January 5, 2012

The Value of Documentation

I have to give a presentation about how documentation adds value to a product offering. The fact that documentation adds value seems like a no brainier until you have to explain what that values looks like. My initial thought was to simply say that documentation educates the customers and makes it possible for customer to use the product. However, that answer doesn't fill a half-hour presentation or do justice to all the ways that good documentation helps a product and the company as a whole. The places documentation adds value are throughout the product life cycle:
  • it helps marketing by increasing the number of Web search hits the product shows up in
  • it helps sales by providing education and evaluation materials that prospects can access
  • it helps sales by making it possible for a customer to do there own POCs
  • it helps customer service because he customers will call with fewer issues and many of the issues can be resolved with a link to the documentation
  • it helps development by finding rough spots in user interfaces
  • it helps development find bugs because the doc team is a pseudo QA team
  • it helps bring new hires up to speed quickly
Basically, a good documentation team does more than just create a bunch of words that nobody reads. It makes the customer's experience smoother and thereby makes all of the other functions around the product easier to accomplish. Good documentation adds value by freeing up other parts of the organization to do harder things.

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