Moving docs to CD?

Subject: Moving docs to CD?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 10:22:58 -0600

Damien Braniff reported on <<...a talk (ISTC Area Group) by
the chief writer for ICL. They had just moved over to
providing all their tech lit on CD... they provided
mimimum hadrcopy lit (install and basic user?) and
the rest on CD (cheaper) as standard. Manuals on CD were
in a format that could be printed by the user if required.
If the user insisted on hardcopy this was provided at EXTRA
cost - good incentive to accept the CD version. At the time
of the talk most had accepted the new delivery method and
ICL had saved over ?1million pa on printing costs>>

Can you provide more context? I'd be curious to know
whether the customers not only accepted the change, but did
so willingly and (better still) have benefited from it and
decided that they like the idea. In many cases, customers
have no alternative about accepting such a unilaterally
imposed downloading of costs: there are no competitors to
switch to, or else the software or hardware is so firmly
implanted in the corporate culture that nobody's going to
change it just because there's no usable documentation.

A few telling questions: Did ICL consult their customers
before and after making this decision? What happened to
their tech. support costs? What happened to the in-house
support costs of their customers? How many new sales (or
upgrade sales) have they lost as a result? Have lives been
endangered by this? (e.g., if ICL makes medical equipment,
are people reading the new docs or just assuming that
everything still works the same way it always did... and
like most of us, not bothering to read the manuals to find
out whether this is true?)

There's no question that well-implemented online help and
reference material can be invaluable. There's equally
little question that if cost is the sole or main motivation
for doing so, and if the decision is unilateral, the
customers suffer and (in the long term) the vendor may
suffer too. Worth pondering.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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