What is IT Systems Documentation?

IT managed service providers (MSPs) know the importance of efficiency. However, countless MSPs have fallen behind when it comes to accurate, automated documentation for client systems.

As a result, many MSPs still manually document information regarding software, hardware, security protocols, and user access for long lists of clients, which leaves them vulnerable to unexpected changes. When paired with the difficulties of managing their own internal documents, manual documentation can become time-consuming, stressful, and frustrating for MSP leaders, employees, and clients.

As an MSP professional, you know the importance of seamless operations for your clients, but it’s likely you’re missing the tools you need to automatically document vast IT ecosystems for your clients.

Simply put, responsive technical documentation software is integral to maximizing profits, increasing visibility throughout your stack, and boosting efficiency. Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at documentation software solutions for MSPs, what IT documentation is, and the steps you need to take to streamline your documentation processes, increase efficiency, and satisfy your clients.

What Is IT System Documentation? System Documentation Answers for Busy MSPs

IT documentation is a record of the critical information your MSP company handles internally and externally. Internal documentation encompasses the details, workflows, project plans, and information relevant to your in-house operations. External documentation centers around your clients, the services you provide them, and their internal operations.

IT systems, hardware, and software documentation work like an owner’s manual for your organization. Your document management system should include any information essential to daily operations. Further, it should be comprehensive enough to enable another staff member to take over the duties of a systems manager without a lapse in service.

At its most basic, IT documentation focuses on tracking, managing, and storing data. It ensures that teams are on the same page and simplifies the transfer of knowledge, information, and skills between employees. When created using automated technical documentation software, the process results in a clear, comprehensive, accessible guide suited to the needs of multiple users, including general office staff, development team members, and clients.

When to Use IT System Documentation Software

Generally speaking, you should deploy software to create and manage your IT documentation as early as possible, especially if you oversee systems for multiple clients. Even so, implementing the new software may feel overwhelming due to the sheer amount of data and effort involved.

With that in mind, an automated platform can improve the process by creating standardized documentation for your entire stack. Before you begin documenting your managed IT environment, consider tackling small operational tasks first, such as:

  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Hardware and software components
  • Frequently asked questions and video tutorials
  • System backup information, configurations, and other information about web applications and IT components
  • Managed assets and service history
  • Release notes, project data, and intellectual property
  • Security protocols and passwords
  • Client SSL certificates

Why Use System Documentation?

IT documentation is a valuable resource for any MSP company for various reasons. Ultimately, though, the benefits come down to increased efficiency. For example, automated documentation practices can contribute to:

Quick Problem Solving. When an issue arises, your clients want a solution as quickly as possible. Integrating IT documentation software with remote monitoring and management tools enables your team to rapidly access the information they need anytime, from anywhere, with less effort.

Employees aren’t wasting time digging for information on the client. Instead, it’s all readily available in an easy-to-search knowledge bank. The result is a streamlined procedure, a quick solution, and a satisfied customer.

Consistency Across Services. Documentation software provides all technicians with a central information hub and a network to update it, allowing you to rotate technicians on accounts without  changes in customer service quality. Using documentation also ensures consistent service delivery.

Fewer Issues. Access to consistent information results in fewer troubleshooting issues, as every member of your team has the same “instructions,” so to speak. In addition, your team can identify, document, and systematically address any operational errors that result from the instructions.

Finally, in the event of an issue, the software makes it easy to identify the technical breakdown and determine who or what caused the problem, resulting in optimized, error-free operations.

Seamless Customer Onboarding. When pitching a prospective customer, the ability to onboard them quickly is a significant competitive advantage. Consistent, automated documentation for onboarding new customers enables your team to get them up and running in no time, avoiding issues at the early stages in your professional relationship.

Effective Technician Training. Why do so many MSPs worry about turnover? It’s not that there aren’t new engineers and developers out there. Instead, training takes considerable time and resources, regardless of the new hire’s experience, education, or skill level. By ensuring that new hires have access to consistent, up-to-date documents, staff members will learn the ropes faster and reduce training costs.

5 Steps for Documenting Your Systems

Properly documenting your systems and keeping all documentation up to date is critical. Inconsistent or outdated documents have no value and can even be detrimental to your operations. Your MSP needs a responsive documentation update process that reflects all information changes as they occur. When developers upgrade tool requirements or clients change their SOPs, your documentation should immediately reflect this change. After all, what good is an outdated instructional manual?

Using an automated IT documentation tool is the most effective way to document your IT systems. After establishing a baseline with each client, the documentation platform will send automatic notifications to keep you and your team on top of system changes. Further, you can use the platform’s timeline and detailed change alerts to view relevant updates and respond proactively to potential problems.

To create robust documentation systems and maximize visibility throughout your organization, consider the five following steps.

1. Identify Your Key Systems

Before implementing automated documentation tools, you need to identify all the critical aspects of your business processes, including:

  • Hardware and software
  • Network services and IT environment configurations
  • Security and backups
  • Service history and records
  • Customer data

Organize your managed service provider operations into categories by considering one operational unit or department at a time. Then, write down each unit’s functions, procedures, critical tasks, and workflow. With this step, aim to be as comprehensive as possible.

2. Draw Up a “Systems Diagram”

After identifying all your MSP’s essential systems, the next step is to create a so-called systems diagram, effectively mapping out the knowledge bases you’ve designed to combine them into a single, interconnected IT ecosystem.

The diagram should include your existing internal and external systems and provide you with a bird’s eye view of all the methodologies that require documenting. For managed service providers, software, procedural, and operational systems typically fall within three main categories:

  • Internal documentation
  • External documentation for clients
  • Network documentation

3. Make a Prioritized Business Systems Listing

Using your systems diagram, create a list of all the systems your business requires to carry out day-to-day operations. Ideally, you should record all systems using software, such as a comprehensive and cloud-based IT tool. A no-code automation tool can become a living documentation platform for controlling and planning development efforts and documents created throughout your company.

With this tool, you can create to-do lists and assign a priority level to each systems document, streamlining your team’s activities. Your technicians will also be more effective, as they will always prioritize your clients’ critical tasks.

4. Assign Accountabilities for Documenting the Systems

In most MSPs, there’s far too much data for one person to document everything – nor would one employee have the skill to do so. Typically, after establishing a hierarchy of systems requiring documentation, the next step is delegating some of the documenting operations to your managers and employees.

However, with an automated platform, employees can remain focused on their daily tasks without worrying about manual documentation. Instead of inputting overwhelming amounts of data by hand, the technical documentation software integrates with other MSP systems to create maximum visibility throughout your organization.

5. Develop and Use a Standard Approach for Documentation

The final step of implementing documentation is to standardize the IT documentation process. Previously, documenting various systems would make up a substantial part of each team member’s daily tasks, as employees worked to ensure that all systems were updated and accessible.

With a cloud-based documentation platform, your employees and clients can enjoy standardized, scalable documentation without the time and effort required to log each network manually. Further, technicians and other employees can access timely feedback and training to implement new procedures efficiently and consistently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the two types of system documentation?

Various types of documentation exist, and all of them aim to provide end-users with the information they need to work efficiently. The two primary system documentation categories for MSP IT systems include product and process documentation.

Process documentation includes both your internal and external how-to information, like service level agreements, development process notes, and standard operating procedures. Product documentation features descriptive information like customer data, equipment inventories, and other documents that don’t detail procedures or steps.

What are the four types of documentation?

In general, an MSP organization will use a combination of four documentation types, as follows.

  • Service overviews aim to answer questions about your services. Who is responsible for what, contact information for those team members, and other details regarding your service or support offerings all qualify.
  • Training and how-to tutorials focus on how to do things, detail best user practices, and feature step-by-step instructions for project and systems management. They are frequently used for training purposes, but also ensure everyone follows the same procedures to complete tasks.
  • Troubleshooting documentation explains what to do when something goes wrong in the IT environment. While these documents are often in guide form, they cover a broader range of tasks and include the if-then processes used by software engineers and IT personnel for troubleshooting and usability testing.
  • References include all your product documentation, such as software, inventories, customer contact information, user documentation, network codes, and more. These documents are informational and can act as resources for other documents.

What is IT documentation software, and how can it be used for document management?

IT documentation software provides a platform for efficient, automated document management. Your documentation system is useless if it’s challenging to navigate. For instance, if you have a massive knowledge bank, but it’s all between a Microsoft Word document and an Excel spreadsheet that employees must manually locate and open — good luck. You’re going to need it to keep that system organized and up to date.

The good news is that documentation technology has come a long way. These days, you can find documentation software that’s not just easy to use, versatile, and interconnected, but also largely automated.

We built Liongard with that in mind. Liongard integrates with a massive list of MSP tools to centralize information and allow every team member to make notes, troubleshoot using historical data, establish operational baselines, and respond to changes in real-time. It’s also a secure network that’s accessible from the Cloud. With Liongard, you get all the features you need to take the hassle out of creating and maintaining IT documentation for your MSP.

This guest blog is courtesy of Liongard. Read more Liongard guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of ChannelE2E’s sponsorship program.