In a survey we carried out in early 2009, we found that very few documentation managers were clear on the benefits of what they were producing, and very few measured the benefits of their outputs in any meaningful way. For example, they found it hard to say how many users they have and how much content they produce. They struggled to measure how users regard the documentation they produce, yet, they all felt confident they were producing what users needed.
Ellis Pratt, "A Different Perspective on Measuring the Value of Technical Communication," Intercom, July/August 2009, page 15. The survey was conducted by Cherryleaf Limited, a technical communication company in the United Kingdom.
Many companies view technical communications as expenses to be reduced whenever possible. As the quote above makes clear, the people who produce and manage technical communications are often to blame for this mistaken perception. We must show that technical communications are opportunities to cut costs and build sales. One of the best ways to demonstrate value is to make a business case for a technical communication project.
A business case is a justification for a business project. A business case compares the costs and benefits of the project and shows that the benefits outweigh the costs. Most business cases include a financial analysis. Companies prepare business cases for expensive projects to ensure that the return on investment justifies the cost. Preparing a business case is often a good idea even when a company does not ask for one. The business case communicates the value of a project to senior management in the financial terms they prefer.
Preparing a business case for a technical communication project is a great way to help team members focus on the project's value to the company rather than on their own interests.
For an excellent introduction to business cases, see Jack Molisani's article How to Build a Business Case.
For information about developing a business case, see our Business Case Primer.
When companies know that their technical communications are improving profitability, those communications evolve from unwanted expense into valued investment.
The people who produce and manage technical communications evolve from expensive overhead - prime candidates to down-size and off-shore - into valuable contributors. They help develop new business and make existing business more profitable.
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