Numerous managed service provider (MSP) businesses start out as a one-person shop. 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. 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. 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
Luis Giraldo, VP, Product for IT Glue, says 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. Giraldo, also involved with an MSP for 13 years running, adds that you can 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. “I never felt like we were owners of the data, simply stewards of it,” he comments.
- Internal data — Documenting internal processes can also have significant value for MSPs. Giraldo points out, “HR and finance are often single points of failure for growing businesses. Only one person may handle those roles for your company.” He says it’s smart for MSPs to document processes like how you onboard new employees, how you do payroll every two weeks, or how to arrange for travel, as well as information like vendor agreements and passwords for vendor portals.
Documenting the Practical Way
Unfortunately, when MSPs realize how important documentation is and begin to keep records, they can encounter some challenges. “They experience information sprawl or tool sprawl,” Giraldo explains. “Some information is in Excel spreadsheets, some is in Word documents, some information is stored in OneNote or a wiki — information is spread out in a variety of different places.” This situation makes it hard for your team to find the information they need quickly and efficiently.
A better approach is to use an IT documentation tool that keeps all information in one, centralized application. Leveraging 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 in a consistent way.
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, so if one technician encountered and solved a problem, future tickets can be connected 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 give you the ability 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 key.
- 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 own operations — and to generate recurring revenue for your business. Giraldo says collaboration features like IT Glue’s “GlueConnect” are especially valuable to master MSPs who provide outsourced support to other MSPs. They can share information and connect through an IT documentation solution.
Can You Live Without an IT Documentation Solution?
Giraldo says 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.
“MSPs that commit to using it realize it’s a core part of how they do business,” Giraldo concludes.