Thursday, March 15, 2012

Quality definition and measurement by JoAnn Hackos in her book on managing doc projects

Hackos, JoAnn. 1994. Managing Your Documentation Projects. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Discussion about quality and doc quality
  • Quality has never been simple to define because quality in technical publications is relative. Quality depends, at least in part, upon the perceptions of the users. 
  • Technical communicators have been reluctant to define narrowly what constitutes quality in technical publications. 
  • Simple measurements can be called as "manufacturing quality"--spelling, grammar, and formatting errors. This quality is important to the appearance and credibility of publications.
  • Tom DeMarco explains in Controlling Software Projects (DeMarco, 1982): "You cannot control what you cannot measure."
  • Issue of quality is also economic and emotional.

Definition of doc quality

Crosby defines quality as "conformance to requirements" (Crosby, 1979)

Various definitions of quality within the organization:
- rapid development
- low cost
- complete tech description of the product
- absence of technical errors
- attractive publication
- zero copyediting errors
- measured in usability

Hackos' definition of quality
Quality is meeting the needs of the customer, which makes it a political issue in most orgs because requirements of diverse customer communities must be balanced against each other. This means that group with most power might get to define quality.

Quality should include the needs of diverse customers.
Technical publications that add value have quality.

High-quality publications:

- make information more accessible
- make customer more productive quickl
- reduce training costs
- lower the barriers for discretionary and infrequent users
- foster use by diverse user communities
- reduce the cost of customer support
- can reduce the cost of field maintenance
- can increase sales of a product

Hackos' prescription for achieving quality
- set standards
- hire good people
- use good tools of the trade

To establish a quality metric, Hackos suggests setting levels of quality.
When establishing levels, take into account both product and process measurement.
Product measurement—describes attributes that can be judged by reviewing the finished document; index, organization, style, and accuracy
Estimating metric—hours per page

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