What is IT documentation?

| By:
Ali Peracha

Does this situation sound familiar?

A client calls in with a problem, and one of your technicians jumps on it right away. The fix isn’t a quick one, so your technician does what they can and leaves the office for the day. The client calls back, and a different technician picks up the work. Except they can’t make heads or tails of the first technician’s notes, or the information they need is scattered across various systems. Your technician is frustrated. The client is frustrated. Everyone is unhappy.

If you’ve seen this happen at your managed services provider (MSP) business, then you’ve run into problems with IT documentation.

IT documentation is absolutely necessary for MSPs to deliver continuous, efficient, and timely service to their clients. It can also help you scale your MSP business by creating efficiency, documenting shared processes, and enabling better, faster client service. 

In this post, we’ll define IT documentation, explain why it matters for MSPs, and provide steps to get started.

What is IT Documentation?

IT documentation is, simply put, the processes or systems by which an MSP keeps track of all the information and data related to technical work. It can look like a set of standard processes, a shared language in terms of classifications and naming conventions, and more.

There are numerous best practices for IT documentation, but one of the best ways MSPs can bring documentation under control is to invest in IT documentation software. The right software brings together information from across silos and integrates with other crucial tools—such as your RMM or PSA—to create a single version of the truth for every technician, at any moment, on any given day.  

An IT documentation tool can:

  • Provide a birds-eye view of all the companies you service
  • Offer a snapshot of client feedback and satisfaction
  • Consolidate all the tickets for a single client
  • Keep track of important domain information
  • Match and merge data from other key MSP tools

An example of this type of software is IT Boost from ConnectWise, which provides a comprehensive but easy to understand dashboard of all key performance indicators, client feedback, and more.

Why should MSPs care about IT documentation?

If you’ve been in business for a long time, you’ve probably generated quite a bit of data. And, chances are, that information is scattered across various systems, software tools, and technicians’ memories. IT documentation brings together information from across these silos of chaos, delivering many benefits to MSPs.

Creates consistency in client service

Without good IT documentation, MSPs are vulnerable to losing information due to shifts in staffing. If information only lives inside someone’s head, it can disappear at any given moment. All it takes is a technician retiring or leaving for a job at a competitor. 

Suddenly, you’re not able to find the information you need to help a long-standing client, resolve a dispute, or understand the context for an ongoing issue. It’s impossible to quickly and accurately answer client questions or to provide continuous service from one technician to another. While you may be able to weather a haphazard approach for a while, eventually it catches up to you.

IT documentation creates a solid trail for technicians to follow and ensures that the right information is available to any technician who needs it.

Generates savings

The problem with a scattered approach is that you cannot understand at a glance where your information lives. Technicians end up spending valuable time chasing down information to respond to tickets. They may even need to call a colleague for what is, in reality, fairly basic background or information. As mentioned, these inefficiencies can ladder up to issues with client service. But they also have financial repercussions. Every minute your technicians spend chasing tickets incurs costs. See for yourself with our IT documentation calculator.

It’s amazing how fast inefficiencies can add up. IT documentation reduces these inefficiencies and helps MSPs save money.

Improves technicians’ experiences

When clients are angry with you and even the simplest tasks are a headache, it’s not hard to dislike your job. That’s the case for technicians who, without good documentation, are simultaneously searching for information while fielding calls from clients who just want their problems solved as fast as possible. 

With greater consistency and easier to access information via good IT documentation, your technicians’ jobs become much easier and more pleasant. They’re able to solve clients’ problems and make them happy (which is always a good feeling), and they can do that without a huge hassle. And they get more time back to focus on pressing, make-or-break tech issues, such as cybersecurity threats. This helps with talent retention, and it helps preserve the margins on your MSP business.

Enables remote work

Being able to provide consistent, around-the-clock service has become increasingly important with the rise of remote work. 

Your technicians may be themselves working remotely, which means they can’t just lean over a desk to ask a colleague for insight; they need to be able to find that information virtually. Your clients are also working remotely, which means they are managing devices from multiple locations and on different networks. These clients rely on MSPs for remote monitoring and management (RMM) more than ever before. 

Excellent IT documentation allows your technicians to be more successful in performing their jobs remotely. 

Supports compliance

MSPs handle sensitive information, and, depending on your clients’ industries and the types of information your MSP processes, stores, or accesses, there may be certain privacy or security regulations to consider.

Many frameworks require organizations to store data in certain ways, and to be able to investigate cybersecurity incidents quickly. Without IT documentation, MSPs may not be able to accurately assess the extent of a data breach or respond in a timely manner, if a client is breached and requires information from its vendors or contractors. 

How can you start?

Time. It’s one of the biggest fears we hear about with managing IT documentation. MSP owners and technicians alike worry that documentation processes will take time away from their work. In other words, they want to know: will this make my job harder?

By implementing good IT documentation, MSPs can actually save time. Change always requires some work, and it can take time culturally to accept new processes. But once everyone follows the same IT documentation processes and has access to the right tools, MSPs save time on the manual effort of having to track down information across systems and call colleagues for clarifications.

Some good ways to start your IT documentation process include:

  • Gather information from your team about their current processes, standards, and needs
  • Create a guide of internal standards (e.g. naming conventions)
  • Train the team on guidelines

In addition to the tips above, automation is a powerful tool in IT documentation. By automating certain repeatable, simple tasks, you can ensure that those tasks are documented no matter what. Automation also frees up technician time, which allows them to focus on more important tasks and on helping clients. Review the most common tasks your technicians perform and then prioritize which can be automated.

Grow your MSP with IT documentation

When you’re starting and growing a business, documentation may be the last thing on your mind. After all, you’re busy hiring the right people, winning business, and keeping clients satisfied. But over time, the problems stemming from IT documentation will only hold your MSP back from further growth and success.

IT documentation supports more efficient work, better client service, and consistency across the business. All of these factors are crucial for scaling up your MSP. With more time in the day and happier clients, MSPs have more opportunity to win new business or expand current accounts.