ROI: The Case For Investing in Your Business’s Documentation

©2015 Mark Henderson

There are as many business platitudes as there are businesses:  Focus on safety; focus on quality; focus on improved sales; focus on the environment; focus on small, furry animals. You’ve heard most of them before. Well, maybe except the “small, furry animals”—that was a freebie. But kidding aside, while all of these platitudes share a universal appeal, they are all really a focus on the business’s bottom line, or profit. Workplace injury (or worse) costs a lot, as do having to recover quality, losing sales, or sullying the environment. And while each of these profit-sucks may have obtuse root causes requiring unique solutions, documentation is and will nearly always be the common denominator.

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Lack of clear, concise, valid documentation is and will nearly always be the root cause of profit loss.

Unfortunately, many businesses fail to place high enough value on having clear, concise, and valid documentation for whatever it is that their business does. Documents that codify policy, plan executions, execute processes, or instruct users how to install, use, or maintain the business’s product are often hurriedly thrown together; and, too often, by people already over-subscribed with too much work, whose primary skill in the organization does not include the descriptor “Writer” anywhere in their job profile.

People already oversubscribed with work are often given the task of “writing” the company’s documentation.

Still, that is better than some businesses that seem to embrace the adage, “Documents? We don’t need no stinkin’ documents!” As a consulting technical and business writer, a large percentage of my clients over the years have fallen somewhere in this camp; that is, until something went terribly wrong, and I was brought in to help.

So, why invest in documentation? As were the plethora of root causes to those big-hitter profit-sucks, the reasons to invest in developing clear, concise, and valid documentation are, likewise, numerous.

So, why invest in documentation?

For example, task procedures can enhance safety, improve process or product quality, reduce risk of an environmental incident, and reduce the impact to the organization from an external audit. Of course, a business’s process or product quality will inevitably have an impact on sales, but an enhanced safety and environmental posture can also improve sales.

Task procedures can enhance safety, improve process or product quality, reduce risk of an environmental incident, and reduce the impact to the organization from an external audit.

There is a reason that the top quality standards (e.g. ISO, API) require organizations to “Document what you do; and do what you document.”

Another reason to invest in developing clear, concise, and valid documentation is to free up the people being paid to produce whatever it is your business does to produce whatever it is your business does!

Clear, concise, and valid user documentation (e.g. users’ guides, OMIs) improves your customer’s satisfaction and reduces unnecessary customer queries or requests for assistance.

“Document what you do, and do what you document.”

I’ve provided a few high-level examples to support the ROI case for investing in your documentation. And for brevity, I haven’t even touched on compelling web content driving sales, or cogent responses to RFPs acquiring contracts.

The case for investing in developing, using, and maintaining clear, concise, and valid documentation is simple: your business’s documentation will provide a return on that investment and, in the end, improve profit.