Metrics, Goals, and Thinking Quantitatively

Being a bit of a quantitative geek myself, I find that one aspect that I have really enjoyed about the LavaCon conference is its focus on metrics, goals, repeatable processes, and optimization. Traditionally, some technical communicators and other content creators shy away from an engineering approach, sometimes arguing they are artists who should be untroubled by quantitative concerns. But several speakers that I’ve heard at LavaCon have focused specifically on the importance of thinking objectively and quantitatively.

Scott Abel, both at the Sunday Adobe event and in his Monday morning keynote address, emphasized the importance of metrics for content creators. If you do not want your technical communications work to be eliminated or outsourced, you must establish a case for what you do. If you are perceived as a cost center, rather than a revenue generator, you are setting yourself up to be cut. Content creators are still relying on mumbo-jumbo and what their elementary school language arts teachers told them, rather than thinking in terms of science and the what tasks they can do to objectively add value to their organizations.

Joe Gollner, in his keynote address on Monday afternoon, again focused on metrics. With his extensive work in large organizations, he has historically given presentations  such as how the use of XML can save $100 million dollars per year, because the use of XML streamlines processes.

Adam Polansky, in an interview, stated that his military experience had instilled in him a strong focus on goals. In his role as a user experience director and as an information architect, he finds that if goals and expectations are not set early, the “laws of physics remain in place”, and failure is likely. Metrics demonstrate, for example, that conversion rates improve with simpler interfaces.

Rahel Bailie, a content strategist, is very process-oriented. Content strategy, as she defines it, is a ” repeatable process that manages content throughout the entire content life-cycle”. Part of the process is that existing content is analyzed for its objective value. Some content that an organization has kept around is demonstrably of little use to anyone, as no one has looked at it for years or decades, but sometimes, the content’s creators and managers retain an emotional attachment to it that is not warranted. Every step of a content strategy must be grounded in metrics, and your objectives must be known and measurable.

Jay Tkachuk, who led the effort to create a new website for a major credit union, talked about how he was able to use metrics to make his case that the old website needed to be revamped. Metrics were then used to determine the success of a new site. Metrics were also used to determine that a Spanish-language version of the site, which would seem to make sense given the demographics of the users, would likely be little used.

How are you using quantitative methods within your organization? Send us a comment.