Should Manufacturers Publicly Share Technical Docs?

By John Honovich, Published Feb 01, 2010, 07:00pm EST

Technical documentation is important for evaluating products and learning how to optimally use them. User manuals, training materials and videos are some of the most critical. Despite this, a significant number of manufacturers provide no on-line access to this information or only after becoming a registered partner.

The question we examine here: Should these materials be made publicly available?

What Do You Think?

Sharing Publicly is Essential

We believe sharing technical documentation publicly on-line is essential for integrators and end users to effectively evaluate and use products. With today's technology, it's simple for manufacturers to not only share all their user manuals but their training materials as well.

Those Who Do Not Share Are Often Hiding

While manufacturers often talk about 'protecting' this information, we believe the most common reason is that manufacturers are:

  1. Hiding how difficult their products are to use or
  2. Hiding that their products cannot meet their marketing claims in 'normal' production environments.

While some manufacturers may have 'forgot', we have seen a high correlation between not providing this information and hiding problems. Lack of publicly available technical documentation is a 'yellow flag' or warning sign for our analysis.

Examples of Sharing Documentation

Most of the large manufacturers provide extensive documentation. Here are a few quick examples:

  • Bosch's IP cameras [link no longer available] offer A/E specifications, CAD drawings, Installation Guide, User manual, Technical Service Notes, Selection Guides, etc.
  • Pelco's IP cameras [link no longer available] offer A/E specifications, CAD drawings, Installation Guide, User manual, Quick Start Guide, safety instructions, etc.
  • Axis's thermal cameras released just last week already have Installation Guide and User Manual, etc.

Most manufacturers offer extensive technical documentation available for immediate access and download. These 3 are simply to provide reference to those who might be unfamiliar with this type of material.

On the other hand, quite a number of providers share very limited or no technical documentation publicly including Firetide [link no longer available], Genetec, DVTel [link no longer available] and BRS Labs [link no longer available] (who amazingly does not even provide a data sheet).

Benefits and Use of Providing This Information Publicly

Here are a few common benefits/use of publicly providing information:
  • A technician is in the field encounters a problem. It is after the manufacturer's business hours, the technician can simply go to the website, download the documentation and find an answer.
  • A technician has not been to training and has been assigned to install or service a product. He does not know the login to the manufacturer's partner portal nor does he have time to track this down. Again, he simply goes to the website, downloads the documentation and finds an answer.
  • An integrator or end user is evaluating different products and are checking for a few key features that are must haves for their use case. Without having to attend sales calls or fill out applications, they can quickly go to the website and learn for themselves.

Unlike brochures or marketing propaganda, technical documentation is generally quite accurate and reveals important limitations. This is a key reason we find technical documentation to be so useful in our analysis.

Recommendations

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