Re: How do we measure writer efficiency?

Subject: Re: How do we measure writer efficiency?
From: Bob Morrisette <robert -dot- morrisette -at- EBAY -dot- SUN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 10:25:50 -0800


Here are some replies I received from the tech writers list on efficiency.
I'll bring copies to the meeting.


Well, a metric I've used is 8 hours per page. That includes the
research, writing, editing, reviews, production, up to the manuals
sitting in the warehouse. We'd been under the same 'directive' at
Microsoft in the 80s, and after examining a set of projects ranging from
revisions to brand new software we came up with this figure. I think
someone at Microsoft published this information in an STC Journal, but I
can't remember right now.
You might give James Prekeges a call at Microsoft in Redmond, WA (If
he's still there....he was our resident scheduleing/estimating god.)

Hours per page is about the only way I know of to assess
productivity/efficiency in a way that upper management can understand,
though I don't like writing judged in that way.

steve arrants
Well, you could do it the way software managers used to (& maybe some
still do): measure # lines produced per unit time. The suits understand it, it
plugs into spreadsheets easily... In other words, it has a nice beat & you can
graph to it.

Of course, it's truly worthless. But who cares. "Metrics. Give us more metrics..."
(Size of doc)/(writer's time + editor's time + product support's time) =
some kind of metric that refined might be workable
Remember: what you come up with doesn't have to be valid, it just has
to look good to upper management. Because of their point of view,
you have to give them something that is very high level. They are
not interested in all the detail, & rightly so.
Richard Baca
Our publications group uses labor hours per page. Our labor tracking
system enables identification of the labor elements (i.e. writier hours
per page, illustration hours per illustration, editing hours per
page.....). In addition to the labor hours, cost data is monitored (direct
labor hours x base labor rate x overhead burden rate = total cost).
When we first started to collect and monitor all these metrics, there was
a great deal of distrust among the department staff. Their concern was
that the metrics would be used against them individually. That has not
happened. The metrics have provided the information that management needs
to support the staffing levels, as well as justify capital expenditures,
department budgets and develop accurate cost proposals when selling our
sdtall1 -at- aol -dot- com
If you have an estimation database, you have a macro measure of your
efficiency. You are more efficient if your estimation factors are below
industry standards. If it takes 3.36 hrs/pg as opposed to the 4.00 industry
average. Yes, there are other factors that should be taken into account.
You would need to isolate those factors, but in macro sense this seems to
me to be a good metric.

If you delegate responsibility and organize a work flow, your writers will
work faster. This should show up in the estimation database.

I know of no quick way to measure efficiency. You seem to be in a TQM
environment. It's important to remember that your metrics must be based on
what your customer feels is important. Be warned, however, that this can be
a trap, because customers don't know your business.

Typically, in project management, we are asked to make tradeoffs between
cost, schedule, and quality. You need to understand the tradeoffs inherent
in you metrics. Don't let management get all three. Give them one. If you
give them more, you will find that you lack flexibility.

Another aspect of metrics is that they measure a requirement. Requirements
have constraints. This implies that the metrics are sensitive to those
constraints. Try to identify those constraints. Constraints are eliminated
by technology. A constraint today, may continue as a habit long after the
technological barrier has been removed. Large qualitative improvements in a
given metric usually requires a technological solution.


Bob Morrisette
writer -at- sabu -dot- EBay -dot- sun -dot- com

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