How to get IT documentation right for MSPs?

Illustration: Ram Prasath


The significance of proper IT documentation and how to do it.

Providing good customer service includes making your end-users feel supported and cared for through the entirety of your service. But excellent customer service implies proactively responding to customer needs and eliminating reasons why customers might reach out for support in the first place.

A comprehensive, well-drafted MSP client documentation is key to ensuring top-level customer service.

With the information laid out concisely to answer any queries and questions end-users might have, IT documentation helps companies and clients save valuable resources and streamline business operations.

For IT documentation to effectively serve its purpose, there are necessary best practices to follow.

Let’s discuss IT documentation and explore actionable strategies MSPs can leverage to ace documentation.

What is IT documentation?

IT documentation for MSPs refers to creating, storing, and organizing documents in such a manner that managing monitored and non-monitored assets become as efficient and seamless as possible.

As companies grow and the data they generate increases, it becomes tougher and tougher to keep track of process information. With ineffective accessibility to necessary data at specific times, it becomes exceedingly stressful and disruptive to maintain a smooth flow of operations or initiate collaborations.

This is why MSPs need a documentation management solution that provides them quick and uninterrupted access to IT data for accessing information as needed. This is key to bolstering operational efficiency and ensuring compliance with documentation standards.

Why do MSPs need to get IT documentation right?

Here are the top benefits of having a great IT documentation strategy in place.

1. Ensures you have a centralized location for crucial data

How you store and organize documents determines how easily you can retrieve and access them. A digital management system that leverages a centralized hub to store your important files is key to improving efficiency in day-to-day operations.

For organizations maintaining hard documents or other traditional documentation systems, it can be challenging to manage huge volumes of data. Even with a spreadsheet-based model where files are stored on your desktop, it poses the challenge of inaccessibility and disorganization. 

With a cloud-based data hub, you can strive to implement more uniform control measures, seamlessly and securely share information with intended recipients, and collaborate without interruptions. This way, you have greater control over operations and everyone can remain on the same page.

2. Provides uninterrupted accessibility

If you have documented procedures and policies for different departments and roles — and there are multiple individuals accessing them — it makes sense to have standard conventions and compliance protocols throughout the organization. 

For instance, common naming conventions will make it easier for end-users to access files when they need them. Not doing so can make it difficult to find documents instantly.

To improve accessibility, it is imperative for MSPs to have a management system where files are stored and organized in an efficient and appropriate manner. It shouldn't hamper the productivity of an organization or waste technicians' time. 

A centralized hub that adhered to set rules and regulations also ensures easy maintenance of documentation.

3. Empowers flexibility and scalability

A company-wide IT documentation strategy can be key to empowering flexibility and priming an organization for scalability. But it's not an easy task, especially when large-sized businesses are concerned. Even with small to medium-sized businesses, there are different departments and employees in different roles. For every role, there must be varying levels of access to ensure top-notch security and confidentiality.

However, when implemented effectively, an MSP documentation system can benefit end-users at every level and department. This also facilitates ease of management and flexibility in internal operations without hindering productivity.

For instance, if there are multiple technicians in different departments using a specific documented file, you can individually grant access to them. Or if your files contain sensitive data, you can restrict access to unauthorized individuals to protect privacy.

Who should undertake IT documentation in an MSP company?

The responsibility of IT documentation is initially melted to one or more individuals in an organization where they set up, ingest, and organize data. They closely evaluate the documentation requirements, define standards, and initiate a process for the rest of the team to follow. It is also up to these documentation admins to train techs and end-users to effectively leverage the IT documentation strategy.

Once these tasks are complete, IT documentation duties fall on all techs in the organization who will access and use the data.

Depending on whether the company is small, medium, or large-sized, this process can take several weeks to months.

How long does IT documentation typically take?

The amount of time you spend on streamlining IT documentation depends on several factors — the type and amount of data you need to document, the medium you leverage to document data, and the standards different MSPs comply with. 

For instance, MSPs have a fixed number of items that they'll document for their customers. If they choose to modify, i.e., add or remove this number, the time will vary accordingly. Further, while some MSPs use automated software solutions to speed up documentation, others leverage spreadsheets. 

In practice, IT documentation solutions allow quick and efficient storage of data which ensures your techs’ everyday workflows are streamlined.

MSPs should typically determine the means of documentation and the list of items that will be documented as they onboard new clients. At this point, they can estimate how long it will take them to ensure effective documentation. This can be used as a reference for future client onboarding.

5 best practices for MSPs to ensure effective IT documentation

MSPs require strict guidelines and procedures to ensure effective and secure documentation. This includes monitoring who has access to documentation solutions, keeping track of new models in the market to equip organizations with modern solutions, and arming end-users with the necessary technical knowledge to leverage documentation procedures effectively.

This is best achieved using an IT documentation system that restricts logins based on security clearance, includes built-in standard operating procedures (SOPs) to get started immediately, and ties up underlying processes in a comprehensible manner for ease of use.

Here are a few IT documentation best practices that MSPs should follow in order to ensure operational efficiency. 

1. Have robust security practices in place

An MSP's foremost priority should be the privacy of client data. To ensure robust security, MSPs should sit down with clients and discuss the level of security they seek and how the MSP can deliver the same.

On an MSP's part, it is a good idea to gain as much information as possible on who can access which information, which devices need to be authenticated, and how auditing trails can be accessed. 

If MSPs are dealing with sensitive data, they should leverage additional layers of protection for authorized individuals. Here, it is necessary to leverage directory authentications and adhere to security compliance, TLS protocols, and SSL technologies.

To speed up the process and avoid unnecessary interruptions, it is a good idea to use an automated solution that takes lifecycle management regulations into consideration. This will ensure any documents that are no longer needed will automatically be removed, and there won't be a need to establish a destruction schedule.

2. Establish consistent procedures

Having consistent procedures and policies like naming conventions and documentation guidelines ensures you can easily retrieve files as needed. Otherwise, it can be extremely challenging to find the right files at the right time. 

This is why MSPs should ensure they have consistent and standardized naming policies that are easy to remember and informative. For instance, a naming convention for MSPs would be to use the file's date and client name.

Most modern IT documentation programs have built-in file name templates to make the task quick for end-users. Train users so you can establish consistency throughout the documentation process and streamline communication. 

3. Determine who will have ownership of your documentation system

While your documentation system will be used by all tech teams, it is a good idea to have a dedicated admin heading the program to ensure efficiency in the process.

A designated admin will help streamline internal operations, make decisions more quickly, and bolster productivity, despite having a team of individuals using the systems. This will also help improve accountability and ensure an efficient documentation management strategy.

4. Have a document retention strategy

Depending on the industry your clients belong to, there will be different compliance protocols and regulations to adhere to with respect to document retention. A focused document retention policy ensures compliance with regulations, and doing so ensures everyone in the organization is clear as to how long a document should be retained when it can be archived, purged, and so on.

Plus, when a client has exhausted the use of a document, they can authorize when and who will remove the data.

5. Make sure documentation is an ongoing process

MSPs should establish a strategy to regularly review the documentation system to weed out issues, make modifications, and renew services as needed.

How you ensure documentation and what software you use should change from time to time. If your strategy is no longer delivering the results you need, consider switching to a more robust and efficient documentation management system. The idea should be to have a documentation system that supports the scalability and growth of your business.

And finally, implement IT documentation right 

IT documentation is a means to speed up and standardize the documentation process. This includes storing documents effectively, standardizing processes, and mapping data relationships for easy access. Make sure you implement it right for prolonged benefits.


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