "single-sourcing". That is, information is entered only once, then published into a number of different output formats.
To this end, we created a publishing environment that combines the best of database functionality with an integrated editor. This environment is used every day by a team of up to eight authors.
This information is then published into SGML/XML. This gives us the ability to perform complex and powerful transformations on the data, all designed to reduce the authors’ workloads. It also ensures a consistent presentation across the entire help system.
It is then published into the following formats:
- Windows Help 4 (for Windows 95/NT)
- Microsoft Word (via RTF files)
- HTML (designed to be used on an internet or intranet site)
The NRMA help publishing system has evolved over a period of two years.
Initially, we were asked to develop a prototype system that implemented the core principles of the solution. In three months we had delivered a fully-functional system, which promptly went into production. This system was vital in the publishing department’s efforts to create a Help file in time for a key software release.
Once this deadline had passed, and the value of the system had been proved, we were asked to continue improving the product. This was the start of an almost continual process of enhancement, with every change occurring as a direct result of user needs or requests.
This responsiveness, tempered with a solid structural design, has lead to the creation of an extensive solution covering almost all aspects of publishing. We are proud to say that we can find no off-the-shelf solution that comes near to matching the NRMA’s system.
Into the future
The publishing system we designed has now become an integral part of the department’s everyday activities. We have therefore moved to a maintenance mode, ensuring that the NRMA has the support it requires throughout the coming years of operation.
We are now looking again for the next challenge, another environment in which we can build a solution that is perfectly tailored for the needs at hand.
Meanwhile, we are also assisting the NRMA in the design and development of a corporate intranet. Via our involvement in the strategic planning aspects of this project, we are helping to ensure that the right technologies are put in place to support the business, both now and into the future.
These were the tools used in this solution:
- Windows NT 4 (client platform)
- Borland Delphi (for developing the front-end)
- Microsoft Access (for storing the authored content)
- SGML/XML (as an intermediate publishing format)
- Omnimark (for publishing the SGML into WinHelp, RTF and HTML)
- Microsoft Windows Help compiler (for generating the Help file)
- MKS Source Integrity (tracking version changes)