Do Pets and Cash Cows have anything to do with Documentation?

Home/Publications/CIDM eNews/Information Management News 08.01/Do Pets and Cash Cows have anything to do with Documentation?

Vesa Purho
Research Analyst, Information Design, Nokia Networks

The Technology Adaptation Life Cycle looks at products and marketing strategies from the point of view of different users. As we have learned during the last couple of years, it is also a good tool for analysing what kind of information products we should be producing for different users.

However, there are other models that companies use to evaluate their product portfolio and market, and we should consider their impact on documentation and training. One of the models is the Growth-Share Matrix developed by the Boston Consulting Group. The model looks at the market by using two dimensions: the market share that the product has and the growth of the market. The basic idea behind the model is that a company needs products to bring in excess cash that can be used to develop products that don’t yet bring in any profit.

Here is a brief introduction to the model with some thoughts on how the model could be used when thinking about documenting products in the different segments of the model. As opposed to the Technology Adaptation Life Cycle, this model suits all products, not just hi-tech, revolutionary products. Nonetheless, I have made some comparisons to the Technology Adaptation Life Cycle model because links between these models are useful.

Growth-Share Matrix

Cash Cows

Products that have high market share when the market isn’t growing generate much more cash than is needed to maintain the share. The excess should not be reinvested in those products but should be used for other purposes. These products would most likely fall into the late majority segment in the Technology Adaptation Life Cycle.

From a documentation point of view, the document sets for Cash Cows should be in maintenance mode. There should be no new development unless required by the customers. The company is trying to keep the margins as high as possible, and all development work decreases the margins. If you change the look and feel or the general architecture of your document sets for a special customer, you have to evaluate carefully if it makes sense to harmonise the document sets as well or at least make a minimum effort.

Pets

Products that have small market share when the market isn’t growing may show some accounting profit to a company, but all the money that comes in must be invested to maintain the share. Therefore, the products don’t bring in any revenue to the company and are basically worthless.

There is no sense in developing, or even maintaining, the documentation of these products.

Question Marks

Products that have small market share when the market is growing heavily almost always require far more cash than they can generate. If the cash invested cannot raise the market share of the product, it becomes a Pet when the market growth stops. In the Technology Adaptation Life Cycle, these products would most likely fall into the early adopters or early majority segments.

Because the goal of the company is to win more market share with these products, the documentation should support that goal. New, innovative solutions that support the users better and make the companies that buy the products more effective are needed. Usually, you can get the money to develop the documentation because the product requires heavy investments if the company is trying to make the product a leader.

Stars

Products that have high market share when the market is growing heavily nearly always report profits but may not generate all of their own cash. If the product remains a leader until the market growth slows down and investments for the products diminish, it becomes a Cash Cow, providing money for developing new Question Marks and Stars into Cash Cows. In the Technology Adaptation Life Cycle, these products would most likely fall into the early majority segment going into the late majority.

The aim of the company is to maintain their leadership in the market and to maintain the high quality of the documentation. You may need to develop the document sets and training further to meet the increasing demands of the users when the product moves into the early majority.

Summary

Especially in an economic downturn, we need to be business-oriented in a way that demonstrates the importance of documentation and training for the success of a product. We need to take a look at the different marketing models that exist and see how we can support the product marketing with our skills. Demonstrating that we understand the market and showing that we can have different documentation strategies for different markets makes us more than the “support group writing the documents” and increases our perceived value to the company.

This model also points out an interesting twist in making Return on Investment (ROI) calculations, because there really are products that do not make their own cash but need other products to bring in money for their development. So, the ROI can also be an increase in market share, going from a Question Mark to a Star.


This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia Networks.