Does your business document?

Today’s topic is going to be around documentation, or the lack of it within the business. So a quick question to you all, how many people within your business know how to do someone else’s job well, especially if they aren’t doing it day in day out?

For example, what happens if someone becomes ill and cannot perform their job for a few days or weeks and the role is critical to the business thereby needing someone else to step in? Does your staff know what steps to perform for the job in question?

Now, ensuring that people within your business have access to the necessary information to perform anyone job role is extremely important. By having this information readily available you can look after your customers and keep the day to day running of business tasks in order, this will help to make sure that your business is successful and you have happy customers.

The worst thing you want to do when someone is off, is have a lack of knowledge, especially if that person is a client or support facing person. You don’t want to be caught unawares and having to scramble for the necessary information when that important client or that critical incident happens.

Documentation, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of having a successful business and it plays a big part when it comes to the security of your business as well. By not documenting properly and having that knowledge gap in one or more places will make you end up with single points of failure for one or more job roles and/or tasks.

Not only does documentation help with the processes within the business, but it also plays a bit part in your compliance and regulation procedures, for example if you are having to comply with ISO standards, NIST or SOX. Documentational evidence plays a key part. For example, showing evidence of change control, evidence of internal audits, policies and procedures and the list goes on.

When you start looking at documenting your business you should take a step back and look at your business, tasks and everything else that is connected to your business day to day operations. Depending upon your type of business, you may need to talk to department heads, the support team, developers, basically anyone who has a role within the business.

Its key that when new processes are brought in, or some new software, feature or whatever it is, that the process and any support guides are documented at the point. Additionally, if you ever have an incident you should ensure that this is documented, log what happened, what was the cause, how did you fix it and upload or save it somewhere. Because if it happened once, it can happen again.

You should also document support contacts, contract renewal contacts and such, basically anything that someone may need when not going the job needs to be documented.

By taking a step back and looking at your business, its processes and policies is fine, but how do you go about actually documenting it? I think, this is one of the hardest things to teach people, sometimes documentation will come easy to people (like myself), others they think it’s a chore and will do everything to get out of documenting anything. Or will do it so bad that no one knows what’s going on.

This is where you need to talk to people about the pros of documenting, it will make staff jobs easier, technical support actions and incident resolutions easier to resolve and its basically a win-win for everyone concerned.  Yes, it may be hard to start getting into the documentation role, but after a while, once it becomes a normalized process, it should be quick and easy.

When you start your documentation process, its important to include as much information as possible, if you can, include screenshots, web links and knowledgebase articles as this will go miles in helping people understand a process or a role.

Not only will your newfound appreciation for documentation help people within the business, but it can also help with bringing on board new staff members, if you have loads of readily available information for new starters to digest this is going to help them learn and understand your pain points as well as products. Which reduces the amount of time that your staff are helping the new starters, which allows them to concentrate on supporting your customers or bringing in more money.

There are many products out there to start the process, ranging from client-based systems, which I would stay away from unless you are a one-person business, to server or cloud-based products such as SharePoint, IT Glue, Confluence, even Teams and OneDrive and the list goes on. Have a look around and choose what fixes your business, there’s a no size fits all when it comes to this.

Once you start documenting your processes, it’s also important to ensure that its stored or referenced in a logical manner, the last thing you want to do is have people looking around for information which should be quick and easy to find.  If possible, include search teams and a search utility.


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