7 Rules for Accurate IT Documentation
For managed services providers (MSPs), standardized IT documentation practices are necessary to maintain productivity and security. Without clear IT documentation rules that set an official protocol for capturing internal processes and customer information, data may become outdated or inaccessible. This leads to IT technicians spending unnecessary time looking for information needed to do their job.
Moreover, leaving important information in the hands of a single employee can lead to significant issues when the employee leaves the company or becomes unavailable. If undocumented, your technicians can easily lose client knowledge or make it unreachable, causing teams to waste time looking for the information—and inevitably delaying service to your customers. In the long term, a lack of accurate documentation can put customer relationships and the success of your business at risk. This guide explains the importance of accurate IT documentation and implementing an access management plan.
What does it mean to capture IT documentation accurately and appropriately?
Unless a clear, consistent, and enforceable system for documentation is established and disseminated throughout your workforce, it’s likely everyone will have different ideas about what constitutes “accurate” and “appropriate” IT documentation. Even with strong standard operating procedures that require technicians to keep detailed logs and notes, you’re likely to find every individual’s documentation strategy will be slightly different.
Consistent documentation has numerous benefits and it’s boosted by maximizing automation as much as possible. In an ideal documentation system, information like domain and SSL certificates, asset information, and warranties should be linked to a single central location. Appropriate and accurate documentation allows you to reap the following benefits:
- Faster resolution times—when technicians have access to the knowledge they need at their fingertips, they spend less time searching for crucial information. If technicians understand their documentation system, how and where to find what they’re looking for, and can trust it’s accurate, they can solve issues much faster.
- Consistent service delivery—strong and consistent documentation allows you to rotate technicians across accounts without any concern they might be out of their depth or facing a learning curve.
- Fewer troubleshooting problems—when documentation is comprehensive and accurate, it keeps everyone informed. By making the documentation process transparent even to customers, you can reduce the likelihood of them implementing changes in the environment that might cause damage. This results in fewer troubleshooting issues.
- Faster training—appropriate and accurate documentation allows you to train and onboard new technicians quickly and comprehensively.
While IT documentation is important for a range of different types of organizations, having appropriate and accurate documentation is especially important in the IT field. As you handle critical data for multiple customers, maintaining consistent documentation is crucial to keeping your business operations organized and your customers’ data secure. It’s also worth noting an effective document management solution or documentation platform also requires effective access management, which is crucial to running a successful MSP.
Rules for accurate documentation and access management
1. Standardize and enforce your practices
Creating clear guidelines to illustrate what consistent documentation practices look like is key in facilitating accurate documentation. By establishing and enforcing a standard, you can help ensure your entire staff adheres to your documentation practices.
2. Know what to document
You should build proper documentation across all areas of your support field—for technical administrators and customers. Here are a few examples of what you should document:
- Managed assets, systems, and devices
- Domain registrations, aliases for email, SSL certificates for clients, and MX records settings
- Services and applications, including Active Directory, line of business applications and the associated licenses, email configurations, system backups, file sharing and collaboration, LAN/VLAN, internet/WAN, printing, voice/PBX, and wireless
- Passwords and credentials required to manage each of the applications and services mentioned above
- The assets and devices hosting the services
- The vendors that manufacture and support the services
3. Structure your standard operating procedures (SOPs)
To structure your SOPs effectively, follow these instructions:
- Define the scope in the SOPs and outline what needs to happen for an outcome
- Describe the steps and information on when, who, and where
- Document all relevant details, including net workstation setup, system or data recovery, and so on
- Test your SOPs step-by-step to ensure they’re clear and accurate
- As a final step in every set of SOPs, include “updating documentation” to help ensure this is an ongoing process that is continually implemented
4. Centralize your documentation
Storing your documentation in a centralized location is key to making information easily available to the appropriate parties. Designate information as external or internal SOPs and tie documentation to credential management and key files, for efficiency gains. Organize articles logically, grouping them for easy access, and use templates where possible.
5. Enable your customers and end users to help themselves
By taking steps to alleviate the support load, you can save your technicians a significant amount of time and boost efficiency. To do this, publish self-help articles for customers to refer to, allowing them to solve their own issues. It’s also important to make documentation easy to export and/or publish online.
6. Ensure ongoing documentation management
Ensure all customer information is fully documented and accessible to the appropriate members of your team. You should leverage version control in order to gain insight into what has changed over time and to gain access to the latest updated version of a document.
7. Carefully manage permissions
Access control privileges determine who can access and perform operations on specific items, based on individual or group attributes. This maximizes security and productivity by helping ensure that everyone has access to exactly what they need—no less and no more. Apply granular data access assignments at varying levels based on customers, credentials, and folders to determine what actions an end user can or cannot perform.
Choosing the right IT documentation management tool
Implementing these seven rules for accurate documentation is a significantly less time-consuming and resource-intensive process when you have access to the right documentation platform. When looking for a solution, keep an eye out for a tool that helps link together the information your technicians need to solve an issue. Ideally, you should have a tool that can link together asset information, SSL and certificates, knowledgebase articles, and passwords in one location. Doing this makes it easy for your technicians to get what they need and solve issues faster.
SolarWinds Passportal and IT Documentation Manager is a cloud-based documentation management solution and network password manager that offers a range of sophisticated features in a user-friendly package.
This tool offers reporting, auditing, password change automation, and privileged client documentation management. It assists with implementing best practices by storing passwords in a vault controlled by role-based permissions and multifactor authentication. Passportal is built with security in mind, and maximizes automation, streamlining documentation management for MSPs. To start reaping the benefits, request a demo of this tool here.