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Published on November 7th, 2008 | by Rahel Bailie


Documentation: Cost or Investment?

One of my clients is a leader in their industry. My contact person told me that they strive to exceed the quality norms for their industry as a way of differentiating themselves from the competition. I told them how unusual that attitude is, that to most companies, documentation is a necessary evil which they strive to produce as cheaply as possible at the expense of quality. Their company, I was assured, took quality seriously, and viewed good information as a competitive advantage. (As you can imagine, they are one of my favourite clients.) They knew intuitively what other organizations have found out the hard way: bad documentation costs money. From the government to nursing to consumer products, the hidden costs of inadequate documentation can be astronomical, often with lasting damage to a company‚Äôs reputation. A better way to think of documentation is an investment in customer relations. Good documentation–whether that take the form of a manual, online help, or internal specs–creates efficiencies in other areas: customer support, training, and engineering, to name a few. Is this true for all documentation? No, just good documentation, the kind that gets resources, time, and budget assigned to it; in other words, documentation that is treated as an investment.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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