Docs for profit? (Being recognized as the experts.)

Subject: Docs for profit? (Being recognized as the experts.)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 11:20:19 -0400

John Lumsden wonders: <<A couple of project managers with large egos are
demanding that I publish a couple of sets of documentation the way THEY want
it rather than the way my staff and I think it should be published. No
amount of
reasoning/logic/argument has changed their minds. Since "He who pays the
piper gets to call the tune", I have little choice but to cave in to their
demands. The results will be documentation that, in certain places, is not
done in accordance with good technical writing practices.>>

Welcome to Dilbertland. The only really effective argument against these
boneheads (assuming of course that they're really wrong and you're really
right) is a usability study that clearly shows you know what you're talking
about and they don't. They can argue with you, but if the customers are
dissatisfied with their way of doing things and spend hours on the phone to
tech. support, that's a much more compelling argument.

<<It occurs to me, that it will continue to be this way as long as
documentation is not a profit center.>>

Nope. It'll occur so long as you report to boneheads who think they know
better than you do and really don't know which end of the keyboard goes up.
If you don't get them to accept that you know better than they do how to
produce effective documentation, it really doesn't matter how much money you
earn for the company. If logic and sweet reason haven't persuaded them,
sometimes you really need to go over their heads and get a more senior
manager to read them the riot act and act as your advocate; that's very
effective indeed, but be aware that doing so is a major political faux pas
that can cause you all sorts of grief down the road. Your call whether the
grief is worth the payback; I think it is, but I'm not the one who'll have
to work with these project managers in future. If you do get a senior
manager to lay down the law, make sure that this manager is the one who
communicates the new policy to _all_ project managers, and get it in writing
so if you get a new manager in the future, you can refer him or her to the
written policy.

<<are there are any documentation departments out there that are operated as
profit centers?>>

I've heard about a few employers that use chargebacks to represent us as
cost centers, but never as profit centers. That's silly, and I've got an
article ("Prove your worth") that will be appearing in STC's _Intercom_
magazine this summer that provides a few suggestions on how you can quantify
your contribution to the bottom line. But none of these address the real
problem in your situation, which is one of teaching managers to concentrate
on management and leave the docs to us. Demonstrating your worth to the
company will certainly gain you some respect, but in the absence of formal
policy about who has responsibility for doc quality, it won't resolve your

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second listening, the
third remembering, the fourth practicing, the fifth -- teaching
others."--Ibn Gabirol, poet and philosopher (c. 1022-1058)


*** Deva(tm) Tools for Dreamweaver and Deva(tm) Search ***
Build Contents, Indexes, and Search for Web Sites and Help Systems
Available now at or info -at- devahelp -dot- com

Sponsored by Information Mapping, Inc., a professional services firm
specializing in Knowledge Management and e-content solutions. See or 800-463-6627 for more about our solutions.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Corporate TWs - are we billable?
Next by Author: RE: Getting Reports On Time
Previous by Thread: RE: Quick! Opinion needed...
Next by Thread: Re: Docs for profit? (Being recognized as the experts.)

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads