IT documentation can benefit your managed service provider (MSP) or value-added reseller (VAR) business in a variety of ways, but there are right ways – and wrong ways – to build documentation processes into your workflows.
A. Alex Cabral, CEO of SI Portal, developer of IT documentation solution IT Portal, points out some common mistakes that MSPs and VARs make that may minimize the benefits your company will receive from IT documentation:
1. Not using a single platform for documentation
One common mistake that MSPs and VARs make with documentation is tool sprawl — not using one purpose-built application for documentation. “Using a file server or a wiki can be overwhelming because you don’t know where to search,” says Cabral. He says a better approach is a tool that’s robust, yet flexible, allowing engineers to search and find what they’re looking for easily.
2. Not providing your team with documentation guidelines
If you left decisions about documentation up to ten members on your team, you’d probably have ten different ways of documenting information. Cabral says using a documentation platform can provide a mechanism for outlining what your organization needs to document. “Be it a VAR, MSP, or internal IT, we need to ensure that the essential IT resources are well documented for easy troubleshooting,” he says. You can find guidance on the IT Portal home page that can help you build a checklist of what to document, such as client contacts, domain registrars, customer sites, applications, devices, passwords, and agreements.
3. Not training your team
Training employees is necessary to make sure they document correctly. Cabral says that documenting clients’ devices and system details may be sufficient for some VARs or MSPs, but others may want to relate them to the users that are using them or the maintenance contracts associated with them. “Once you decide to use a platform, you should sit with your team and denote the items that need to be documented and to what level each item will be documented,” he explains.
4. Not holding your team accountable
Cabral stresses that MSPs and VARs must make their teams accountable for documenting information and changes. “A rule should be stated that when any item is added, removed, or modified, the item needs to be documented,” he says. “Simply documenting the item and how to manage it may be sufficient to ensure that the next engineer can troubleshoot if needed.”
He points out that your IT documentation solution may be able to help keep your team accountable. IT Portal, for example, includes a scoreboard that shows all items that need to be documented for each customer and an onboarding checklist to make sure your team documents all necessary information.
5. Not tracking documentation as billable time
Cabral points out that, as part of any project or new customer onboarding, MSPs and VARs should account for the hours it takes to document the environment. “Our MSPs estimate around 10 percent of project hours are assigned to documentation,” Cabral says.
You shouldn’t consider documentation as an admin task, but rather as a value-add for the services you offer. “IT documentation provides value when a customer logs in and sees your work documented. It also ensures that future support will take less time, providing assurance when trying to convert project-based customers to managed services,” he explains.
Find the Right IT Documentation Process for Your Business
Cabral reminds VARs and MSPs that the goal of IT documentation is to standardize what you need to catalog for your customers—and it’s up to you to find the best way to accomplish this in your organization. “Determine what you need to document and ensure everyone follows the processes you establish for all customers,” he says. “You don’t necessarily need a documentation platform to do this, but it makes it easier by providing the needed structure.”