We're about to head into a discussion on a topic that makes many people cringe due to its boredom and complexity - documentation. But before you run away and try to avoid the unpleasantness that comes with documentation in IT service management, remember that a new year is almost upon us, and with a new year comes auditing of the previous year's activities. With the need to perform audits soon and prepare for future evaluations by establishing better practices for the coming year, IT support teams have plenty of documentation issues to keep in mind. Here are four best practices that can help you establish a documentation methodology that will make auditing and managing service desk records easier and less painful this time next year:
1. Perform consistent audits
Chances are your organization forces you to complete period audits of your documentation to make sure you are complying with regulatory standards and ensure workers are following through on internal policies. It is common for these audits to happen annually, and they are usually fairly complex and onerous. Developing an auditing procedure that informally, or partially, audits documentation periodically throughout the year (perhaps quarterly) can provide vital insights into how documentation is being handled and help you nip any potential issues in the bud before they escalate and pose major problems at the formal year-end audit.
2. Automate as much as you can
There's a reason why so many people hate documentation - it is boring work that takes time away from the important tasks that are constantly breathing down the necks of workers on the service desk. Having your workers disrupt their operations to stop and record different processes is mind numbing and distracts users from high-thinking tasks that require creative problem solving. However, documentation is too important to ignore.
Automation is often the solution. Many advanced IT service desk solutions feature modules and process automation tools that will automatically document certain activities. This can alleviate the operational burdens on workers and position them to get the job done as efficiently as possible. With automation, documentation becomes less of a chore as there is not nearly as much busy-work to get done.
3. Establish a documentation matrix for key documents
A good documentation matrix will make it easier to pin down specific terms and conditions in documents and comply with them on an ongoing basis. This is incredibly important when it comes to service level agreement compliance, as support teams need to be able to focus on the core SLA requirements that they must comply with and document that they have performed necessary tasks at the requisite performance levels.
4. Train your workers
Documentation can become extremely complex, especially when you start getting into document matrix strategies and balancing automation alongside the need to have people initiate document management tasks. In good documentation management setups, the burden on users is minimal, but the tasks they have to perform become more important. The result is an environment in which you need to emphasize training and education to ensure your employees understand precisely how to document different processes and comply with various standards.
The increased regulatory pressure facing many organizations puts added emphasis on the need to train employees. You can't expect your support workers to comply with SLAs and industry regulatory standards unless they understand what issues are relevant to them and how to operate accordingly. Effective training lays the groundwork necessary to ensure your other documentation management plans are effective.
Documentation is rarely enjoyable to discuss and deal with, but organizations that follow industry best practices can lighten the burden carried by most users.