Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hockey Sticks and User Assistance: Writing in Times of Resource Constraints

Committing resources at the right time ...

"Many technical communication departments are experiencing flat budgets, meaning they’re getting only small or no increases in headcounts, capital expenses, or training dollars. Worse yet, many departments are facing reductions in these resources. These reductions cause production pressures that are often confounded by increases in development headcount, here or offshore. Since more code equates to more features, which in turn drive greater revenues, companies are more willing to increase development budgets. On the other hand, adding writers increases costs, which in turn reduces margins.

How does this relate to hockey sticks?

First off, someone will inevitably tell you, “This year you have to do more with less.” When that happens, hit them with a hockey stick. What you do with less will be, well..., less! The point of this column is: If you are going to do less, you must make sure you are focusing on those things that add the most value. And that brings the hockey stick curve into play.
The Hockey Stick Curve

One of the repeating patterns in the universe is the law of diminishing returns, and its graphic representation looks like a hockey stick. For a given change in an independent variable—in the case at hand, effort expended—there is initially a sharp increase in the dependent variable—results output. Then, all of a sudden, the curve flattens out. Essentially, you reach a point where additional effort does not give proportionately greater results. The point at which the curve flattens out is the knee.

This brings us to the central theme of this column: In times of tight resources, you must make sure that you commit resources—such as headcount, tools, training, and time—on the steep part of the hockey stick curve. Once you hit the knee, don’t put any additional resources, including your individual time and effort, on a project. Put them somewhere else instead.

In the rest of this column, I’ll examine what are the independent variables writers can control, and how they can manage compromises on those variables."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Hockey Stick Curve- Usability, User Interface Design

Hockey Stick Curve

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