RE: ratio of tech writers to developers at your company?

Subject: RE: ratio of tech writers to developers at your company?
From: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 11:35:39 -0500

The original question was, "What's the correct ratio of tech writers to

... Which is another way of asking, "Do we have enough tech writers? Too
few? Too many?"

... Which requires us to first ask, "What value does a good tech writer
bring us, anyway?"

Some common ways that good documentation provides real value:
* By reducing the risk of mistakes ("Was that Mars probe supposed to use
metric or English units?")
* By reducing the length of support calls ("Try the instructions on page
17, and call me back if it still doesn't work.")
* By making the product look good ("They cost about the same, but this
one's got better instructions.")
* By illuminating design processes ("According to this flow chart, we've
got about 400 lines of unnecessary code.")
* By satisfying regulatory requirements ("Can you make that document
work for both FDA and ISO?")
* By... [fill in the blank]

To apply these measures to your company, first discard the ones that are
irrelevant (maybe you don't have regulatory requirements). Then, you can
estimate how well the existing tech writing staff delivers on the
relevant measures. Then, you can estimate whether the added value of
additional tech writers is worth the added cost. Ultimately, you'll find
your own correct ratio for your current conditions.

Personally, I don't think that looking at another company's ratio is
going to facilitate this process.

-- Dan Goldstein

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