Printer Friendly

Are you being clear? Documentation shouldn't be a headscratcher.


Companies are having trouble explaining themselves. Expanding spans of control, more complicated systems, and extensive legal requirements mean more and more things have to be written down in manuals.

This escalating need for documentation is outstripping in-house capabilities.

"The fact is, companies need more documentation today than ever before, and they are having trouble keeping up with the demand," says Charles Schad, president of The Writers' Group, a consulting and documentation design firm in South Windsor, Conn. "The result is many are looking outside for new documentation resources."

When is it time to look for help with documentation?

* Short deadlines. "Asking in-house resources to meet a deadline of less than eight weeks is unrealistic and unfair. To do this, they have to drop everything else. That's not a wise use of their time," says Schad.

* Trouble using product. When a department gets a lot of complaints from users who can't figure out their system, the manual generated in-house isn't doing its job. "Our clients often come to us because customers are asking for answers they feel should be obvious to people who read the manual," says Schad. "It's not that the information isn't in there; people simply can't find it."

* Everything must be changed. Companies undergoing major updates of a system or process often need someone outside the organization to write the guide. These people aren't tied to internal politics and the way things used to be in these situations. "A patch job on the current documentation is a big mistake. It's time for a new approach from a fresh set of eyes," points out Schad.

* Everyone's too close. "People who develop products and services are usually the wrong ones to write the documentation," says Writers' Group Vice President Nancy Schad. "They are too close. They know what went into a system and they assume their audience does too. Good outside resources are able to put themselves into the mind-set of the users. They are able to know what the audience needs to know."

A manual is the one tangible representation of the company that stays with the customers. It has to be done right or no one will know how good the product is. The manual is something that continues to sell the product throughout its lifetime. When properly executed, it builds ongoing relationships with customers.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:Global view favors packet move.
Next Article:Remote data exchanges: Hiland Dairy needs no script files with PC-based system.

Related Articles
On pushing quality assurance upstream.
To document performance, put it in writing.
Rebus Provide Data Repository for Lloyd's.
Razorcake, #43.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters