Numerous managed service provider (MSP) businesses start as one-person shops. As a result, a sole proprietor often doesn’t see the need to document processes or information – after all, who are they sharing it with? But when the business grows to two or more people, they may realize they’re already far behind the curve. As a result, MSP founders are left having to painstakingly pass on what they know or live with the fact that new team members have to start over from ground zero to learn about clients’ operations and their IT needs.
An even more alarming fact is that MSP businesses that don’t document vital information can lose some of it completely. For example, if a technician or account rep leaves your company, they may be taking valuable knowledge about IT systems or clients with them that no one else in your organization has.
What to Document
MSPs need to document two general types of information:
- Client data – This category includes details of your clients’ IT environments, including hardware inventories, applications, passwords, processes, and information on past problems at their locations and how you solved them. You can also proactively educate clients on how you’re keeping track of this crucial information and share it with them so their staff can help keep it up to date — or just for their peace of mind that someone is keeping track.
- Internal data – Documenting internal processes can also have significant value for MSPs. HR and finance data are often handled by a single person in a growing company. It’s smart for MSPs to document processes like how you onboard new employees, how you do payroll every two weeks, how to arrange for travel, and information like vendor agreements and passwords for vendor portals.
Documenting the Practical Way
Unfortunately, when MSPs realize how vital documentation is and begin to keep records, they can encounter some challenges. One pitfall to avoid is information sprawl or tool sprawl. For example, information may be in Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, OneNote or a wiki instead of a central location. This situation makes it hard for an MSP team to find the information they need quickly and efficiently.
Using an IT documentation tool that provides a structured application layout, technicians will always know where to find certain things on the page or in specific areas of the navigation sidebar – information is documented consistently.
An IT documentation tool can also allow you to track who is making changes to records and keep previous versions so you can revert to them if necessary.
Features of an IT Documentation Solution to Look For
There are additional features of an IT documentation solution that can increase its value to your organization:
- Integrations – An IT documentation solution integrated with professional services automation (PSA) or remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools can allow you to access information about your clients without leaving the application, streamlining processes.
- Contextual data – Your IT documentation solution may allow you to connect or associate one document with another. For example, if one technician encounters and solves a problem, future tickets can be linked to that information, saving time.
- Runbooks and Reporting – Your IT documentation solution should enable you to export all information about a specific client to a PDF to share it with them, helping you to create transparency and trust. This can also be a valuable tool during the sales cycle to show your prospects that you will document their IT information in a comprehensive and structured way.
- Flags – Your IT documentation tool may allow you to flag new records for review, triggering webhooks that alert managers via a collaboration tool or email that there’s a new document that needs their approval. The ability to improve workflows and processes is critical.
- Sharing and Collaboration – A best-of-breed IT documentation solution can also give you ways to share specific segments of the data with customers so they can interact with it. The solution may even include client-facing products that you can package as a product to give your clients added efficiency in their operations — and to generate recurring revenue for your business.
Can You Live Without an IT Documentation Solution?
MSPs are quickly realizing that documentation is no longer a nice-to-have. It reduces risk to their businesses and their customers – even if employees leave the company or assume new roles, the MSP can continue to provide a consistent level of service.
IT documentation is a core part of any successful MSP business.