RE: Docs for profit

Subject: RE: Docs for profit
From: "walden miller" <wmiller -at- vidiom -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 14:26:26 -0600

John writes:

This is a situation that many of us seem to encounter. It occurs to me, that
it will continue to be this way as long as documentation is not a profit
center. The archives contain some posts about calculating the cost or value
of documentation, but I didn't see anything about documentation departments
making money for the company. So I'd like to know, are there are any
documentation departments out there that are operated as profit centers? If
so, what is the business model used? Does it result in less interference
from those who would tell you how to do your job?

Well, I am in a situation like Andrew's; the largest percentage of profit is
from documentation contracts. However, I have worked in places where
documentation is considered a profit center. But it is not an easy place to
be in. Once you become a profit center, you start playing the funny money
game. For example, if your documentation goes in a software package, and
docs are a profit center, then you must charge the product department for
some amount. You also need to worry about printing budgets, etc. AND how
these budgets are figured in profit/loss equations. For example, you may
need to understand how warehousing 150000 manuals equates to
profit/loss/budget issues. Whatever...

Finally, you have to have a market for documentation. For example, in this
previous company, Marketing/Sales would sell a 100 copy license of some
software to a company. This type of license would come with (I forget the
real number, but for the sake of this example, let's say) 5 or 100 manuals.
Extra manuals could be purchased for $150/manual. You have to work with
marketing and sales to make packages that are profitable for documentation.

Finally, good documentation is an intangible for sales and marketing. We
did customer studies on why they purchased our products vs. our
competitors'. A large percentage based their decision on the quality of
documentation and support. This is a useful tool in arguing with sales and
marketing for making documentation a factor in their packages. But, you
have to make the effort to find the right lever to push your argument.

Good luck with your efforts. Instead of making docs a profit center, I
would try an make docs an invaluable cog in the product development cycle
and work hard with engineers to make this happen. If they come around to
respecting your doc expertise, then you don't have to worry about profit as
much as you do about quality.



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Docs for profit: From: Lumsden, John (GSP)

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