IT Documentation: A Beginner's Guide eBook

The time you spend searching for the right information is one of the leading causes of inefficiency. You may not have even realized that your workers are wasting too much time locating the information they need. A study by IDC estimates that an average knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours a day or 30% of their time searching for information. If this happened in your MSP, the quality of your service is likely to take a big hit.

Lack of proper documentation leads to a significant waste of time and effort. This will affect your competitive edge and put your client relationships in jeopardy. Fortunately, you can avoid all this by simply incorporating an IT documentation strategy in your organization.

In this eBook, we'll explore the different aspects of IT documentation and how you can leverage it for long-term success.

What is IT Documentation?

IT documentation refers to the collection of all the information concerning an IT infrastructure. This information could be used by the IT team to execute a process, operate efficiently, gain more knowledge, outline the steps to rectify an issue and more. With proper documentation, your IT team will have access to all the right information at the right time. In other words, you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel when there is a task to be executed.

What Is the Use of IT Documentation?

Reliable documentation can take your IT team a long way in terms of effective decision-making. With the help of documentation, you can boost the overall quality of your IT environment and make it much more reliable.

Why you should prioritize documentation in your MSP.

  • Streamline Workflows: When your technicians have documented information to rely on while performing a task, it streamlines the workflow in your MSP. Rather than attempting random fixes, your IT team can implement standardized procedures to resolve an issue. This will improve consistency and eliminate waste in the workflow.
  • Preserve Organizational Knowledge: When technicians leave an organization, the knowledge they gathered during their time at work will leave along with them. You can avoid this if you have documented processes in your MSP. You can document key processes for future employees to follow, which will ensure critical knowledge stays within your organization even when an employee leaves.
  • Encourage Knowledge Sharing: In addition to preserving knowledge, documentation also enables you to share this knowledge with the entire team. When a new technician joins your MSP, all you have to do is share the relevant training materials to bring them up to speed quickly. In addition, you can also share organizational policies, how-to guides, SOPs and more.
  • Employee Onboarding & Training: Onboarding has become extremely difficult in this age of remote and hybrid work environments. Proper documentation helps you onboard new employees with significant ease. You can have detailed instructions for every step of the onboarding process to make it consistent for all new hires. This ensures a standardized training process rather than delegating it to a senior technician who has to make time for training out of their busy schedule.
  • Support Compliance Requirements: With the massive increase in security incidents all over the globe, the demand for compliance services has increased proportionately. Most data privacy laws have special rules regarding documentation and the use of sophisticated IT documentation tools to facilitate the process. When your clients' information is documented securely, you can easily meet compliance requirements and boost your overall security posture.

Benefits & Importance of IT Documentation

The benefits of documentation were often overlooked by MSPs in the past. However, this has changed drastically after MSPs and IT teams started understanding the competitive edge it brings to an organization. To put it simply, IT documentation can reduce inefficiency and help you grow in a competitive market.

The key benefits of IT documentation are as follows:

  • Minimize Time Waste: When you have clear documentation for every process, your technicians spend less time trying t o understand how things should be done, who should do them, etc. Even a few unproductive minutes could add up over time and lead to massive inefficiency. Documentation helps you get things done quickly and minimizes the possibility of time waste.
  • Reduces Operational Errors: If you allow technicians to fix issues as they see fit, it could lead to errors in the process and inconsistent customer experiences. With documentation, everyone has clear steps with regards to what action needs to be taken. This increases accountability and reduces operational errors. When you have clear documentation, things are done correctly the first time and in accordance with organizational standards or procedures.
  • Creates & Boosts Efficiencies: Since documentation reduces time waste and errors, you can easily eliminate redundant work processes and avoid communication delays in the system. Streamlined workflows boost organizational efficiency while knowledge sharing uncovers new, more efficient ways of doing things.
  • Single Source of Truth: The documentation you gather in your organization becomes your single source of truth since it will be shared throughout the organization. This reduces the potential for errors in interpreting how tasks should be accomplished since there is a single, written record to reference. Your technicians can easily refer to this record and perform complex tasks in no time.
  • Promotes Quality Control: Written records encourage alignment and accountability. When technicians are held accountable for the documents they create, it results in better quality of work. Moreover, documentation strategies are created in line with expected quality standards. This boosts the quality of various work processes in an organization.
  • Ensures Organizational Longevity: Documentation is not just about achieving short-term goals. The benefits offered by documentation can be witnessed long-term through organizational longevity. When staff turnover and organizational knowledge transfer take place, the burden is minimized and the future viability of the organization is enhanced.

Types of IT Documentation

There are different types of IT documentation based on the purpose it serves. Since the purpose of documentation is to inform and record knowledge, you need to find the right balance in all these document types to make sure it isn't bloated or overblown.

The most commonly used documentation types are as follows:

  • Infrastructure Documentation: This provides information about an organization's IT infrastructure. Everything from hardware devices to software tools is recorded here. When technicians work on an issue, knowledge about the infrastructure is critical to identify the source of the issue and resolve it effectively.
  • Infrastructure Documentation: This provides information about an organization's IT infrastructure. Everything from hardware devices to software tools is recorded here. When technicians work on an issue, knowledge about the infrastructure is critical to identify the source of the issue and resolve it effectively.
  • Process Documentation: This involves capturing the information required to execute various business processes in an organization. It is an ongoing process that must be continuously updated to ensure efficient task completion.
  • Project Documentation: This provides information related to various projects in an organization. Everything from project activities to tools required is captured here. This also focuses on managing all other documents created over the course of a project.
  • Support Documentation: This refers to any documentation that involves providing knowledge to your clients. Your support desk may refer to these documents while providing service to your clients.
  • Technical Documentation: These are documents that explain the purpose, use, functionality and architecture of a product. Any document with technical specifications, API documentation, software code information, etc., can be considered a technical document.
  • User Documentation: These are documents intended for the end users to understand a product or a service. This should be included when you are delivering a product or service to your customer. Since it is intended for end users, it should be simple and easy to understand.
  • Network Documentation: This focuses on maintaining records of various computer networks in your organization including factors like applications, hardware devices, version numbers, security tools, connections, topology, etc.

Keys to Effective IT Documentation

The main purpose of documentation is to keep your users informed. For this to happen successfully, you need to incorporate it into your everyday workflows the right way. When implemented properly, documentation can help you save a lot of valuable time, money and effort.

Here's how you can make your IT documentation effective:

Be Thorough, Specific and Succinct

Good IT documentation should always focus on being clear, thorough and specific. When details are overlooked, it could create roadblocks and issues down the line. To avoid this, you need to document everything down to the basic details. This doesn't mean that your documentation has to be lengthy and cluttered. Focus on brevity. At the same time, don't leave out any detail you deem valuable.

Use Non-Technical Language

One of the key aspects of documentation is to understand your audience and use the right language to get the message across. Since your documentation has to be used by different departments in your organization, you should keep it simple without any complex technical jargon. Use layman's terms wherever possible.

Incorporate Visuals & Diagrams

A picture is worth a thousand words. Incorporate videos, images, guides, diagrams, etc. to help get the point across. If your documents are simply filled with text, your users might find it boring or difficult to read and your documents may not serve the right purpose. To avoid this, you need to use tables, graphs, flowcharts and images wherever possible.

Maintain and Update Regularly

Documentation is not a one-and-done activity. It is an ongoing process that must be reviewed and updated regularly. Make sure documentation stays up to date and is revisited with some frequency. Your documentation stakeholders must be instructed to add new procedures, documents, guidelines, etc., whenever applicable.

Causes of Poor IT Documentation

Proper documentation can work wonders for your organization. At the same time, poor IT documentation leads to many issues like inadequate knowledge transfer, process errors, inefficiency and more. To avoid poor documentation, you need to understand what constitutes poor documentation in the first place.

Here's a list of factors that lead to poor documentation:

  • Ambiguous and Vague Instructions: When your instructions aren't clear, the output you get from it will obviously be of low quality. Poorly defined documentation can lead to guessing and assumptions. It can also lead to many errors in the process.
  • Barriers to Knowledge Transfer: Make sure there isn't a communication gap. By using highly technical terms or acronyms that may not be known to everyone, you risk creating a barrier to successful communication. The language you use in your documentation can also play a role in its purpose.
  • Room for Interpretation: When your documentation isn't specific, it leaves room for interpretation. When you leave measures open for interpretation, you're leaving room for error.
  • Negligent Upkeep: Failure to maintain up-to-date documentation can often result in mistakes. Also, these mistakes can be costly to fix, which could result in wasted effort and money.

IT Documentation Best Practices

When you have IT documentation up and running, it is important to follow some best practices to develop and maintain it. Let's discuss some of the best practices you need to follow while incorporating IT documentation in your organization.

Automate When Possible

Your documentation process should be easier and less time-consuming. What better way to make that happen than through automation? When you automate all the redundant tasks in documentation, you can easily save a lot of time and ensure greater accuracy.

Standardize Formatting

Your documentation format should be consistent across the board. You need to enforce standards to make sure all your employees are following the same format throughout the organization. This can avoid errors in the process and help in the easier retrieval of knowledge from all the stored information.

Promote a Documentation Culture

Documentation is not something that can be done with just a few individuals in a team. It should be actively followed throughout the organization. You need to develop a culture of documentation and stress its importance.

Assign Responsibility

Accountability is critical when you want to make documentation work. All your stakeholders need to have clear roles and responsibilities for your documentation process. Make it clear who oversees upholding documentation standards and holds all participants accountable.

Establish an Update Cadence

See to it that documentation is always revisited and kept up to date. Develop a regular review process. When you review frequently, you can identify the errors in the process and rectify them on time. It also gets things done quicker.

Getting Started With IT Documentation

If you don't already have a documentation system in place, it is about time you got one. Building documentation is a strategic process. Documentation is not so much about the volume of information you gather, but rather the value you derive from the gathered information. You need to make sure you focus on that when you get started with documentation for the first time.

Tips to help you get started with IT documentation

  • Start Today: Once you decide to leverage the power of documentation, don't wait. Make it a priority and get started as soon as possible. The sooner you establish some documentation, the sooner you start moving toward a more efficient workplace.
  • Establish Hierarchy of Importance: Documentation concerns a lot of processes and tasks. You need to understand which of them are the most important to document. What is done most often? What will have the biggest impact on organizational success? You need to ask these questions before you start with your documentation.
  • Incentivize Participation: This goes together with promoting a documentation culture. Explore different ways to get participants actively involved, whether through rewards, reviews or any other means.
  • Consult Resources and Templates: When you begin your documentation journey, you may need to consult a range of resources and templates related to documentation. There are plenty of these out there to help you get started and you can even gain some valuable lessons from established documentation leaders.
  • Invest in an IT Documentation Tool: Manual documentation is often worse than no documentation. Besides wasting a ton of resources, you will be left with a process that is inaccurate. To avoid this, you need to invest in an IT documentation tool that can automate your documentation. A powerful documentation tool can completely change the scenario and give you a much-needed edge over your competitors.

Want to Learn More?

IT Glue's SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all of which are fully integrated and linked with all your documentation.

Why IT Glue Is the Best IT Documentation Tool on the Market

Documentation may seem like an overwhelming process but it doesn't have to be that way. IT Glue offers everything you need to maximize the efficiency, accessibility and security of your information. As a central hub for all your data and processes, with customizable accessibility for all of your staff, using IT Glue for your documentation practices will lead you to documentation mastery. IT Glue's SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all of which are fully integrated and linked with all your documentation.

To know more about how IT Glue can get you started with effective documentation, request a demo. Request a Demo
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