Re: What's the pricing spread?

Subject: Re: What's the pricing spread?
From: Jay Mead <jlmead -at- OURAY -dot- CUDENVER -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 19:34:35 -0600

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, Pete Kloppenburg wrote:

> Jonathan Leer writes (of documentation pricing):
> > The problem with technical communications today is that those doing the =
> > work have no working knowledge of the $ involved...
> Perhaps we should cross post this thread to some sort of economics
> graduate student list. Because I bet a rigorous cost/benefit analysis
> of product documentation would be a meaty subject for some doctoral
> candidate somewhere. It's way way way above my head, and I
> certainly wouldn't be put in the position of having to come up with a
> number for what I do.

Way above your head? It's way above EVERYBODY'S head--there's no
consistent, reliable, cross-industry measure of documentation
cost/benefit. Costs can be measured, of course (how much your company
spends on you and your ilk), but nearly all benefits are indirect.
Redoubtable researchers Redish and Ramey had the most recent last word on
this (Tech Comm journal, Feb. 95), and even their exhaustive work did not
produce a consistent formula for measuring value.

About as close as we can come, it seems, is relating docs to support
costs. Several good studies and much anecdotal evidence show a strong
correlation. In his post Pete mentions the role of writers in testing and
QA (and there's a good article about this in the May STC Intercom
magazine). But as Pete points out these activities REDUCE costs, but are
not themselves profit centers. We're just support. I think that's why we
sometimes don't get the respect we deserve.

A post to the list today by David Castro shows how good docs at his
company persuaded a big customer that the product was equally good, and
thus landed a monster contract. Now there is value-added!

The information is the product. That's the idea we have to come around
to. We (and the interface designers, and what's the difference after
all?) are building the product as much as the engineers and programmers.
In effect the customer is buying what WE do, not what the developers do,
as shown by David Castro's post. The customer is not buying elegant code;
he's buying a solution to a problem--and in the best sense that's what we

Jay Mead
Galileo International
jay -dot- mead -at- den -dot- galileo -dot- com

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