RE: Modular products...

Subject: RE: Modular products...
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Sarah Blake <sarah -dot- blake -at- arieso -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 12:21:54 -0500

I look at it this way:

If the actual "product" that a customer buys is the platform, plus one-or-two modules, and there are 50 or 100 modules to choose from, then yes, giving them a document with instruction and description for all modules might be intimidating and confusing. They wouldn't need 90 percent of the doc. You might need to generate specific docs for each sale, or you might need to have a comprehensive BoM set that CAUSES the platform doc plus JUST the relevant module docs to be assembled Is this printed or PDF or Help? It will make a difference in how you weight this decision.

On the other hand, if the platform itself does a lot of actual, customer-facing, customer-usable operations AND it is common to add one or two (or five...) modules, from a selection of perhaps a dozen, AND they all have some common ground, THEN I'd just document everything in one place, keeping the modular stuff..... modular. If you have this-or-that module, you read the general platform chapters/topics, and you also read the module chapters/topics for the specific modules that you've purchased, and you can ignore the others. How many people have died, or how much business has been lost because GM Owner's Manuals contain the base model info, plus the LS, LT, LTZ, and other model features, as well as descriptions of optional equipment?

This assumes that the modules are relatively self-contained and that you don't need to include a lot of spaghetti to account for interaction and interdependencies. If the latter is the case, then you'd serve the customer well by writing your "module" chapters/topics more about functional groups and clumps of product modules that are normally purchased and used in concert. Similarly, if some modules are ... um... grander than others, such that you purchase one important module, and you have the option to purchase additional modules that extend the function of just that original module (i.e., constrained modules that aren't useful independent of the big module) then that product structure would tend to dictate your document structure. Clumps that go together in that fashion should be documented in one place, regardless whether every module in the clump will be purchased by every customer.

ON THE THIRD HAND (the Gripping Hand?) if your documents are not printed (by your company) but are electronic-only, then no significant cost is incurred to ship extra electrons, and any documentation modules that did not apply to the customer's current version of the product could be considered passive up-sell for additional features of your product that they might want in future. The modules they don't use now might give them ideas for future expansion. Those will remain in the back of their customer minds and will be visible every time a customer sees the ToC. If they want to print out instructions, they can select just the parts that apply to them. Discuss with the PLM.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah Blake
Sent: January-11-13 8:25 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Modular products...

...this has got to be a solved problem by now, right?

I've just moved to a new gig, and they have a product setup where the 'product' is the platform, plus a number of optional and mutually independent modules that are 'switched on' according to the license.

I don't want to confuse the users with documentation for modules they don't have access to, and I don't want to have to manually generate tailored documentation for every sale. Has anyone successfully used other options?

(Yes, I know I asked this same question like six years ago. I didn't manage to figure out a good, scalable solution then either)

Sarah Blake
Technical Writer
Arieso Ltd
Office +44 (0) 1635 232470 | Fax +44 (0) 1635 232471 | Email sarah -dot- blake -at- arieso -dot- com<mailto:sarah -dot- blake -at- arieso -dot- com> | Web<> |

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Modular products...: From: Sarah Blake

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