Good IT Exercises: Documentation!

Everybody’s talking about importance of physical exercise and routine workouts these days, and of course that’s the result of 21st century life-style which is forced through technology but how about some technology exercises and routine practices which can help reduce the pressure on tech staff workload and leads us to a healthier IT environment?

Documentation

It will be so easy documenting and actually using it as a powerful tool and a supportive factor in everyday IT dynamic environment. But Only once we realize the application and purpose behind it in addition to simple techniques.

Most of us see Documentation as a hassle, an extra useless job of writing some staff on paper or Word and Excel files, and give a version or revision number, control it (what does it mean exactly?)… and then live it dusty chest or even ends up with some nonconformity because it is not what a reflection of our real world processes…..what is the purpose? why people see this as a hassle and this way it is actually a negative workload. Rather than utilizing it, that utilizes our resources!

The reason task of “documenting” has seen and believed to be a bother for most of IT professionals or even business analysts, is that we are doing it wrong, so no doubt it utilizes resources without any value. The easiest way to describe what is right documentation is explaining what is not. first you should ask:

What is going to be documented and for what reason

If reason is justified as a “Management System”, or “Standard”, or “Certification” then the answer is wrong and you are going the wrong way. You should justify by reasons like: “part of manufacturing process”, “describing system of asset management”, “explaining why product X failed during evaluation”, “document of how an employee is hired”, and so on. But never have the Driver as the Reason.

Documentation is not complicated but just like any other skill, first we need to understand the concept, and then some practice. Mastering this skill would not take more than 1% of your daily duties so let’s see what is the heart of the matter:

Document the logic and purpose of a task or subject rather than describing details of a task. In other words, focus on goal rather than the task. This saves a lot of time wasting on useless information in documents. This is also one of the main reasons users later won’t refer to documents. So we waste time creating them and then force the audience to read but they won’t because content is boring, confusing and only waste of time; no added value or even negative value.

Screenshots and steps to do something is not usually what documentation is all about. That might be useful for a user manual (I would doubt!) but not as an option for an IT guideline or even procedure, work instruction or policy. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want to document your backup process, Disaster Recovery Plan, malware response and handling procedure, or how a node is setup and┬áconnected to a system in another network segment, how anti-virus agent is deployed….and thousands of other scenarios. Now would you open a Word file and start capturing screenshots of each step?!

It means you might doing in right way if that sounds funny to you, but most IT personnel are so busy that they don’t have time to step back and think about the way things have been done Wrong in the past, and they just repeat the same tools and techniques

Benefits are endless, and the result which is an agile environment will be appealing!

Once documenting become a routine and as a regular exercise the benefits start to show off their positive effects in environment:

  • Less time spending on Documentation! More effective and useful documents!!
  • Refined workflows
  • Effective corporate communication and team elaboration
  • Compliance management in a controller manner
  • Certainty and confidence in changes: an strong and original strong change management
  • Faster, accurate and more effective and meaningful evaluation of future solutions. In other words, re-born of R&D within IT operations which I believe it has been totally forgotten in the fast paced today’s tech world
  • Smooth transition among staffing, team leadership and general daily administration
  • Audit and being audited any time with zero nonconformity or noncompliance
  • Better understanding of current processes and natural automatic and constant training for tech staff and end-users
  • Trustworthy IT team with reasonable full support from top management
  • Smarter internal and external customer relation and interaction
  • Reduced or almost zero anxiety among help desks and system administrators
  • Supporting to any future or ongoing management system and any framework which seeks documentation: ISO standards, Security management systems…

Do you need technical people to compile documents?

You need people that understand the logic of the document Subject, so it is likely that you need technical expertise but not necessarily a technical writer. Of course technical writers can add value but those value are not certainly useful and inline with purpose of documentation. Again refer to User Manual example.

The moment you discover the power of documentation as an integral part of IT management model, you won’t let anything done without it (I have seen this also as an imbalanced approach). But the beauty of it, is more the fact that it is a useful tool for both management and staff, something that is so rare. Stay tuned for IT Documentation Workshop soon.

Author: Kaveh Mofidi

Still waking up every morning with so much passion just to do one thing: find simple solutions for big complicated issues! and seriously information security and computers are so fun to play with, but those are not a big deal, we need to find solution for unlimited energy, drinkable water, food, shelter, jobs, war, injustice... those are our real problems on the Earth!