20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

What do we measure in Tech Comm?

What do we measure in Tech Comm?
What do we measure in Tech Comm?
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This is the first of a multi-part series, discussing measures and KPIs in Tech Comm. 

Measuring success is required to show results in the business space. Very few businesses allow projects for the sake of allowing a project—they want to see money results from a project. Businesses want to see a Return on Investment (ROI), a cost savings, or a cost avoidance. Additionally, there is the thought that you can only improve that which you measure (this may or may not be true, but it’s a often quoted).

But what do we measure in Tech Comm? What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should we use to demonstrate the ROI in product instructions?

Traditional Tech Comm KPIs

About once a year, posts appear to the various lists devoted to the Tech Comm community, asking what metrics should be tracked in a Tech Comm group. Usually someone has been promoted to Docs Manager or a new management structure has been put into place. Inherent in either situation is the statement: How do we show the value of Tech Comm, like the developers/marketers/other groups show their value?

Every time, people suggest KPIs like:

  • Typos per page
  • Total pages per writer/per week/month/release/something else
  • Total number of pages in group

Every time, I roll my eyes and sigh. Sometimes I bang my head on the desk if it’s been a particularity frustrating week.

Stupid metrics

These are stupid metrics. Seriously.

Why are they stupid? OK, here goes:

  • Typos per page: We’re not competing in a keyboarding competition, where the best hour of error free typing wins. Sure, it’s good if our content doesn’t have typos but we’ve all dealt with crap technical content that was typo-free. This is hygiene and we should not be rated on how often we bathe.
  • Total number of pages per… Turning out crap doesn’t take much time so you can write a lot of crap quickly. How many hours does it take to write endless pages of In the File name field, type the file name.? Well written, useful content can take hours and hours to get a single page written.

OK, so what do we track? What are good metrics, you might be asking?

In the next article, I’ll start covering smarter metrics that have actual meaning and why you should be tracking those.

Do you have thoughts on this subject? Want to make some guesses? Use the comments area below.

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By Sharon Burton

3 Comments

  1. With one client we track Documentation Cost per product.

    This is a function of time spent, cost of individuals time and the number of product supported.

    We can also break this down across products and product lines to see if any are out of line with the norm.

  2. I perused the case studies in Sarah O’Keefe’s and Alan Pringle’s Content Strategy 101 and came up with a few ideas for Tech Comm KPIs. Some of these will be hard to measure, but they’re offered in the spirit of getting the conversation started.

    Support calls eliminated by making content easier to find
    Hours spent maintaining/reviewing content
    Reuse: Pages translated compared to total pages
    Improved market share resulting from good docs
    Increased customer satisfaction
    Time to market – in other words, how fast to turn around updates
    Goodwill and increased visibility in open source community

    • Sharon Burton

      These are good ones, Larry. I have ideas for more and how to tie Tech Pubs to the larger company initiatives!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. What do we measure in Tech Comm (part 2)? - […] a previous article, I talked about some typical things we measure in Tech Comm and technical writing. I suggested…

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