## Cost-justifying the manual?

Subject: Cost-justifying the manual?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 08:22:05 -0400

Susana Rosende continued the discussion of her manual labor:

<<Did I mention that my company did not justify the cost of
writing a manual in the first place? There is no manual for the
application, despite the clients' requests. (What do *they*
know anyway? They're only USERS, right?)>>

Here's where I don my devil's advocate cap (looks something
like this: >@8^{)} ) and rebut that statement with something
that on the face of it appears to be a "one-liner" joke: You can
cost-justify a printed manual with about 5 minutes of
research. Here's the way it works (based on a "Witful
Thinking" article I've currently got under consideration for an
upcoming issue of _Intercom_):

Starting assumption: You've already got the staff to do the
work (that's you!), and you're already producing the manual,
and then dumping it online to produce the help system.

Step 1: Estimate the typical sales price of the software. Let's
say \$200 for the retail price.

Step 2: Estimate the actual cost to produce that software. Let's
say your company's total annual budget is \$1 million, and
you sell 10,000 copies of the software per year. Production
cost per unit = \$1 million / 10,000 = \$100.

Step 3. Estimate the markup: \$200/\$100 = 100%. This means
that for every dollar you spend on developing the product,
you generate a dollar of profit.

Step 4. Estimate the printing cost. Let's say \$5 U.S. for a
typical book. Based on step 3, you generate \$5 profit for
every book you sell (10,000 copies times \$5 profit =
\$50,000). Impact of adding \$10 to the software's cost (5%
cost increase) on sales? Probably negligable, and the more
expensive the product, the less important the documentation
cost becomes.

Now before anyone hollers, I concede up front that this is a
superficial and trivial argument. Mea culpa. But you can
nonetheless use those numbers quite effectively to persuade
the number crunchers at your company to figure out what
your real financial benefits are. They might be even better
than I've shown in this example; I seriously doubt they'll
show a loss.

<<So far, nobody looks at the online help, the help desk is
overworked, and the users have asked for a book that my
company does not find cost-justifiable. Hmmmmmm.>>

Looks to me like in addition to making a bit of profit on the
side, you can also solve these other problems. Worth a try?

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from
acquiring the deadening effect of a habit." -William Somerset Maugham

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