How To Get a Budget For Technical Documentation

One of the dilemmas for technical writers is getting a budget for the next set of technical documents. The problem is usually down to ROI. Can you prove that more documents are worth the investment? If not, why are we writing them?

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Getting A Budget For Technical Documentation

Surveys have shown the developers – and users – perform better when given documentation. One research article I read showed that ‘programmers who had no documentation spent 21.5% longer understanding the code.’

In other words, ‘undocumented code is 20% more expensive to analyse for changes, giving a direct potential saving in time.’

Let’s go back to ROI.

If you can:

  • Estimate the cost of writing tech document
  • Contrast is with the current wasted cost, e.g. Additional 20% of maintenance

You can demonstrate how it saves money to the IT department.

Using Documentation Plans to Estimate Costs

Documentation Plans are the simplest ways to determine the cost of technical documents.

In the Documentation Plan, capture the following:

  • Document to be written
  • Length of time to write documents
  • Identify who will write the tech docs
  • Identify their price per day (or rate)
  • Total the cost for the project

This gives you a firm guideline on how long – and how much – the document set will cost to be developed.

Once you have this, you can calculate the cost savings for technical support and other business units.

How Technical Documentation Reduces Costs

There are other benefits to the IT department as well.

  • Developers with technical documentation have a better understanding of the system (measured objectively by a standardized test)
  • Developers with technical documentation improved the design and alterations to the code faster
  • Without documentation, differences in skill levels between good and bad programmers disappeared.
  • With documentation, good programmers did better work than poor programmers.
  • Without documentation, both set of programmers did equally poor coding.

Conclusion

Spending money on the best developers is a waste without documentation.

Providing technical documents is an investment in your company, not an expense. The challenge for documentation managers is to find persuasive ways to demonstrate this.

What would you suggest?

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