Re: We All Get Third Party Books

Subject: Re: We All Get Third Party Books
From: Iain Harrison <iharrison -at- SCT -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 1996 14:36:00 GMT

I agree that looking at what the users actually use helps to
improve the product from their viewpoint, but that isn't all
there is to it.

Many users don't routinely look at any paper documentation at
all. I'm as guilty as any - I'll try a product, and only resort
to RTFM when I have to.

It may well be that you have produced exactly what they'd like,
but they never thought to look for it in the documentation.

In many cases, the end user isn't really the customer: If the
product is sold to a large organisation, the person who decides
to buy won't ever actually use the product at all. It could well
be that the documentation will have as much impact as a sales
tool as an aid to the users. This is sad, but it is a reality.

Companies may use documentation for entirely different reasons
from those envisaged when the manual was written.

For example, a company may want a comprehensive set of
instructions to form complete work instructions that supplement
quality procedures.

The users will find that level of detail gets in the way of
using the documentation, rather than helping it, but the
customer is the company management, who may consider that
getting ISO9000/BS5750 has be a higher priority than having
clear, concise user documentation.

The users may need training to do their jobs -- the company may
prefer the documentation in a training manual format to support

There are many other reasons why a really good set of
documentation will meet the needs of its customers, but the poor
old end user may still end up with unmet needs, which a
third-party product addresses far more directly.

Really, this is all an issue of management, rather than an issue
of writing, but in the real world...

iharrison -at- sct -dot- co -dot- uk

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