I get asked all the time “IETM or IETP – what is the difference and which one do I need?” I have seen some very poor definitions!
What is an ITEM and an IETP?
IETM and IETP are acronyms related to technical documentation in engineering and technology. They are common in the world of complex systems like aircraft, machinery, and large equipment.
IETM: Interactive Electronic Technical Manual
IETP: Interactive Electronic Technical Publication
What is the difference?
The terms are closely related, almost interchangeable. In most cases it is more about the environment in which they are used, rather than the strict term. Users from an S1000D background will be most familiar with IETP. Users in the US military will more likely use IETM. This is also true in other parts of the world where S1000D and IETP are fairly new, but IETM is well established.
US Air Force definition
In its S1000D business rules, the US Airforce defines and IETM and IETP. For IETM it states that it “is roughly equivalent to the S1000D term Interactive Electronic Technical Publication (IETP)“. The definition of IETP states “this is roughly equivalent to the more common U.S. term IETM.” And they should know – the term IETM originally came out of work by the CALS group.
If there are any differences in their usage, then they are subtle. ChatGPT suggested this description of the difference:
- An IETM is a digital representation of a technical manual that provides comprehensive information about a particular system, equipment, or product. It’s designed to be interactive and user-friendly, allowing technicians, operators, and maintenance personnel to access the information they need quickly and efficiently. IETMs often include multimedia elements such as images, videos, animations, hyperlinks, and interactive simulations, making it easier to understand complex concepts and perform tasks. IETMs can be installed on various electronic devices like computers, tablets, and even specialized equipment interfaces.
- An IETP is a broader term that encompasses various types of interactive electronic publications used for technical documentation. This includes not only manuals (like in the case of IETMs) but also other types of technical content such as technical bulletins, procedures, guidelines, and training materials. An IETP can include a collection of IETMs, each focusing on different aspects of the equipment or system. IETPs can be delivered in various formats and media, and they are designed to enhance accessibility, user engagement, and overall understanding of the technical information.
In summary, while the terms are related and often used interchangeably, an IETM specifically refers to an interactive electronic version of a technical manual, whereas an IETP refers to a broader concept of interactive electronic technical publications that can include various types of technical content beyond just manuals.
I do tend to agree with the above. If I cite any difference it is minimal. I describe an ITEM as a single manual and an IETP as a set of publications and other supporting electronic deliverables that make up all the documentation for a product. But I don’t really think it matters that much.
So do I use IETM or IETP in practice?
So, what does it mean for us in the technical publications world? Don’t get hung up on the definition! Deliver the functionality your client needs in terms they understand. It shouldn’t matter if you call it an IETM or an IETP. Make sure your client provides a proper requirement of functionality and that your solutions meets or exceeds that. One of our Teams has an interactive, digital delivery platform. Users can choose filters, roles and tasks to find information. There are images, 3D models and for one client a VR – virtual reality – delivery. They call it a ‘document portal’. I’d call it an IETP, as I started out in S1000D. The guys in our Indian office probably call it an IETM. Our customers don’t really care what it’s called, as long as their technicians can rapidly access their content.
Where do I find more help?
Here at Contiem we have experts that have been involved in technical publications and digital publishing for many, many years. In Aerospace and Defence we offer training, consultancy and solutions in S1000D, ATA iSpec 2200. Across Contiem we cover many other aspects of publishing, including DITA and other structured languages.