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Guide to MSP Internal Documentation: Principles and Practices

Guide to MSP Internal Documentation: Principles and Practices

Clear internal documentation helps managed service providers to offer a consistent level of support to their clients. It is a baseline for team education and new-employee onboarding. It also helps to ensure the same high standards across your company. 

Following is an overview of the benefits and principles of internal documentation, and a checklist for the documents that every managed service provider should have for this purpose.

Why Do You Need Internal Documentation?

Clear and concise internal documentation allows your company to onboard new team members faster, ensure an equal knowledge base and resolve problems more efficiently. All of this adds up to a more consistent and reliable support process for your customers, no matter which technicians are providing the support or how long they have worked at your company.

Principles of Internal Documentation

Following a few standard principles will help maximize the effectiveness of internal documentation.

All Support Technicians Should Be Trained in Documentation

Your technicians should not be permitted to begin supporting end-users without going through some sort of internal, document-based training. Moreover, support personnel should be continually retrained throughout their employment, and all employees should have an opportunity to assist with documentation development.

  • Documentation should be up-to-date. All of your technicians should be trained with current, up-to-date documentation. As the technology landscape changes, your documentation must change with it.
  • Training should be on-going. Technicians shouldn't stop document-based training after they are on-boarded. New training should be scheduled regularly so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Technicians should help you with writing documentation. Sometimes, the best way to learn about something is to dig in and do research. Other people learn best by teaching others. Both of these concepts can be leveraged by having service technicians assist in documentation development.

Training your technicians in written internal documentation helps to offer the best support possible to end-users. It also keeps resolution times short. Internally-developed documentation should be written specifically for your MSP company, not any type of MSP.

Documentation Should Be Kept Current

It's vitally important to keep all of your documentation up-to-date with current standards, technology, and procedures you use. Using expired documents with new staff will impede your training and reduce the quality of service that you provide to clients.   

  • Technology changes every day. Documentation needs to keep up with changes. When inaccuracies are discovered, documentation should be immediately updated for relevance, or removed from rotation. A plan should be put in place for handling documentation that is discovered to be out-of-date.
  • Documentation should be reviewed on a regular schedule. Your plan for keeping documentation up-to-date should include a schedule for reviewing current documentation on a regular basis. These reviews will help guarantee that documentation never becomes too outdated. The frequency of these reviews depends on the amount of documentation you are dealing with.
  • Older documentation should be kept for reference. Although documentation needs to be updated frequently, it’s a good idea to be able to reference earlier copies. This will help paint a picture of initial setups and procedures when troubleshooting issues with expired equipment.

Keeping documentation accurate can seem tedious and unnecessary at times, but it comes in handy when training new hires and troubleshooting issues.

Documentation Should Be Readable and Easy to Understand

One of the most common mistakes in writing any kind of content is not thinking about the reader. While creating a piece of writing, first consider who will read it, and tailor the content accordingly. For example, if you are writing for experienced technicians, you can skip a lot of background or basic information. But that is not the case if you are writing for entry-level personnel.

Documentation that isn’t easy to understand — or that is overly dense — will be ignored.

  • Documentation must be technical. Written documentation must be effective in addressing technical issues and helping to find solutions. Well-written documentation helps technicians arrive at solutions quickly and efficiently.  
  • Documentation must be usable by even the most novice of technicians. While it is important to keep documentation technical, it won’t be effective if it isn’t usable by all of your technicians. The easiest way to do this is to have all of your documentation proof-read by someone who only has a base level of technical skill.
  • Think about implementation. You can create a technical masterpiece, but if your procedures for certain clients or situations require a different approach, all that effort is for naught. Documentation is only good as long as it applies to the situations that it is needed for. 
  • Don’t try to create a map of everything. A passionate and knowledgeable person, while creating internal documents and procedures for the first time, might fall into the trap of overstructurization. This is a situation where you try to create a procedure for everything — including things that aren’t relevant. To avoid this, plan the list of your documentation and discuss it in detail with your team. They will help to define the missing spots as well as over planned. 

Internal documentation must be written in a way that brings solutions to your end-users and is readable by anyone who may need it. If it doesn’t meet either of these standards, your documentation needs to be reviewed and handled appropriately.

Necessary Documents Checklist

There’s no one list of documentation items that applies to all MSPs, but there are basic documents, that will be helpful for virtually every managed IT team. Here is a list:

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  • Standards of Procedures - All technicians should have a baseline of how to follow every project and trouble ticket. Multiple standards of procedures documents can be prepared for each situation that they would apply to.
  • Technical Reference Guide - Technicians speak in a language of their own. All employees must have an understanding of the terminology being used within the organization. A technical reference guide is a glossary of terms that all staff should understand. 
  • Onboarding Plan - New employees shouldn’t be thrown in unprepared. Training all new staff with the same plan will guarantee cohesion across your group. Better prepared staff means better support for end-users.
  • Role Overviews - For most managed service providers, there are multiple different positions for technicians depending on skill level and roles within the company. Each role should be defined in written documents. 
  • Code of Conduct  - The code of conduct should help to prevent legal issues. It’s typically written together with an attorney or, if you have a well-established team, by your human resources specialist.

Conclusion

Clear and concise internal documentation helps to ensure that your team is trained and knowledgeable.

Keep your documents in one place, write them in a way that makes them easy to understand for anyone within a team, and review them regularly. In turn, you will achieve a rise in the efficiency of your business processes.

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