JoAnn Hackos, Comtech Services, Inc.

That’s the perennial question I get asked. Your organization supports a product development team of 28 engineers. How many writers should you have? What if the engineers are now working in agile teams? Does that change the equation?

As a manager, would you support a research project that helps to answer that question? For what other questions would you like to have well-researched answers? CIDM has put in place a new collaborative venture to provide information-development managers with a direct connection to academic researchers.

At the 2012 Best Practice Conference, we introduced Dave Clark, Bill Hart-Davidson, Carolyn Rude, and Rebekka Andersen, professors of information development at leading universities and individuals anxious to learn from industry leaders. The panel discussion inaugurated a solid list of possible research topics, including one that would help our academic colleagues better prepare their students by understanding our staffing requirements.

Now we are ready to launch the program by soliciting research ideas from industry managers and working with our academic colleagues to formulate proposals that help us answer those vexing questions.

Of course, joint industry/academe research projects require funding. CIDM will seek support from your organizations to fund projects through a mechanism called crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is similar to the way we have funded CIDM research projects in the past. It means gathering contributions to fund a research project from a group of interested managers. No one has to fund the entire effort. We gather contributions from the “crowd” to develop the funding necessary. And, as a sponsor, you get to help determine the direction of the research project and get early and personal access to the results.

Dave Clark of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Sid Benavente, Microsoft Corporation have outlined the process in the accompanying article in this issue. As CIDM Director, I’ve set up a special LinkedIn subgroup to the CIDM group called theAcademic/Industry Collaboration group. If you are interested in contributing to the dialogue, please request to join.

Our first endeavor will be a survey, designed by Sid and focused on narrowing the field of potential research projects to those with the highest level of interest. The survey Sid put together was based on the results of the informal research survey conducted at Best Practices. But don’t forget that the research work doesn’t happen for free. You need to start developing a research budget, supported by your senior management, to answer the questions that they are asking of you.

How many writers is the right number in your organization?
What do customers really want from technical information?
Are mobile devices and multiple media the optimal directions for future information delivery? And for which audiences?

And many more questions to come.