February 2001

From the Director

CIDMIconNewsletter JoAnn Hackos, CIDM Director

Dear Friends,

Benchmarking, why is it important? Your marketing department has a substantial research budget to learn about customer requirements, the state of the industry, and the activities of its competitors. Unfortunately, this research rarely, if ever, considers issues related to training and documentation.

Where do information-development managers get the research data they need? How do you get answers to your questions?

  • How are we finding qualified people in this seller’s market?
  • How much do we have to pay in salary and benefits to attract the people we need?
  • Are we better off reporting to engineering or marketing or somewhere else?
  • What tools are other departments considering?
  • Which technologies work and which ones create problems?
  • What is the role of an information architect?
  • If we move to single sourcing, does that mean our writers lose their creativity?

It should be clear that you cannot answer these questions by collecting anecdotes from managers you have never met or talked with. The responses of a few people over a listserv rarely provide a comprehensive and balanced view of the field. Nearly every day, I receive emails from managers who are asking me for answers to these and other questions. Sometimes I feel like the Ann Landers of information development. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to visit information-development organizations all over the world and meet with managers at our conferences and workshops. We collect information through surveys, interviews, and site visits. That’s what the Center for Information-Development Management is all about.

It should be obvious to all that this insight and information resource requires a financial investment. It takes time and money to keep abreast of the trends and developments in our industry. The resources to conduct research in information development don’t come from government grants, from STC, or from benevolent benefactors. The funding comes from-You!

We at Comtech are in the early recruiting stages of several important benchmark studies for 2001. We’re preparing several key white papers that will be offered to information-development managers during the year. We need your support, but we also need your funding.

Sometimes I worry about the naiveté that many of our colleagues display. They believe that research and analysis is something they deserve automatically. I once suggested to a manager that he subscribe to this newsletter to get the salary data he was looking for. He wrote back that he thought the data wasn’t worth $99.

Here are the planned studies that we need you to support:

  • A new single-source benchmark for 2001 to bring us up-to-date about development in this exciting new area
  • A study of best practices in customer contact
  • The development of a tool for measuring the usability of our information
  • A special study of the audiences for information in the telecommunications industry
  • An advisory council to look into the feasibility of terminology banks and standard DTDs (document type definitions) for particular fields

We recognize that money is tight, but we want you to consider the value that the research brings. Gaining knowledge of successes and best practices means avoiding going in the wrong direction. Solid research and analysis of best practices in this industry moves you and your organization ahead more quickly because it helps you to avoid the pitfalls. Knowing what the competition is doing gives you a competitive advantage among your professional colleagues in your own companies. Your investment in research is paid back many times over in more efficient and more effective documentation.

Every information-development manager needs to put funding in the budget to sponsor research and analysis, to read industry white papers, to receive individual recommendations that compare your practices with your colleagues. Remember, the marketing department is already budgeting to sponsor research, which is how organizations like the Gartner Group and Forrester Research fund their work.

The Center for Information-Development Management wants to help, to be here with the information you need to make the best decisions. But this work doesn’t come for free. It takes support and funding-and that means You. CIDMIconNewsletter