Re: Wanted: examples of cost of failure

Subject: Re: Wanted: examples of cost of failure
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 09:31:08 -0800

iain -dot- wright -at- bt -dot- com wrote:
> I am preparing a presentation that will highlight the need for skilled
> technical communicators. The audience will be businesses and educational
> bodies. If you have any examples of where poor documentation cost a company
> dearly, please let me have them (but not the Florida ballot form - I've seen
> enough of that!).

I know of one company whose code consisted of hundreds of small UNIX
applets that it ran every night for clients. Only two people in the
company knew their way around the code. In emergencies, the company
would call these people when they were home or on vacation.

After several years, one of the experts decided to go on holiday. An
emergency came, and the other expert wasn't available, either. The
client was not pleased to wait several days, and stopped using the
company's services. Shortly after this incident, the company hired a
writer so that it would no longer have to rely on the two experts
being available.

Unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. One of the
company's major investors sold his holdings, and the company laid
off the last ten people hired, including the writer. It immediately
lost the six months it had invested in documentation, since the work
was only half done. Then, a couple of years later, the company's
software required massive rewriting, but both experts were gone. The
partial work the writer had done wasn't enough, and the company
folded, even though it had been run profitably for half a dozen
years, because it couldn't adjust.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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Inigo: Hello. My name is Inigo de Montoya. You killed my father.
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