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July 15, 2013

Avoiding buyer’s remorse: techcomm tools edition

Yes, you can call me overly cautious.

Before making a purchase, I will research the you-know-what out of the item. If it’s a big purchase, I’ll hire a professional to help me make my decision (particularly when it comes to real estate). I’d rather part with a bit more cash than get angry with myself later for a bad purchase.

This careful mindset is why I can’t understand companies that purchase tools first and then seek consultants to help implement those tools. Why not work with a consultant before you buy?

In techcomm, we focus on tools. A lot. After all, tools are what we use every day to get our jobs done. That relentless focus on tools, however, can be a detriment when evaluating new strategies for developing and distributing content. Sarah O’Keefe and I wrote about this in Content Strategy 101:

A high level of proficiency in a specific tool fosters a sense of achievement and security in team members. But a strong attachment to a tool can cause “tool myopia.” … The straightforward (but admittedly painful) cure for this myopia is building requirements. Strategic thinking about content cannot happen when early discussions are framed as “Tool X can do this, and Tool Y can do that.”

When you are considering a move to a completely new process for content (DITA, for example), can you formulate strong requirements if no one on your team has detailed knowledge about that technology? Also, can team members with strong attachments to a tool or particular process objectively develop requirements for the replacement of their Precious?

If you’re fortunate, your company hires someone who has the very knowledge and wrangling skills you need to map business requirements for content to tool requirements. If you aren’t that lucky, I recommend you bring in a consultant—even just part-part-time—to help you sort out your process and tool requirements before you go shopping. The consultant can also help you vet the tools you’re considering.

envelope with tear strip marked "let the buyer's remorse begin"

flickr: benjami

“Imagine that! A consultant telling people to hire a consultant!” More work for content strategy consultants would certainly benefit me. The greater benefit, however, goes to the company that is about to make a huge investment in new tools and processes. Implementing a tool that will not meet the company’s needs in the long term—or that will never deliver what the tool vendor promised—wastes an enormous amount of time and money.

Buyer’s remorse over the purchase of electronics or a car is unpleasant. For expensive, department- and enterprise-level tools, buyer’s remorse can be a career-killer.