Re: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs

Subject: Re: ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2012 07:44:45 -0400

On Thu, 07 Jun 2012 14:53:45 -0400, <BBEGIN -at- aol -dot- com> wrote:

Does anyone have ROI figures on the benefits of hiring a technical
communicator who will work with SMEs, rather than a SME without tech comm
experience who might be hired to document maintenance procedures? This is in a heavy equipment setting.
Comparisons for which I have no dollar amounts are:
- Salary
- Time to structure the content
- Time to follow style guides
- Document verification
Other areas? Dollar comparisons?

There seems to be something missing in the stated approach.

The cheapest way is to hire someone who produces poor documents quickly. That will be someone with proven abilities in using MS Wrod, but no understanding of the presentation of maintenance instructions. If no one ever reads or needs the instructions, this is the best ROI. It would be a waste of time, effort and money to put the SME into that situation, because someone else could do a bad job cheaper.

The SME brought in to do documentation and do it well would have to be an unusual person, with the ability to see the problem from the point of view of the maintenance tech. The SME can easily lack the ability to explain how to avoid making costly mistakes. A good tech writer should have the skill to write instructions that are clear and correct. Here's an example of an explanation done badly, and then done better:

BAD:
Step 5. Tighten all the bolts to 15 Nm, after having put the gasket in place. Use a new gasket. Before putting the cover in place, check the slide valve.

POSSIBLY GOOD:
Step 5a. Before replacing the cover, inspect the slide valve for any play in the actuation lever. Install a new one (Section 14J) if you have any doubt.

Step 5b. Use a new gasket with a thin application of sealant JV-3205W on both sides. Replace the cover, and tighten the bolts crosswise to 15 Nm. Excessive tightening will warp the cover and cause leaks.

The ability to follow style guides is rather unimportant compared with the ability to see through to the correct breakdown and presentation of diagnostic techniques and repair procedures. You can hire the tech writer or the SME, giving the person whatever title you choose, but you'll need to get the one who understands how to discover the missing steps. A poor ROI will not be discernible until major complaints come from customers and repair depots.

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References:
ROI on hiring tech comms vs. SMEs: From: BBEGIN

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