What are common challenges in transitioning to DITA authoring?

Transitioning to DITA authoring, while advantageous in many ways, presents several common challenges that organizations may encounter. Because DITA authoring involves adopting a structured and modular approach to content creation, organizations often face challenges during this transition, including cultural change, training and familiarity, content conversion, template and style guide development, content management systems, change management, and specialization.

Cultural Change

A significant challenge in transitioning to DITA authoring is the cultural shift within an organization. Many traditional documentation practices involve unstructured content creation, free-form writing, and a focus on lengthy documents. DITA, on the other hand, promotes structured, topic-based authoring and the reuse of content components. This shift can be substantial and may require content creators to change their mindset and workflow.

Training and Familiarity

DITA introduces XML-based markup and structured writing practices. Content creators and editors often need training to become proficient with XML tags, DITA concepts, and DITA-authoring tools. This learning curve can initially slow down content production.

Content Conversion

When organizations have existing documentation in unstructured formats, converting this content into DITA can be a complex and resource-intensive process. It involves decisions on how to structure existing content, mapping elements, and maintaining content integrity throughout the conversion process.

Template and Style Guide Development

Developing DITA templates and style guides tailored to the organization’s specific needs requires careful planning and documentation. Ensuring consistency in terminology, formatting, and writing style across DITA content can be an ongoing challenge.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Implementing a CMS that supports DITA can be a daunting task, especially for organizations new to content management systems. This may include selecting the right CMS, configuring it to work seamlessly with DITA, and training teams on its usage.

Change Management

Transitioning to DITA necessitates effective change management strategies. It’s crucial to ensure that all team members understand the reasons for the transition, the benefits it brings, and the new workflows that will be established. Resistance to change can be a significant hurdle in this process.


In certain scenarios, organizations may need to customize or specialize DITA to meet specific content requirements. This often involves a steep learning curve and requires technical expertise.


A pharmaceutical company decides to transition to DITA authoring to streamline its documentation process. The transition presents several challenges: cultural change as technical writers shift from lengthy, unstructured documents to topic-based authoring; extensive training to familiarize writers with DITA and XML markup; the complex process of converting existing documents into DITA; the development of DITA templates and style guides for consistent content creation; the implementation of a DITA-supported CMS; managing resistance to the change from writers accustomed to their existing practices; and potentially customizing DITA to accommodate unique regulatory documentation requirements for drug submissions.