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Recently I was preparing my talk for the Gilbane Boston conference coming up in December. I'm presenting along-side two people I respect a lot: Barry Schaeffer and Doug Gorman.

I've known Barry for years and years. He's the former President of X-Systems, a company that was an Arbortext partner from before they were PTC. He's an FA&D insider who knows this industry from one end to the other, up and down. Doug, is the President of SimplyXML. I've only gotten to know personally recently, but I've felt his presence over the years. He was CEO of Information Mapping, a company with a long history inside the industry that everyone knew. Both of them have been helping companies take a transformative adoption to their content strategy for as long as I can remember.

Our joint presentations are centered on the topic of Content Management Solutions. So while I was doing my research for my presentation, I was reading through some of the things I've retained in my archives for one reason or another. I was reading an AIIM ebook about SharePoint, when something they proudly proclaimed struck me.

"There's nothing SharePoint can't do that time and resources can't make happen"

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I mean really! There it was in plain black and white, the naked truth that if you throw enough money and person power into developing customized code you can get the tool to do what you need. WOW!

Now is it just me, or do you all see the same flaws I see? If I am going to invest in a tool to solve a business need, why would I want to spend countless amounts of money and resources on getting it to do what I need. I mean shouldn’t there be a solution to my needs that comes out of the box and solves the majority of my needs? Is that too much to ask for? I don’t think so. In fact there are companies that spend money and resources in developing just the tools I need. Once I have my business needs fully defined, all I need to do is analyze the tools and select the right one for me.

And yet, over and over again, I hear this refrain. "I could do it for zero cost if I use open tools." So I’m wondering where the heck are they getting that information from? Then, a week or so ago, there was a tweet that caught my eye:

@xmluser #xml10 Don Day running through scenario for a zero cost DITA implementation (except for time & effort)

How does anyone figure that time + effort = zero cost?

Where are they finding free labor?

Do they have an inside track on a team of coding elves that are will to work for nothing?

I mean honestly, who are they kidding? There is no such thing as free. It just doesn’t happen. Everything has a cost so buyer beware, you get what you pay for. You may find a tool that is open, but don’t be misled thinking that it’s free or zero cost. In fact, you may end up spending tens of thousands in labor and time to get that “free“ software to do what you need it to do. And don’t forget that once you get the tools working you will need to maintain them forever. Yes, that will cost you.

Key Concepts:

best practices, case study, content management, dita ot, single-sourcing

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Blog, Liz Asks