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Four questions that can help you measure the value of your technical communication work 02/21/2010

Posted by jeffstaples in Education.
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by George Slaughter

Last July, I wrote an article for Intercom magazine that discussed measuring the value of technical communication in economic terms. In it, I said there was no single way to uniformly measure the value of one’s technical communication work. This lack of a single way to measure such value is because of several reasons, most notably the differences in personnel, practices, and priorities.

Despite these differences, all organizations share the same basic goals. Organizations want to ensure customer satisfaction at the lowest risk (for both the customer and organization) while earning a profit (or, at least, not losing money).

Perhaps more than ever before, technical communicators must step out of their comfort zone and think of their work in economic terms. We all can visualize good user documentation: user-focused, well written and illustrated, both usable and indexed. This visualization remains relevant. Yet while technical communicators create user-focused documentation, they would be smart to consider how they produce what they produce…and how it helps their organization be successful.

Michael Masterson, author and entrepreneur, has written that when one is being interviewed for a position, four questions are being asked, if not explicitly, then at least implicitly. These four questions are useful in considering how what we do affects the companies for whom we work.

In this article, I want to share those questions and some things to think about in answering those questions.

  1. How will you increase our revenues?
    Think about how your organization makes money. Some organizations create products — software, industrial equipment, or other deliverables. Other organizations provide services…and some of those organizations are non-profit organizations. Think about how your organization does things and how your work adds to the bottom line.
  2. How will you reduce our costs?
    Think about how much your company pays to have you on staff. The company pays salary, benefits, equipment, and office space, to name four things. Many companies have sold their real estate to save costs (BMC Software and HP are two local examples), and enable their employees to work from home. Think about how you can do more with less.
  3. How will you expand our customer base?
    More customers means more profits, which helps everybody, right? But how could you help your company get more customers?
    In my own experience, I’ve found that publishing trade articles and working trade shows helps to enhance credibility and raise a company’s profile.
  4. How will you increase our profits?
    You help increase profits by increasing revenues, reducing costs, and expanding the customer base. Those are things you do for your organization.

George is a senior technical writer with The Integrity Group. He is a past STC Houston president.

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