RE: Documentation Quality and Standardization

Subject: RE: Documentation Quality and Standardization
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "punit shrivastava" <punitshrivastava -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 16:05:09 -0400

punit shrivastava asked:
> Hi All,
> I have got the opportunity to work towards achieving
> Documentation Quality
> and Standardization in my documentation team.
> Would someone guide me on the following:
> - What all we cover in deciding Quality of documentation?
> - How do we go ahead with it?
> Please note that our organisation already has all other
> measures (Style
> guides, QA Team and documentation guidelines) in place. The
> effort is to
> improve the output quality within the team.

One measure of the quality of a completed document is how many errors or
omissions are discovered by people who must use the document.

If you can arrange that someone in Engineering Test / Validation, or in
QA be tasked to perform their tests using your document, rather than
their own detailed test-cases, they will soon highlight some things that
need fixing.

You and they get to discuss and to decide whether (say) 10 occurrences
of a particular spelling error, throughout the document constitutes one
defect or ten defects.

Obviously, spelling errors are the least of your worries, but it was an
easy example.

The tester would also report all occurrences where the document or help
was incomplete, or failed to adequately instruct them as to what to do
next. They could also be asked to make occasional checks while going
through procedures to see if they can readily find out _why_ they are
performing a given procedure (if explaining the why is considered
important for your docs).

As well, you can solicit reports from Sales and Sales-Engineering
personnel as to how well the documents work as a sales tool - do they
make it look easy and reasonable to configure, manage, and use your

Similarly, you can scan the current and historical record of Customer
support calls/tickets, to determine what documentation deficits are
reported (either by direct customer complaint or by the Customer Support
rep noting that the call would not have occurred if the docs had
included such-and-such a piece of information, or if that existing piece
of information had been easier to find. The customer support database
will also show trends of improvement or... ahem... disimprovement in the
completeness and efficacy of your docs.

As others have mentioned, if this is a sincere effort to seek real
improvement, nobody will be dismayed that the above measures are
long-term, showing results after months and years. If the goal is just
to show some boss or some auditor that your group has "quality
processes" just like the other groups, then that's a different thing and
must be approached differently.

I've always thought that the goal of good customer documentation is to
minimize service calls and to be an asset to the sales force. The
former is measurable by the Customer Support organization. The latter is
more subjective, but can be reported as opinion by the sales

If you must provide internal (to your group) measures of quality, then
you must have some kind of consistent, methodical review of the docs
against the stated goals for those docs, and your measure is the report
of how many errors or requests to rework are generated. Success is
simply having fewer such reworks the next time. Soon you run into Zeno's
paradox. :-)

- Kevin

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Documentation Quality and Standardization: From: punit shrivastava

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