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What Measures of Productivity and Effectiveness Do Technical Communication Managers Track and Report?

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Purpose: Previous literature focuses on what practitioners should be doing to demonstrate the value of technical communication, rather than what they actually do. This study addresses the gap by asking managers about the extent to which they track two measures of value—productivity and effectiveness—as well as the expectations of sponsors for receiving reports on these issues.

Method: A survey of corporate communication, training, and technical communication groups was conducted. Participants were recruited through local chapters of the STC and the American Medical Writers Association. Ninety technical communication managers responded.

Results: The evidence suggests that activities for tracking productivity by technical communication managers are limited. Technical communication groups rarely solicit feedback and perceptions on individual communication products and employ usability testing on a limited basis. Technical communicators rarely track return on investment (ROI). Technical communication managers feel limited pressure to report productivity and effectiveness. The most significant criteria against which the productivity and effectiveness of technical communication groups is assessed is word of mouth. The evidence only partially supports this entering belief: Customer surveys play an important role in assessing general impressions of technical communication products.

Conclusions: These results are consistent with earlier studies and suggest that despite a discussion about means of assessing the productivity and effectiveness of technical communicators that has spanned over a quarter of a century, none of the methods of assessment has reached wide use. The study also suggests that perceptions are the most significant factor in assessing the value of technical communication products and services, and should be given more focus in future research and writing on this topic.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2014

More about this publication?
  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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