February 1999

From the Director

CIDMIconNewsletter JoAnn Hackos

Welcome to the first issue of Best Practices, the newsletter of the Center for Information-Development Management. Throughout my years of consulting work in documentation, training, and customer service, I have consulted with hundreds of managers on Process Maturity, benchmarking, and product evaluations. In recent years I’ve noticed a growing trend in documentation and training groups; managers are increasingly expected to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources. In addition to having to evaluate and implement the recent surges in tools and technologies, and fighting to secure a staff with the right skills to meet their organization and customer needs, managers are expected to align themselves with increasingly complex corporate goals and to maintain professional levels of understanding regarding other organizations’ practices and processes.

People are available who can provide information, support, and expertise in these areas challenging managers. They include industry commentators, consultants, advisors, and, best of all, peers. Information resources in magazines, journals, and on the web are also available. However, managers do not have the time, limitless funds, contacts, or internal support to find and tap into all the useful resources available. I have found over and over that managers desire two distinct types of information. First, they want informed, low-cost, well-researched, and quick answers to the day-to-day questions facing their organizations, and second, they want guidance in identifying the long-term and broader issues on which to focus.

Adding to the challenge, our industry has no elite body of experts, no group of industry leaders, no broad strategic vision readily available to support information-development, training, and customer-service managers. There are few leaders working together to pull into one place the ideas, trends, and discussions that we might use to draw conclusions and provide direction. Aside from conferences, management information is primarily shared through informal exchanges. As a result, we lack reliable sources of well-researched and filtered information that we can use to identify best practices within the field.

The Center for Information-Development Management fills this industry void. The Center brings together a core group of executive-level Associates and an Advisory Council of senior managers that can support information-development, training, and support managers in achieving success.

The Center is an interactive and comprehensive resource of management information for information-development, training, and customer service managers across North America and internationally. Our aim is to provide a committed, focused, and expert forum to support managers in creating the highest performance teams that produce effective and top quality information products. To meet this goal, we have initiated the following missions:

  • The Center conducts benchmark studies on how best to manage the development of information, training, and support resources.
  • The Center collects, evaluates, and disseminates information from a wide variety of sources.
  • The Center provides a forum for managers to study, investigate, and discuss the issues facing them as well as a forum to learn from one another’s successes and failures.

Over the past eighteen months, during the Center’s conceptual phase, my team at Comtech and I have engaged in a series of independently sponsored and group-sponsored benchmark studies. Our topics have ranged from evaluating organization structure to determining appropriate staffing levels. For each topic we investigated, we found that benchmark partners could benefit from the insights we gained from other studies they may not have participated in. We also noted that many managers who had wanted to participate directly in the benchmark studies were unable to do so at a particular time. Nevertheless, they wanted access to the studies and other information about critical management issues. To respond to these information needs, the Center will focus on benchmarking studies that lead to the identification of best practices.

As a result of years of observation and data collection, the Center begins with a significant body of information addressing current challenges. Future benchmarking studies will add significantly to this information. By establishing a group of members interested in learning best practices from one another, the Center provides for the widespread distribution of strategies for increasing staff productivity and information, training, and support quality.

The Center’s information outlets are wide and varied; they facilitate those two types of information identified earlier-immediate and strategic. Center members will have access to a moderated email list-serv, weekly Internet chat sessions hosted by me or one of the other Center Associates, and a member’s only section of the Information Management Center website. The website contains abstracts of research publications, book reviews, a manager’s calendar, archives of list-serv and chat discussions, and much more. All of these outlets will provide managers with the opportunity to seek expert guidance on day-to-day issues of managing information-development, training, or customer service groups. Members will also receive valuable information that will help them focus the direction of their groups in this bi-monthly newsletter, industry benchmarking reports, an annual conference, and a series of white papers.

Future editions of the Best Practices newsletter include:

  • feature articles about documentation, training, and support by Center Associates
  • descriptions of higher education programs in the field to help you to evaluate and perhaps even recruit future employees
  • reviews of new and existing tools and technologies that might be of use in training, documentation, and support groups
  • book and website reviews to help you sort through the mass of information available
  • abstracts of journal and feature articles of interest to senior documentation, training, and support managers
  • a calendar of events, expos, and conferences of interest to managers
  • benchmark updates and announcements

The annual Best Practices conference will bring together consultants and senior managers to discuss the issues facing them and how we might approach those issues to ensure highly effective and cost-efficient documentation, training, and customer service products. Finally, Center members will receive discounts on all consulting work conducted by me, the Center Associates, or my team at Comtech.

I know you’ll recognize the benefits that an organization like the Center can bring to you and your group. By joining the Center and participating in its funded activities, you will be able to

  • compare your organization to your competitors and to those that are best in class
  • learn about industry best practices
  • keep in touch with industry trends
  • avoid costly mistakes by learning from other managers’ experiences
  • save time and effort on independent research
  • educate new and potential managers in your organization
  • obtain consulting and other services at a special discount rate

Joining me as Center Associates are Henry Korman of WordPlay Communications, Katherine Brennan Murphy of Tapestry Communications, and Ann Rockley of the Rockley Group. For more than 25 years, Henry Korman has focused on making technology accessible to everyone via smart production design, interactive information systems, online help facilities, and lean paper and online documentation. Katherine Brennan Murphy opened Tapestry Communications after 20 years as an information designer, technical publications manager, technical writer, training designer, and senior manager at Tektronix. She provides clients a suite of services to help them improve clarity and creativity in their organizations, including work flow redesign, management consulting, and human factors research and design. President of The Rockley Group, Ann Rockley has 15 years’ experience developing all types of online documentation. She is an internationally acclaimed lecturer and practitioner of tools and technologies.

The Associates and I are aided by an advisory council which, to date, includes esteemed documentation and training managers Julie Bradbury of Cadence Design Systems, Robin Reddick of BMC Software, and Deborah Rosenquist of Dell Computers.

Together, we share in the excitement of helping you to help the Center achieve the visionary status we have laid out above. The success of the organization is contingent upon the participation of key managers like yourself. As just a small sample of the benefits that participation in the Center brings, we will be sending you another complimentary copy of Best Practices within the next six to eight weeks.

If you have any questions about the Center or Center membership, please feel free to contact me at 303-232-7586, or send email to