Consistent naming conventions are crucial to getting the most out of your documentation. With strong naming conventions, you’ll be able to find documents efficiently, avoid creating duplicate documents, and easily understand the contents of a document without having to click into it. It’s important to get naming conventions correct early on to avoid having to go back and update a bunch of documents later. Remember, naming conventions are all about utility; once the system is learned, anybody should be able to interpret the document name accurately.

Best Practices

To develop the optimal naming convention for your documentation, it’s a good idea to review some of common best practices and basic guiding principles. You want to be able to get useful information from the name itself and make sure everyone can find the right file quickly and easily.

Create a naming convention by identifying elements of information that are most important to your organization. These are typically important differences and commonalities found in your daily operations/projects.

Consider the below for process documents:

  • Choose one date designation to use (e.g. YYMMDD, YYYYMMDD, etc.)
  • Try not to make the names too long (see the Use Abbreviations section further in this post)
  • Avoid special characters such as ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; < > ? , [ ] { } ‘ ” and |
  • Avoid using spaces. Alternatives include underscores, dashes, words with no separation, camel case)
  • Ensure that each name is unique for the same scope
  • Formalize your team’s content. Everyone has a common language to use when referring to their files and locations
  • Communicate to your team. Ensure there is training if needed and that the naming conventions are saved in a conspicuous location so your team can refer to it if needed
  • Establish how you want your version numbers to look
  • If you have more than nine files in sequential order, consider adding zeros in front of the version numbers to maintain the correct order (e.g. 001, 002, 003…)

With those best practices in mind, let’s look at some common naming conventions within IT Glue.
Org-device type-number

Or if the org has multiple locations:

Org-location-device type-number

Include the Organization?

If you’re already searching within a given organization, you might not want to include the organization. But including the organization can ensure that there aren’t any duplicates. In the above example, if you have two clients that use MacBook Pros, and they’re in the same city, the only differentiator between MBP-1 is the org. In general, we’ve found that including the organization is valuable, even if it seems redundant.

Use Abbreviations

A naming convention that seeks to cram a lot of information into the name will naturally lead to longer names. Use codes to shorten these. Distill each org and location to three letters or less. To ensure that your abbreviations are decipherable, compile a master document of the different abbreviations you’re using. Enforce internal consistency, of course.

Build it into the Automation

Documentation hygiene is important as you grow. The longer you’ve had a pro-level documentation system, the more documentation you’ll have. As you increase automation, you’ll end up with vast amounts of documentation, much of which may never have seen human eyes. There’s situations that might arise where the same device is documented by different sources, and in those situations, making sure everything is set up so that the naming is consistent will help immensely when you go to reconcile duplicates. The name that syncs into IT Glue via your PSA should already be set to your naming conventions – or make sure that the default ones are used consistently. Schedule routine reconciliations to ensure dupes don’t pile up too much.

Train Your Team

Training your team is the sort of thing that’s easy to overlook. But if you want your team to do things the same way, each time, you need to train them to do this. Otherwise, they won’t necessarily grasp the value and might just do whatever is easiest. An important thing to remember with training is that it’s just as important to convey the “why” as it is to convey the “how” with regards to the naming convention. Show your team the value – the ease of use, reduction in clicks, streamlined inventory checks, easy searching, and the reduction in errors (to name a few). Once the “why” is established, they’re likely to learn the “how” that much more quickly and, in a perfect world, develop a culture where they hold each other accountable for adherence to the system.

IT Glue’s award-winning documentation platform allows for efficient storage and retrieval of all the documentation a managed service provider needs to increase efficiency and streamline operations. Watch a demo today!

Yes, sign me up for a demo!