Can we judge a company by the quality of their documentation?



I had been thinking about this for a while.   Before I look into joining a software company I ask to see their documentation for products.  I have learned a lot about the future of the company and my interest from their documentation alone.  Here are some thoughts:

 But my product is so simple it does not require documentation

Yep I have heard that one before… allow me to translate that into my language… my product is so simple that it really should not be something you buy… nothing in IT is simple… you can write software to automate it and make it appear simple but it’s not.  Write the documentation… explain your technology. Open your doors so we can geek out with you.

We try to reduce the nerd knobs to keep it simple

Translation = we don’t want you messing with our product because it will break and we will not support it.  Fair point… if you know it breaks your product tell customers not to use it that way and why…  Does it expose a weakness? yes it does… is that a problem?  Depends on the weakness.  Do you have something to hide?  Sounds like it.  Do we want simple IT… sure but everything integrated.  I am a spider making a web of products connected.  No one buys your off the self total solution.

We cannot allow our competitors to steal our IP so we cannot explain our tech

Get a lawyer everyone else has one…   You don’t know they can reverse engineer your secret sauce in 10 minutes with the right people.  Heck save reverse engineering just buy your lead developer.. Get a lawyer and protect your tech like everyone else.

We need you to sign a NDA to see our documentation

Yes that happens when the company lawyers up… see previous post and sign the document.

We don’t want our customers discussing this technology

Educate me and then don’t allow me to become your advocate… not smart.  I am getting sick of tech gag orders.  They don’t help anyone… you turn your potential supporter into a enemy for life… neat idea.

Can we judge a company by the quality of their documentation?

Yes you can.  Too many companies take the view of you don’t need to know the secret sauce that makes our xxxx work.  This model is created from an attempt to protect intellectual property I hope.  The reality is it makes me mistrust your product.  Every product has limits why try to hide them.   Publish your products limits and strengths, explain you technology difference to help people make choices based upon what fits their needs.   Stop hiding how it works.  Stop making me go though a pay wall to get anything but white papers.   If your product is great you have nothing to hide.

Advise to Companies

Stop giving me feature webinars start educating me on your tech.  Product solid up to date technical documentation on your products.  Create a living documentation source like a knowledge bank.   Don’t put it all behind a customer only pay wall.   If your support organization cannot provide a customer a solution by pointing to your documentation or knowledge bank add it to the KB.   Create a community of customers via forums and social media and support them with rewards and assistance.   I have really been impressed over the last two years with two companies documentation even thou they are at odds with each other at times:

  • Nutanix – insane level of documentation on everything and awesome training program
  • VMware – Huge amount of products, very well-developed community, lots of documentation on everything including teaching how to troubleshoot, great community forums

In both cases the marketing runs most of the webinars and presentations I see.  They are all focused on the value proposition instead of the awesome tech.   It’s possible as I rant that I am the only person who really want to understand the tech.   Let me know if you agree or disagree.


2 Replies to “Can we judge a company by the quality of their documentation?”

  1. I agree. When I’m looking for a solution I generally don’t look a second time at products without publicly available documentation. Do companies really think I’d give my boss a purchase recommendation based on their marketing stuff? Hell no!

    1. Thanks for reading. I agree but a lot of companies still keep their documentation hidden. I forgot to mention projects like VMwares hands on labs which provides documentation and real world scenario’s for education. What a great opportunity.

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