writing & editing
on printing user documentation. In mycase study, the figures for the company's printing costs were astounding: morethan $16,000 a month for printing user guides. In black and white. This figurespoke for itself. Moving to a PDF solution on an existing Web site didn't cre
ate any expenses for the company, and
it eliminated a huge one.If you can prove such dramatic savings in printing charges, it's easy toconvince management to move to a pa perless system. Then you can leveragethese cost savings to request that your company invest a much smaller sumto purchase new software tools to enhance electronic documentation. Thisallows a writing team to produce better documentation—making even the costsavings ultimately benefit the customer.And learning new tools doesn't hurtyour resume.
Count Time Savings
Producing documentation the old-fashioned way takes time. At my com pany, the technical writing team wasspending 300 hours per year on administrative tasks related to publishing printed documentation. This time wasspent burning master CDs and shippingthem to the company's offshore printing facility. The forms that the writersneeded to complete for this processwere complicated and restrictive, making the process time-consuming andfrustrating.Calculate the time your writing teamspends on tasks related to printing documentation. You might be amazed byjusthow long these tasks take. Time tracking
can be helpful, and even askingwriters to keep a log of how much timethey spend on printing-related tasks can provide accurate information.If you move to a paperless system,use time savings the same way you canuse extra money—to improve the documentation. Allow writers to improvetheir skill set. The extra time and moneymight allow your writing team to learnXML or a new word processing or online help tool. Writers could use thetime to enhance the documentation editing process or develop a company styleguide. Today's technical writing toolsoffer many possibilities.
Benefits for Other Employees
Moving to an electronic documentation process can offer benefits to a com pany's project managers or whoever isresponsible for ordering documentation and making sure customers receive
The paper documentation-ordering
process for project managers at my
company included fourteen steps. Itinvolved a two-week lag time while theoffshore printer produced and shippeduser guides. Project managers whowaited until the last minute to think about customer documentation endedup printing the documentation in theoffice and traveling with it themselves.And the documents could be heavy.In the paperless process, downloading documentation takes only four steps. This new process means that project managers no longer have to worryabout the documentation not arrivingon time or the customer losing the documentation. There's no longer a needto order replacement copies. In addition, the searchable PDF makes it easier for the project managers to find answersto customer questions.Talk to the people in your companywho deliver documentation to customers and map their process. You might be surprised; in my study, what projectmanagers were supposed to do and whatthey actually did sometimes differed.See how your company's employeeswould prefer to deliver documentation.If they prefer an electronic process, thisis just one more bargaining tool you canuse with management.
Remember: You're not eliminatinga service; you're adding a better one.This point is key. When we rolled outthe new process, naysayers thought wewere slighting our customers by depriving them of hardcopy documentation.Employees had to see the benefits of the process before they could sell theidea to customers. In fact, the new process would mostly affect new customers,so company employees were the maingroup that needed to be convinced thatelectronic documentation was better.It takes time to convince those outsidethe technical writing field of the benefitsof a paperless system. Keep your company's employees informed. Send e-mails.Conduct Web-based training sessions
to demonstrate new processes. Show
customer survey results and before-
and-after process maps for customers,
technical writers, and project managers.Demonstrate how to use the new documentation system and provide a tutorialfor employees to refer to when needed.Provide sample files showing the newelectronic format.Convincing company employees thatelectronic is best is a continual process.Keep reinforcing the benefits. Writearticles in any company newsletters,e-mails, or other forms of communication. Include FAQs, tips and tricks, andinstructions for using the new system.Any new process involves changemanagement. More important thanconvincing employees that electronicdocumentation is superior is gettingthem to accept change. And change isessential as new technologies allow us to
better serve customers. ©
member of the Pittsburgh Chapter STC. She
is a technical and freelance writer in western
Pennsylvania. She also organizes process-