Measuring a Doc Dept

Subject: Measuring a Doc Dept
From: Bob Handlin 1331 <BHandlin -at- CHIPCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 2 Oct 1994 10:12:00 PDT

I would contend that the performance of a pubs department is fairly
company-specific, and therefore a search for absolute, industry-standard
metrics is dangerous. That said, there are a few metrics that I've seen

Pages per day

I really hate this one, because here at Chipcom we're working hard to
consolidate information for the user, and that causes us to put more effort
into fewer pages. Some studies have, however, used pages per day to show
*improvement within a particular department*. For example, using system x,
writers churned out y pages per day, with system z, writers improved to q
pages per day. Yuk.

Pubs Cost v. Support Calls

In theory, better user documentation lowers support costs. I think I heard
former STC Chief Jo Ann Hackos say that one study showed that every dollar
you spend on pubs saves you 10 in support costs.

I tried to hack out an equation that would provide a metric for this, but
I'm not good at that kind of thing. What you'd have to do is compare pubs
as a percentage of revenue to support costs as a percentage of revenue, then
see what happens when pubs dollars rise or fall as a percent of revenue.
What should happen is support costs should drop as a percent of revenue
when pubs expenditures increase. If they don't, spending a higher
percentage of revenue on pubs (IMHO) is a waste.

Also, if support costs go down while pubs costs are flat, the pubs
department may be becoming more effective, and vice versa.

It's really important to get the company revenue part in there. If the
company is growing 30% per year, but support calls are only going up 15%, it
could be a sign that pubs is doing a great job, despite the fact that the
raw number of support calls is rising.

In either case, I think that the best you can offer your boss is a system
that benchmarks your department against itself, and measures whether you're
getting better or worse over time.

bhandlin -at- chipcom -dot- com

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