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Six reasons for rigorous IT documentation

Let’s face it, it’s not the most exciting or glamorous part of the job. What’s more , decision-makers and budget managers often fail to see the value documentation adds to the bottom line. It is neglected because of the ill-informed perception that the creation and maintenance of a best practice documentation strategy is both costly and time consuming.

However, this could not be further from the truth. Documentation of the network can offer a wealth of benefits beyond merely reminding us of what happened in the past. For starters, our industry is increasingly governed by regulation intended to keep users safe and eliminate rogue operators. IT documentation is a necessity for IT admins under the International Information Security Standard (ISO/IEC 27001) as well as region specific legislation. For the ever-increasing number of IT professionals whose roles fall under these types of legislation, documentation isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ process, it’s a critical component in compliance, ensuring business continuity and maintaining a license to operate.

But we shouldn’t just focus on compliance, as IT professionals we have KPI’s to hit. A comprehensive documentation strategy can be the element that pushes the performance of your IT environment to the next level. So, let’s take a look at six reasons why IT documentation should be a priority.

Reason number 1 – Decreased response time and minimised disruption

A critical factor in the role of any IT admin is being able to service the business and its users at speed. We all know how painful it can be when users are reporting issues to IT before they can be detected by admins. In fact, it’s one of the greatest frustrations reported by IT admins from the UK, with our research showing that over half (54 per cent) reported this to be their biggest pet peeve in the workplace. Yet, 86 per cent feel fulfilled that they are doing a good job when they can fix problems quickly.

This is where documentation can help immensely, while it won’t help eliminate bugs and errors from cropping up, it will mean that the necessary information is at your fingertips in an emergency. Meaning, IT can focus directly on system recovery rather than spending more time than necessary searching for IP addresses, system locations, or instructions.

Reason number 2 – Following the paper trail and knowing exactly what happened in a crisis

Documentation is just as important when IT needs to respond at speed in cases of an emergency. To comply with the guidelines for IT emergency management, the provision of complete and up-to-date IT documentation is mandatory. In fact, emergency management is not possible without documentation. This information defines the people responsible, who to contact and their telephone numbers so that the team and wider business know everyone involved and who to call in the instance of IT emergencies. Failure to be efficient and effective in a crisis can have devastating consequences not only for the IT department, but for organisations as a whole.

Reason number 3 – Increased retention of expertise and knowledge 

We’ve established having easy access to information at speed is critical. A big part of this is making sure it doesn’t sit in silos or in the heads of IT staff who then go on to leave the business. As organisations evolve and employees come and go, documentation eliminates silos and ensures knowledge is spread across the organisation, allowing for more efficient handovers and greater knowledge retention when a colleague leaves.

Reason number 4 – A deeper understanding of assets and infrastructure

It’s not easy to keep on top of your entire estate and the larger the organisation the harder it gets. In terms of enterprise level IT networks, visibility is vital to avoid security issues and shadow IT. But that’s not to say smaller businesses don’t also require deep insights into their IT assets. Whether its information on warranty periods or which employees are connecting to the WIFI on their smartphone, it’s much easier to keep up to date with a well-documented asset management system. What’s more it means you can say goodbye to the various notebooks you have in use and store all information in one centralised and secure environment.

Reason number 5 – Easier standardisation of processes

New hardware roll-outs and maintenance is difficult to plan when you don’t know what hardware actually exists. It is surprising just how many unknown or forgotten devices are located by newly installed asset management software. If administration and documentation of hardware components is done properly, special devices and old equipment can be found and, where possible, exchanged for standardised hardware, which helps to remove any delays to fast-track change.

Reason number 6 – Getting the most from your service providers

Just as much as IT documentation can help your own internal team and business, it’s equally as important to help external providers get up to speed when outside help is needed. A clear understanding of your IT environment gives greater insight into how external service providers can amplify practice by shining a light on areas that they may be able to assist in. Whether your staff have the insight to share this overview or not, understandable and clear IT documentation becomes vital when selecting and communicating with external service providers.

Beyond compliance, documentation is good business practice

Emergency procedures and regulatory compliance aside, incorporating IT documentation best practises into your IT management strategy is simply good for business. Building an in-depth understanding of your IT environment through network monitoring and documentation allows admins to locate, eliminate and predict issues before users are affected, allowing services to run smoothly and keeping customers happy. So, this begs the question, do you really know what is happening on your network?

Martin Hodgson, Head of UK and Ireland, Paessler AG