Re: Manuals on CD-ROM

Subject: Re: Manuals on CD-ROM
From: Kathy Barreto <barreto -at- DREGGS -dot- CISCO -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 1993 11:11:39 MST

We are putting all of our customer documents on CD-ROM, too (first one
is due out next month). The first pass will be like you described,
with no navigation tools other than "hot" cross-references and a basic
"hot" TOC (click on an entry and it takes you to the actual section).
Real navigation tools are in the works, though.

A word of warning, though -- the process of getting all of our Mac/
Frame-based docs into a central unix-based configuration management
and doc control repository, getting all the cross-references and
imported illustration re-linked, and verifying EVERY illustration
and cross-ref in EVERY document has been a huge time drain for we
plebes, the writers. Poor (almost no) planning or preliminary
testing meant that, simultaneously, 30 people found the same bugs
and wasted time on incorrect procedures and generally suffered
alot of frustration and heartburn. Of course, no time was allowed
for any of this; it was all just piled on top of already-
overburdened schedules. But, a few layers up the management chain,
someone got word that our customers wanted this.

I wasn't so sure that was true until I demo'd it a couple of
months ago at a trade show. The customer response was almost
unbelievable (in favor of the CD-ROM). One of their biggest
complaints was that they don't know how to get rid of the huge
document sets that we send with each system (over 2000 pages
minimum). They buy several systems, but only need one set of
docs to install/configure/operate them. So we immediately
implemented a "no-doc" policy (we send doc sets only when the
customer requests them). As soon as the CD-ROM is ready, the
customer will have the option of one CD-ROM or one doc set
per system. Most of the customers I talked with plan to order
the CD-ROM. We're also offering a subscription service for the
periodic updates (we expect to publish 4-6 times a year).

Paper docs are going away. The preliminary customer surveys
indicate that we can almost STOP updating our paper docs, or
just update them once a year. CD-ROM will be the recommended
format for the latest information. We'll see...

Sorry this is such a long answer. The short answer would be:
yes, CD-ROM *is* the happenin' thing, but make sure that you
have a developer or vendor that can cover all possible
platforms and provide an acceptable database for your
customers, and definitely plan to spend alot of your time
making sure it gets done right. Good luck (to us both!)

Kathy Barreto
barreto -at- cisco -dot- com

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