RE: Academic Research in TechComm

Subject: RE: Academic Research in TechComm
From: "Neumann, Eileen" <ENeuman -at- franklintempleton -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 14:14:32 -0500

Yes, point taken. Agreed. We're not busy writing the next great novel. For sure, we need to target our deliverables so that they best meet corporate goals. Agonizing over the perfect phrase is likely a waste of time from a business perspective.

However, I've found that even with good 'business' arguments for doing such and such with the documentation, which will lead to less errors by employees, greater accessibility, less outdated material, employee time savings, etc, etc, tends to fall on deaf ears, unfortunately. It's not on management radar, though of course, YMMV. Doesn't matter if it makes sense from a business perspective.

But in principle, I agree with the idea that quality needs to be based on business needs. In practice, I can't make it work. I can just try and deliver good quality documents from a writing / design perspective. My quality docs do contribute to the business, I hope, but not as much as if the business reconsidered their document delivery. That would actually have an appreciable impact. I believe.

Eileen Neumann
Business Rules and Procedures

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Swallow [mailto:techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 12:48 PM
To: Neumann, Eileen
Cc: TECHWR-L; Jim Shaeffer
Subject: Re: Academic Research in TechComm

> In this case, why bother striving for high quality in tech communication?
> Mediocrity seems king...

No, you need to have a *business plan* for improvements, that's all.
Remember, just about all of us are not tech writers working for the
purpose of creating the best documentation set possible. We are
primarily working to create documentation that works to support a
product or internal resource or process. Our job is to effectively
communicate information.

"Quality" has many definitions, and it's when it's thrown around
undefined that problems arise. Your definition of "quality" may differ
from a engineer's definition, and that may differ from a VP's
definition or a CEO's definition. It's a nuance that's often
overlooked and yet burns to the very core of what we do (communicate
things clearly and effectively).

So don't perceive these comments as support for a "mediocrity is king"
mentality. Rather, they are intended to serve as a reminder to know
your audience and tailor information clearly and effectively for that
audience (in all that you do).

You could propose "I need a $100k CMS to make the docs better" and you
might be shot down without comment. Likewise you could make the same
proposition detailing the positive impact it will have on the
company's bottom line and detail the efficiency that might come out of
using such a system (less writers able to do more, better, faster, for
example), and your proposal might be accepted.

As with any field, you only get so far by doing a good job. You need
to be aware of and account for additional factors to progress.

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