Re: Business Plans for Tech Pubs

Subject: Re: Business Plans for Tech Pubs
From: Dick Gaskill <dickg -at- AG3D -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 17:35:17 -0700

I agree with your senior VP. I have been in the pubs business more than
20 years and have -never- seen a Pubs Dept as part of MIS. In my
experience, Tech Pubs is usually part of either Marketing or
Engineering, with most being part of Engineering. Tech Pubs is often
combined with Training, and may also be related to the
Technical/customer Support organization within a company.

Documentation is best viewed as an integral part of the product and
developed and tested under the same guidelines as the software and/or
hardware components of the product. Unfortunately, some companies do
not view docs as a part of the product but as an afterthought or
"something we have to do but don't want to". This is often because
management does not understand the value of good documentation (see
below) and does not want to spend any money on it. I suspect that this
may one of the reasons your pubs dept is part of MIS.

Regarding a business plan, I'd suggest you buy Dr. Joanne Hackos' book,
Managing Your Documentation Products (Wiley). It is available from
Amazon Books (online) and I'm sure many other places as well. Among
other things, the book contains a huge bibliography with references to
several other books which can help you create your business plan.

Here are few suggestions for your business plan:

Technical Publications Dept Charter
* Provide quality technical documentation for all company products
in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost.
* Quality documentation is defined as accurate, appropriate,
complete, effective, predictable, readable, timely, and usable.
* accurate = technically correct
* appropriate = written to and for the fight audience
* complete = just the right amount of information
* effective = helps customers to do their job without undue
* predictable = consistent in style, format, and content ("look
and feel") with other company documentation of the same type.
* readable = second person, active voice, present tense, formatted
so that it is pleasing to the eye.
* usable = well organized, indexed, correctly packaged (media,

* Better documentation at significantly reduced cost
* Hard copy documentation only where necessary (Getting Started
Guides, Installation Guides, etc.)
* Everything else on line: User's Guide, Release Notes, FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions) and Software Upgrade Information
* All on-line documentation printable by user

Benefits of Good Docs
* Provide value to the customer and your company.
* Save customers time, make learning to use the product easier
* Can save the company money by reducing the number of support
* Can contribute to sales. Many customers review product
documentation before buying a product. Good documentation can "tip the
scale your way" in some sales.

Resources (fill in as appropriate)
* Documentation manager with nn years of experience
* n Senior writers with nn years of experience
* n xxx writers with nn years of expereince
* Other Resources: Engineering, Marketing, and Support personnel
avaialble as needed.

* $nnn for personnel
* $nnn for equipment and software
* $nnn for supplies
* $nnn for professional dues (STC, etc)
* $nnn for continuing education (seminars, etc)
* $nnn for trade shows (Seybold, etc.)

HTH and good luck.

Dick Gaskill
Pubs Manager,
AccelGraphics, Inc.

From: Banta, Bob [SMTP:BBanta -at- SCGROUPINC -dot- COM]
Sent: Monday, May 04, 1998 2:53 PM
Subject: Business Plans for Tech Pubs

Does anyone have experience writing a Business Plan for a Tech
group? We have a new Senior VP on board and he has asked us to
write a
Business Plan for our Technical Publications team. Apparently he
the existence of a Tech Pubs group within an MIS department to
be an
anomaly. Having worked in other MIS departments, I would be
curious to
know roughly what percentage of tech writers work within an MIS
department and how common is it for an MIS department to have a
Pubs team?

One more question: Does anyone have any experience working
within a
Shared Services environment? My experience is that a Tech Pubs
department must make a concentrated effort to market its
services within
a Shared Services environment--particularly to affiliated
companies located at great distances from our locale.

Bob Banta
SCGroup, Incorporated

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