If a recent survey of technical documentation managers (conducted by TechCom Manager) is any indication, most managers do not use metrics as a performance measure when evaluating the writers that work for them. This is, in our view, something that needs to change.

Not using metrics as a performance measure is an issue that needs addressed. It’s important to note that failing to use metrics indicates both a lack of professional management skills and a lack of awareness about content quality management software—tools designed to automatically collect performance metrics, among other measures.

When asked if “metrics are used to assess technical communicators where you work?”, 74% of the survey respondents said “No, metrics are not used as a performance measure.”

If technical documentation managers are to be respected as professionals, gathering and reacting to metrics are critical.

The survey also revealed:

  • The vast majority of respondents are managers, most of which classify themselves as documentation managers who work in a high-tech industry, and who have complete budgetary and hiring control over their staffs.
  • Managers’ most challenging activities revolve around finding good employees and balancing the workload with the resources they have.
  • Most feel their companies value tech writers moderately high, and most plan to maintain the same number of writers during the next year. Most staffs consist of both regular employees and contractors.
  • The skills/qualities that are the most important to most managers include writing ability, attitude/personality, and writing experience.
  • Most managers are degreed, having majored primarily in English or Journalism, and most earn over $90K.
  • Most managers are responsible for software documentation and online help.
  • Most managers are only considering using structured authoring and content-management software, but are already using single-sourcing.

With the bulk of managers coming from an English or a Journalism background, it’s no wonder that metrics aren’t being used to measure performance. It’s also telling that most of these managers find writing ability and experience as the most important skills—something that every college graduate should have regardless of their educational path.