My co-workers think that because our clients don't read our technical reports, we don't need to do high quality work (i.e. spend time revising, correct spelling, proper formatting, grammar, etc. ). They say finish quickly, make a big profit, move to the next project. Does this make sense if the technical aspects are satisfactory? These are engineering study reports.

I think if we continuously increase the quality, it helps us internally clearly communicate and understand we did as we do similar future projects. But since so many disagree and feel we should maximize profits, I am questioning if good technical writing really matters. Does it?

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    The only way this would be fixed is if customers were to start complaining enough that management will start to set quality requirements. Your co-workers don't care because they believe the customers don't care, and writing good documentation is hard and, in this case especially, unrewarding.
    – HorusKol
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:04
  • I have the same question. What is the actual intended audience of the reports? Have they provided value in the past?
    – jcmack
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:12
  • What are these reports used for? Reference in the future? "We did this and made these choices, because of x, y and z" ? Is there a chance the client will read them in the future?
    – Caroline
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:13
  • What does the client think? Do they want the reports? If so, do they want them at higher quality? Would they like reports that give them actionable information rather than just data? They're the ones paying for the reports, so they should be the ones deciding what happens.
    – PeteCon
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:16
  • Perhaps the current way of distributing the reports isn't effective? Often, reports and other documentation aren't read simply because they aren't readily accessible to the people that can use them. Are these documents easy to search for? Do descriptive links to them appear in web pages in the right contexts? Are your support staff trained to recommend and share these reports? Good writing only matters if it is read. Maybe you really have a "marketing" problem?
    – teego1967
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:47

As a slight frame challenge to the question, I have a suggestion. Step back from the argument, and determine what meaningful objective you and your team can focus on.

The reason why you're all disagreeing on how "good" the reports need to be is that there doesn't seem to be any correlation between report quality and any goal or objective you have. Ask yourselves:

  • Why do we produce these reports?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What use does that audience have for these reports?
  • What is the overall context for that use?

Are they required by some regulation? Are they meant to be basic documentation for reference, after the fact? Are they meant to be part of a client-facing deliverable? Are they used by your support team? Are they referenced by new hires, as part of their onboarding?

Once you can all agree on why you're making the reports, and who cares about them, the argument should evaporate. You may find yourselves faced with the fact that no one cares, and there's no strong argument to even continue doing the reporting. If that's the case, you should stop. Or, you may find that someone really does care about them - in which case, your argument for improving quality may become much easier to win.

Arguing about report quality without understanding the context of the report is like a bunch of builders sitting around arguing about how high a wall should be. Well, what are the requirements? Who even wants the wall, and what purpose do they have in mind? Are you just building the wall because that's what your team always does? Is there anyone outside your team that is actually asking for a wall to be built in the first place? How can any of the builders justify their argument for wall height without knowing these things? There's no point to even having the discussion until you know the answers to those questions.

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