Our enterprise would benefit from an automated approach to our products' literatures. Specifically, we can imagine a workflow where the content (text) is created, manipulated, and archived in a database. Afterwards, the compiled content for a product's literature is exported in XML and populates a template.
Go around the pluggins, this where most of the software vendor are offering their turn-key automated publishing solutions and there are quite a few! You will have a better idea of what's available and what can be done.
One way is to use FileMaker Pro as the database. It's common software, there are a lot of people who know it, it's Applescriptable (Mac), handles images well, handles formatted text well, can handle data directly from external odbc/sql sources, does reporting well, is cross-platform, networking and a web interface are built in, scales well in the design space, is very visual, understands xml and many other formats, has many convenient built-in text functions and is conceptually easy. Also, consider using InDesign tags rather than xml for more flexibility and power. Some InDesign plug-ins can enhance InDesign tagging.