Ultimate Software Group

Mekon’s work with the Ultimate Software Group to develop a conversion tool to migrate from AuthorIT to Astoria.


7,850 DITA topics with complex reuse and translations migrated on budget and on time.

The Ultimate Software Group (USG) supply sophisticated software to deliver HR, payroll and people management solutions to global organizations.

In 2016 USG decided to replace their AuthorIT system with a DITA XML-based component content management system (CCMS) supplied by Astoria. USG estimated they needed to convert and migrate 790 publications from AuthorIT.

In planning the content migration, Mekon identified that the structure of AuthorIT did not lend itself easily to a simple DITA conversion process. Mekon recommended a detailed analysis of the USG content, to allow the conversion methodology to be carefully planned. Following this, two phases were defined for the conversion work itself.

Phase One involved Mekon specialists building an Information Architecture with the USG team. This defined clear target structure mappings between the
AuthorIT content and the equivalent Astoria DITA structures. Using the Information Model, it was possible to use representative sample content to develop a set of test content. A markedup content model was developed and a specification defined for mapping between AuthorIT and Astoria. The key
outputs from this phase were:

  • A specification for mapping source AuthorIT structures to target DITA structures to intelligently maintain reuse patterns and create DITA content with  appropriate metadata.
  • A comprehensive set of test content, including mapped structures was developed to usefor testing the conversion tool in Phase Two.

Phase Two of the conversion project involved using the mappings and Information Model developed in Phase One, with the sample test content to
write a specialized XSLT conversion utility to automate the conversion process. This provided the following benefits:

  • No variable costs.
  • The conversion utility could be customized to handle USG translation and reuse requirements.
  • Once delivered to USG, the conversion utility was theirs to further develop in the future as required.
  • A custom XSLT-based conversion utility delivers better quality DITA content than standard conversion tools.

Approach taken

Mekon performed an initial analysis to identify:

  • Details of the quantity of content to be converted, and the various AuthorIT structures to be used.
  • What the mappings from the exported AuthorIT XML format to DITA XML would be.
  • An approach for migrating content from different product areas, and a transformation approach that kept track of reuse relationships.
  • An approach for preserving relationships between different language versions of content upon import to Astoria. Translated documents were held in English and imported directly to the Astoria CCMS, where language conversion was carried out.
  • A mechanism to optionally convert DITA metadata into native Astoria metadata.

Defining the target structure mappings and AuthorIT preparation guidelines

Work was carried out to catalog and clarify the various elements of the project:
1. Analyze samples of the various source documents, and catalog them by:
a. Original content type
b. Region
c. Market
d. Any other useful descriptors
2. Clarify the migration timing and sequence. USG identified documents for one product segment, which became the pilot conversion. Once this was  completed successfully, all remaining content was converted.
3. Refine the definition of target DITA structures and metadata values, considering:
a. The information model, topic types and element/attribute definitions already developed.
b. The intended user experience in the Dynamic Publishing platform, including the granularity of the content that users would see, and the facets by which the content would be organized and filtered.
4. Complete mapping the AuthorIT source content structures to their DITA equivalents.
5. Produce guidelines for polishing or restructuring content in AuthorIT to ensure an excellent quality conversion of the content was achieved.

Analyse further test content and develop a definitive test set

While the mapping work was being carried out, further test content supplied by USG was examined, to clarify the approach to handling the conversion of embedded images in different AuthorIT books. Mekon performed a “sweep” across a representative set of source documents to identify any unidentified styles, so they could be handled by the conversion utility.

Develop mocked-up target content & specification for mapping

Mekon marked up a sample set of DITA content that illustrated the expected result of converting from AuthorIT. This sample set, was used as a control to test the automated conversion utility. Mekon developed a written specification of the agreed mappings, a vital input to the development of the conversion utility.

Developing the conversion tool and the conversion process

Mekon followed an iterative process of development, testing, and refining with the USG team, to arrive at a high-quality and reliable automated conversion process, tailored to USG’s specific requirements.

Initial testing highlighted several content types that had not been identified for conversion. The approach taken allowed for these to be assimilated into the conversion process and handled by the utility in the same manner as other content types.

A pilot batch of test content was identified with the USG team, and analyzed by Mekon and USG. The pilot conversion was completed successfully and handed over to the USG team.

By the end of the conversion process, the USG team had migrated 7,850 DITA topics into the Astoria system. The project was completed successfully to budget and time within a 3-month period.

Working with Mekon was wonderful.  The team was always on task, suggesting improvements we might consider along the way and adjusting quickly to changes we needed to make to the conversion script. We found the entire project team to be smart, friendly, on-task people and it was a pleasure to do this project with them“, Julie Newcombe – Content Strategist, Ultimate Software Group