Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: rjl -at- BOSTECH -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 13:27:20 EST

Forgive me if I mis-attribute the source, but I -think- it was Tracy who
wrote:

>When organizations like mine buy 300 WordPerfect licenses and don't
>ask for 300 copies of the manual, what incentive is there for WP to
>put any time, effort, and money into it? No wonder they think the
>whole thing is a big waste.

That's a common situation, and I think we're finding it's a vicious cycle.

1) Software company says "We have indications that no one reads the manual.
To save printing costs, we'll only include copies on request, and charge
extra for it."
2) Megaplex Inc. orders 300 copies of the software, but only one manual.
3) Megaplex employees get copies of the software, but no reference material.
4) Megaplex employees learn the software by trial-and-error, calling the help
line when really stuck.
5) Software company says "See? The types of calls to our help line prove that
no one reads the manual."

A few years ago, I was treated to the extreme example of this when managment
came through, loaded software onto our desktops, and not only faild to
provide documentation, but didn't even explain what the purpose of the
software was. (You should've seen us huddled around a monitor, looking at
the relational database software, scratching our heads and saying "Looks
neat, but what the heck does it do?") We found that there were NO manuals
anywhere on the plant for any of this software.

So, not only did the software company think "Nobody reads our manuals,"
my manager also concluded "The software was a waste of money, nobody uses
it." Neither observation was a true view of the situation.

Of course, I'm "preaching the choir" with this story....

Rick Lippincott
Boston Technology
Wakefield, MA
rjl -at- bostech -dot- com


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