Many administrators know their IT-infrastructure front-to-back. Some will even tell you stories about how they have dreams about the network layout. That’s great, but it can create problems when an admin moves on to a new job and leaves a company behind. The new admins are left scrambling to figure out how to administer the infrastructure, network, authentication and so on.
The same can be said for managed service providers. How does one person's knowledge help a team to succeed? Specific technicians can be assigned to oversee specific clients, but what happens when they are gone?
The answer is that managed service providers need to use proper documentation across all areas of their field of support. Documentation should be built for technical administrators, as well as for customers. Automation scripts should use proper commenting and to make their purpose clear, network maps should be accessible and clear, the overall document flow should be up-to-date.
Here’s a breakdown of everything that you need to know in the world of MSP documentation.
Documentation for Internal Usage
The best way for a managed service provider to deliver ideal support to its customers is to offer the same level of support to their employees, no matter which technician happens to be on the job. The most effective way to make this happen is with proper internal documentation. Here are some of the principles and benefits of internal documentation.
Principles and Benefits of Internal Documentation
Proper internal documentation helps every managed service provider offer a complete, comprehensive level of support. Here are just a few of the principles and benefits of internal documentation.
- Require all service provider technicians to have an understanding of documentation. Managed service providers should want to offer unified, consistent support to all of their clients. To achieve this, following the same workflows is ideal. Written checklists can help to verify that each technician is following the right procedures.
- Keep documentation up-to-date. All industries change over time. The rate of change in the technological field is increasing exponentially. Written documentation could become outdated in just a matter of months. All information should, therefore, be kept current as technology changes, and technicians must be informed of updates.
- Make sure the documentation is usable by all parties. Documentation should be technical enough to be useful, but should also be understandable for a rookie. Even the most profound piece of documentation, when unreadable, becomes useless.
Proper internal documentation is the baseline for superior customer service and workflow efficiency.
Further reading MSP's Internal Documentation: Principles and Practices
Provide your client with the necessary documents and instructions once, and you’ll save tons of time in the future. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits and principles of customer documentation, as well as a few of the necessary documents.
Benefits and Principles of Customer Documentation
You aim to create documentation that is easy-to-follow and non-excessive, both in terms of technical information and overall length.
Clear, accessible documentation can answer a good amount of user questions. If end-users can have their inquiries answered by quickly referencing documentation rather than having to call for help, managed service provider call volume decreases. End-users will be happy that their time was saved.
Here are some best practices to follow for creating customer documentation:
- Make it understandable. You don’t write documents and instructions for tech people and business people in the same way. Photographs, short paragraphs, and anything else that can be used to break up wording help to keep non-technical readers engaged.
- Ensure ease of access. Again, documentation is only beneficial if it is used. Customers need to be able to access it easily and to find the answers that they need swiftly. Having a searchable web page or an easily accessible wiki is the best way to communicate this information to customers.
Documentation for Scripts
Managed service providers who work with Active Directory servers for their clients can save a lot of time by using automation scripts for pushing through updates, changing settings, and issuing commands. As custom scripts are written, they need to be properly documented. Here are some of the principles and best practices of script documentation, and proper types of script notations that should be created.
Benefits and Best Practices for Script Documentation
Scripts are not written exclusively for one person to use and understand. Proper commenting will help future technicians understand what the author’s intentions were and how best to manipulate the script as technologies change. Here are a few best practices for script documentation:
- Add notes at the top and bottom of every script. The readers of your scripts should be able to have an understanding of what the script was meant for and how it works. Adding a paragraph of commentary at the beginning and end of each script written will help you achieve this goal.
- Add comments appropriately. Each automation script should have proper comments throughout. These will help when debugging specific issues.
- Make notations understandable for future readers. It is common for scriptwriters to use shorthand notations when putting comments in their code. This should be avoided. When other technicians need to debug your code or make improvements, they need a clear, simple understanding of what’s going on and what you were thinking when you authored the code.
Scripting and automation tools have helped to improve the level of support that a managed service provider can offer to end-users. Effective scripts should be properly documented so that they are useful in the future.
Documentation for Network Administrators
Much like scripting documentation, the ins and outs of every network should be documented so that future administrators can troubleshoot issues that arise as quickly as possible. Network disruption can often lead to significant downtime. This can cost the end-users real financial loss. To avoid this, every network should be properly documented.
Benefits of Network Administration Documentation
Managed service providers are made up of teams of technicians working together to support a customer’s network. To provide the best support possible, network documentation is critical. Here are the key principles of good network documentation:
- It provides a baseline for network uniformity. The best way to keep a network clean is to have a level of uniformity throughout. Well-documented, consistent IP address schemes and device naming conventions will make it easier to understand how your network is laid out, and they will be beneficial as networks grow.
- It makes it easier for shared network administration. Properly documenting how a network is designed helps administrators share the duties of caring for it. It’s great if you have one outstanding technician who remembers all of your clients’ networks in detail. But that won’t help you much if this person is sick or on vacation, or takes a new job.
- It shortens the timeline of issue resolution. Managed service providers are always looking to offer their clients the quickest, most effective solution to their issues. When network information is properly documented, it’s much easier for technicians to figure out where the pinch-point is located and where to attack the issue.
Proper documentation for network administration can take many forms. Network scans and maps should be included, as well as various lists and standards of procedure. A network that is properly documented is much easier to manage than an unorganized one.
Properly written, comprehensive documentation is one of the things that separates the good, the bad and the great MSPs.
Internal documentation helps service providers keep their technicians trained and sharp. Documents written for customers helps to cut down on call volume and keep customers happier. Properly commented automation scripts are more effective and easier to maintain than scripts that aren’t. Furthermore, a well documented and mapped network enables fast resolutions to issues as they arise.