[SECURITY | 4 MIN READ] Effective IT documentation can strengthen the relationship between an MSP and its customers, as well as provide a reusable process for the future.
As a managed services provider (MSP), customer relationships are at the core of your business. When you build trust with your customers, you retain their business and bring in new customers through word of mouth. For an MSP, onboarding new customers is one of the most important phases of the relationship building process. After all, the onboarding process is the customer’s first insight into how you’ll work with them.
It’s vital to create comprehensive documentation from the start to guarantee a successful customer onboarding process. In this article, we’ll examine why IT documentation matters during onboarding and look at best practices for this process.
Why documentation matters for onboarding
Robust information technology documentation is a crucial part of an MSPs job since the networks and systems MSPs manage continue to grow increasingly complex. But despite how important it is, it’s easy to neglect documentation during the onboarding process. Because the relationship is new, you’ll likely focus your time building a personal connection with your customer and explaining your role as an MSP. It’s easy to let tedious tasks like documentation fall through the cracks—but it’s a mistake to forget about documentation at this stage.
Information technology documentation standards are the foundation of an MSP’s work. The reason is simple: to properly manage a customer’s systems, you’ll need to learn what those systems contain and how they operate—onboarding is the perfect time to do this. Once you have a complete picture of the environment you’re managing, you can begin the work of securing, maintaining, updating, and upgrading your customer’s network.
The right documentation procedures also contribute to positive customer relationships. For instance, when you have a documentation process in place, you’ll build a knowledge base that grows over time. Instead of constantly asking your customer for information they previously shared with you, you’ll already have access to that information. When a network issue arises in the future, you’ll impress your customer by having the necessary information at your fingertips.
How to document the onboarding process
Let’s say you’ve signed a contract to provide managed IT services to a major new customer—and both of you are looking forward to a productive and long-lasting relationship. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get down to business.
Onboarding is the process of adding a new customer to your portfolio and gaining a complete understanding of their network and its needs. The process can range from a single afternoon (for smaller customers) to several weeks (for the largest customers). You’ll meet with the customer to learn about their IT systems and current procedures. The documentation process should begin here—make certain to keep a record of everything they tell you. You should end up with a full list of the customer’s hardware—what desktops, laptops, mobile devices, servers, printers, and routers they’re using—and where these products are in the hardware lifecycle. You should also record serial numbers, warranty information, and establish if there are any current hardware problems.
It’s equally important to document software. Find out what software products the company uses, whether they’re updated regularly, and if they have software as a service (SaaS) subscriptions. For more traditional software licenses, make sure you note product keys.
Next, look at their security and backups. Obtain a list of all users—both employees and vendors—and their account names and passwords. If you aren’t already using one, you should consider using a secure password manager to store customer details. Make sure to ask and document answers to these important questions:
- Which users have access to which parts of the network?
- Is your customer using backup software?
- If so, how often does your customer run the backup software?
- Are backups stored locally or in the cloud?
As you can tell, MSPs have to keep track of a lot of customer information. It’s a good idea to incorporate checklists into the process to ensure you’re not missing anything. You should also give your customers roadmaps and timelines so they know what to expect during the onboarding process. Documentation isn’t a one-time deal—it’s an ongoing process. It’s wise to keep a list of events that trigger the need to update documentation—like adding a new user or installing a new program.
Remember documentation is a two-way street. You need information from your client, but your client also needs information from you. It’s a good idea to give customers a handbook detailing the services MSPs provide and how they access them. You can customize the handbook to reflect the unique terms you have with one or more of your customers.
An IT documentation software solution
There’s a lot more that goes into properly documenting customer systems than meets the eye. Fortunately, having the right documentation software makes the process much easier. SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager is a fully featured documentation solution expressly designed for MSPs. It includes web domain and SSL certificate tracking, audit history, relationship mapping, asset management, and more—so you can ensure all your customer data is fully documented.
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