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I don't think anybody disagreed in principle with the idea of productivity
metrics, just with the notion that artificially imposed constructs such as
page counts or character counts can fully measure performance or
productivity. And I for one NEVER said quality doesn't matter to other
departments. Quality is difficult to measure in any department.
As to your other points:
1) How many times do companies actually bother to find out the cost of
documentation? Last bid here, they didn't even ask the writers, they just
put in some figures and hoped for the best.
2) Same question applies. Many companies still operate under the
ridiculous assumption that adequate documentation can actually be produced
in the week or two between regression testing and release. Thank the muses
I don't have that battle to face!
3) Duh. Many lone writer shops have writers who manage the effort on their
own, and if it works it happens to be because that writer has the talent
for, or experience in, estimating and managing their own workload.
4) Lots of us without manager in our title have to do the same thing. I
don't make the estimates based on page counts. I make the estimates based
on the complexity of the task being documented, the review cycle, likelihood
of changes to the product I'm documenting, and a whole host of other
factors, while difficult to quantify, are not impossible. I just do it.
Usability measurements are a whole different subject--I agree that usability
should be the foundation of productivity metrics, but reading recent
threads, it's apparent, at least in the software world, that usability is a
difficult goal to get management to buy into.
If someone wants to impose page counts or character counts, they can. It's
just not the whole picture of what constitutes a productive writer. I guess
if there were a way to measure the number of times the light bulb goes off
over the user's head when they read a procedure and actually follow it
through, we'd have something :)
From: Dan Emory [mailto:danemory -at- primenet -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 12:49 PM
Subject: RE: Productivity Metrics
Rebecca is, of course, absolutely right. Consider the following activities:
1. Your company bids competitively for projects, and the cost of
documentation must be included in the bid.
2. Your company is considering development of a new product, and the
decision to go ahead with development will be based in part on the
estimated project cost, including the cost of documentation if a
significant effort in that area is required..
3. When a project manager is budgeting a project, someone must develop a
budget and a schedule for the documentation effort.
4. When a writing manager is required to produce a weekly or monthly status
report, some sort of percentage completion estimate for each project is
If a company can't perform these activities effectively, it won't stay in
business. All of these activities require the use of different kinds of
productivity metrics for estimating purposes. The best productivity metric,
of course, is one derived from time card data, particularly when time cards
are filled out to indicate not only the writing project but also the
specific activity (e.g., research, writing, editing, illustrating, making
engineering changes, reusing existing information). At project completion,
the actual metrics can be calculated using the time card data and the
number of pages produced.
It's interesting to note that, once again, most of the contributors to this
thread find it necessary to differentiate writers from other departments in
the company. For example: "Writing should be measured in terms of quality
not productivity." As if quality doesn't matter in those other departments.
Note also that those who take that view want to replace something
relatively concrete (productivity) with something more ephemeral (quality),
yet few, if any of them, measure quality in terms of the only thing that
In an earlier thread where the issue was whether structure and process
should be imposed on writers, the argument was "On everyone else, yes, but
not writers because we're different."
Then, there are those who say "Productivity shouldn't matter as long as
there are profits." This view conveniently ignores the fact that few, if
any, writing groups within companies are actual profit centers. More
relevantly, should the publisher of the Harry Potter series ignore the cost
per book because, even if it's a bit too high, they'll be rolling in
| Nullius in Verba |
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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