Re: Costs of paper manuals?

Subject: Re: Costs of paper manuals?
From: Max Wyss <prodok -at- PRODOK -dot- CH>
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 21:21:39 +0100


The cost for documentation for software and other products can be split
into two parts: development and actual production.

The development of the documentation must be considered to be part of the
product development costs. In fact it must be added to that and depreciated
exactly like the product development. For this, a target number of copies
to be sold has to be established, and the cost for development derived from
that number.

Actual production costs can be treated like the cost for producing
diskettes etc. So, the logistics department can rather easily say how much
the actual production and handling does cost.

As it can be assumed that development costs are higher than actual
production costs, it is understandable that documentation is considered to
be a cost factor. Besides that, I do see quite often a certain attitude
towards documentation, which does not give it the credit it deserves. If it
were not mandatory by law to deliver documentation with the product, many
people would not do any documentation at all.

Max Wyss
PRODOK Engineering AG
Technical documentation and translations, Electronic Publishing
CH-8906 Bonstetten, Switzerland

Fax: +41 1 700 20 37
e-mail: mailto:prodok -at- prodok -dot- ch or 100012 -dot- 44 -at- compuserve -dot- com

Bridging the Knowledge Gap


>Our seemingly neverending discussion over the merits of moving
>documentation online brings up a point that's always bothered me: the
>assumption that documentation is nothing but a cost center, and the
>associated notion that paper manuals are more onerous than their
>online kin. I'd like to propose an informal survey, and use the
>results to write up a short article for STC's journal _Intercom_
>(with a summary to techwr-l, of course) if the results prove
>promising. Here's my angle:
>Most organisations operate on a cost-recovery basis, and
>recover the costs of their documentation groups too. For example,
>at FERIC, we've estimated how many staff hours go into producing a
>typical report, and used this as the basis for a costing multiplier:
>for example (and these aren't the real numbers, which I'll have to
>confirm for the summary), a report that cost $1 to print might sell
>for $10 to cover both staff time and printing costs. Even companies
>that don't do formal chargebacks do have a good handle on the costs
>of their documentation group; presumably, this must be accounted for
>somehow in the product's sale price.
>So here's the question: How does your company incorporate the cost of
>documentation into their product sales price? For example
>(simplistically), if you know that a given manual costs about $10 to
>produce (staff and printing time combined), and your company tries
>for a 10% profit margin over costs, the price of the software would
>include $11 to cover the manual's production cost plus generate that
>10% profit. That being the case, the documentation actually
>represents a profit center, not a cost. Interesting notion, not so?
>I'd love to receive some feedback on this from techwhirlers working
>for companies that do implement some similar form of cost recovery.
>I'll keep all results strictly confidential, of course, and I
>certainly don't expect any exact details that your employers might
>object to releasing. For the purposes of this survey, a good estimate
>would be every bit as valuable as precisely calculated costs, and a
>confirmation that this is the way your company works (without
>releasing any numbers) would also be useful if you're worried about
>releasing numbers. Please note: this isn't a scientific study
>(hopefully one of our academic members will take this notion and run
>with it!), nor is it an attempt to get a competitive advantage over
>those who contribute (FERIC is not-for-profit organisation and does
>forestry research, so we're almost certainly in a different line of
>business altogether from most techwhirlers). Please respond directly
>to me, not to the list: I'll probably miss your answer if you respond
>to the list, and won't be able to include them in the summary.
>--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
>geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

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