Joanne Griffith, ADP

Earlier this year, the Technical Publications team at a large Fortune 500 company surveyed a sample of clients to learn more about the client usage rates of the information deliverables (guides, quick reference cards, and online help) that the company provided for one of its products.

With a very high response rate to the survey, the team learned that although many of the information deliverables are being used quite often, they are only being used by a very small percentage of clients. They also learned that about 25 percent of the clients would occasionally reference any one of the deliverables, but these references were very infrequent.

With this feedback, the Technical Publications team began to question whether there is a point at which it becomes too costly to continue to maintain information deliverables that are not getting significant use. They assumed there must be an accepted industry guideline or standard to help with the decision to reduce or eliminate any of the deliverables. Despite searching the various online publications and websites for the Tech Pubs industry, they were unable to locate any published information that companies are relying on to make this decision.

In April’s CIDM newsletter click here, we included a link to a survey that asked if you have been faced with such a decision in your organization and, if so, what criteria or considerations you followed.


Research Methods

37 of you took the survey. 64.9% of you have done research on your product documentation to determine the frequency of use. Research methods used include

  • Collected customer feedback at forums
  • Conducted online surveys
  • Talked directly to the users
  • Interviewed customers
  • Reviewed document download statistics/web hits (web analytic data, web trends)
  • Conducted customer satisfaction surveys

The research methods conducted by most respondents were online surveys and use of web analytics.

Research Results

Of those of you who conducted research,

  • 59% eliminated documentation that users used least often
  • 5% transferred key information from the least used document into most used documents
  • 31% put the documents in a more accessible and obvious place

The respondents who decided to eliminate or stop maintaining one or more documents did the following to support that decision:

  • Identified redundant information and decided to eliminate some of that information
  • Had clients rate the importance of each information deliverable and eliminated the least important
  • Determined how often each document or information deliverable was being accessed (used the hits per month). They set the standard by comparing the number of hits their less accessed document had versus the number of hits their most accessed document had
  • Measured the rate the information deliverable was being used and compared it to the cost to product that deliverable

The Good News

Of the people who reduced or eliminated information, 68% experienced no negative impact when eliminating documentation based on research.

As a result of the survey the Technical Publications team did with their clients and the survey you responded to from this newsletter, the next step for this team is to implement web analytic tools to determine what information is and is not being used.

Thanks for your help!