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January 21, 2007

If it’s not Scottish, it’s…

[refresh your memory here]

The Aberdeen Group has released a new report, entitled The Next-Generation Product Documentation Report: Getting Past the ‘Throw-It-over-the-Wall’ Approach. (Could that title be any less, um, Scottish?) Access is free until February 23 when you provide your email address.
The Content Wrangler
is not impressed:

The folks at Aberdeen do not truly understand the market, despite many interviews with thought leaders in the documentation arena. […] The survey appeared to be designed to obtain results for each of the sponsors […], instead of questions designed to paint an accurate picture of the documentation industry without regard for the concerns of sponsors.

I lost interest because I think their basic hypothesis is wrong:

Causing a missed product launch because of incomplete product documentation is
the nightmare of every documentation manager.

The vast majority of documentation groups that I’ve worked for/in/with don’t worry about “causing a missed product launch.” If the documentation isn’t ready, the product will still ship. The documentation may be incomplete, inaccurate, unreviewed, or otherwise problematic, but the product will ship.

I know that there are some industries (medical devices come to mind) where documentation is in fact regulated just as the product itself is. But the vast majority of technical writers that I’ve worked with are concerned with triage — how much of the doc can be completed by the (generally ridiculous) deadline?

Am I missing something? Is there a world of documentation managers out there who stress about actual product delays because of documentation?