- What is IT documentation?
- Types of IT documentation
- IT documentation examples & templates
- Benefits of IT documentation
- IT documentation best practices
- IT documentation challenges
IT documentation is essential for any organization that relies on IT systems and software. It helps IT teams operate more efficiently and effectively, reducing the risk of downtime and other disruptions.
As an IT leader, you understand the importance of documenting your organization's IT infrastructure, systems, software, and processes. However, if critical information and processes live only inside your employees' heads, you’re likely wasting time and resources.
This article examines what IT documentation is, examples (and free templates!), and best practices for streamlining your documentation processes.
TL;DR: IT documentation
- IT documentation records and stores key information about an IT environment, including customer details, software and hardware inventory, and IT policies.
- Effective IT documentation reduces duplicity, saves time, improves consistency, and reduces downtime and disruptions.
- Types of IT documentation include device documentation, process documentation, credentials documentation, environmental documentation, and incident response documentation.
- Common challenges in IT documentation include document traceability, document security, editing issues, lack of accessibility, and collaboration challenges.
- Using IT documentation software like Scribe can maximize efforts, save time and provide frameworks to guide your documentation process.
What is IT documentation?
IT documentation is the recording and storing of key information for an IT environment. It's an organized survey of all the information an IT team needs to operate effectively.
IT documentation can be divided into two main categories:
- Technical documentation is written for IT professionals, such as system administrators, software engineers, and network engineers. It includes detailed information about how to install, configure, and maintain IT systems and software.
- End-user documentation is written for end users of IT systems and software. It provides clear and concise instructions on how to use the system or software to perform specific tasks.
Effective IT documentation should include everything from details about your customers to how-to guides and step-by-step guides for specific operations.
Types of IT documentation
Examples of IT documentation include:
1. System documentation
This documentation describes a computer system's hardware and software components and how they interact with each other.
2. Infrastructure documentation
This documentation describes the physical and logical infrastructure of an organization's IT environment, including networks, servers, and storage devices.
3. Process documentation
Process documentation ensures SOPs are carried out accurately and efficiently. This type of documentation is also valuable when writing about how to acquire licenses.
4. Incident response documentation
This documentation describes the procedures that should be followed in responding to IT incidents, such as security breaches or system outages. Incident response documentation provides recorded steps to identify how a breach occurred, what was affected in the breach, and how to respond to a breach.
5. Device documentation
This involves recording the details of any given device to allow technicians to get a quick look at the components of any device. These details typically include the External IP address, operating system, and the software on the device.
6. Credentials documentation
IT documentation can also be used to store secure information. Credentials such as usernames and passwords as well as MFA information are essential to the operation of IT environments. Therefore, it's important to keep them in a safe but accessible location.
7. Environmental documentation
Environmental documentation includes references such as network maps, with information on how different devices interact and the reliance between them.
IT documentation examples & templates
If you’re wondering how to get started with your IT documentation, here are some examples from company products and processes. You can use these templates to create your own documentation framework.
Standard operating procedure
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a step-by-step guide to completing a task or process. It lists clear instructions for performing routine workflows.
In this example, we've created a visual step-by-step guide for end-users to request an Office 365 license. We've also added an alert at the top so users know to get manager approval before submitting the request to IT.
Use this How-To Article Template to create your own step-by-step guides for your team or customers:
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) documentation answers users' most common questions about a product, service, or topic.
In the example below, the team has created FAQs for how the company uses Okta.
With this FAQ Page Template, you can build a clear and organized structure for displaying frequently asked questions and answers, making it easier for users to quickly find the information they need.
A knowledge base is a centralized repository of information about a product, service, department, or topic. It is designed to help users find the information they need quickly and easily.
Here’s a knowledge base by Storelax. They created comprehensive documentation with clear, organized sections like Getting Started, Product, Payments, UI, etc.
You can use this Knowledge Base Template to provide customer support, share product information, create a help center, store your documentation, etc.
Benefits of IT documentation
Every detail, big or small, can have a big impact on the operation of a network. Some benefits of documentation include:
- Reduce/eliminate duplicity. When you document how to do something once, there is no need to do it repeatedly. Your team can easily take advantage of this shared knowledge and work more efficiently.
- Ensure consistency. Choosing the most efficient method of completing tasks saves time, reduces errors and ensures consistency. Proper documentation also saves time and energy when onboarding new employees, since they can learn from step-by-step processes instead of relying entirely on busy teams to train them.
- Reduce downtime and disruptions. Clear and streamlined documentation processes provide IT teams with the information they need to troubleshoot problems quickly and effectively, improve productivity and
- Improve knowledge transfer. Whether about your customers or specific processes, proper IT documentation allows for knowledge transfer between IT team members—which is especially important when experienced employees leave the organization.
- Improve compliance: By providing evidence that the organization has the necessary policies and procedures to manage your IT environment, documentation can help you comply with regulatory requirements.
IT documentation best practices
1. Plan your documentation: Before you start writing documentation, take some time to plan what you need to document and who your audience is. This will help you to write clear and concise documentation tailored to the needs of your readers.
2. Automate your documentation: Use an AI-powered process documentation tool like Scribe when documenting processes to generate visual step-by-step guides in seconds automatically.
3. To organize your text, use a consistent, easy-to-navigate structure with a table of contents, headings and subheadings.
4. Use a consistent style and format to make your documentation easier to read and maintain. Save valuable time by using one of Scribe's pre-built templates.
5. Use multimedia: Screenshots, diagrams, GIFs and videos help to create visual, user-friendly documentation that's easy to understand.
6. Version control: With a good documentation process in place, you can determine the status of the document, what changes have been made, whether it has been shared with other stakeholders, and so on. You can also ensure everyone uses the latest updated version and quickly roll back any accidental changes.
7. Set up document security: Most business documents contain sensitive information that needs to be held securely. Set permission levels on specific documentation and allow only chosen individuals access to edit these documents. This gives you control over how searchable and accessible certain types of documentation are.
8. Collaborate effectively: All modern businesses operate inside an ecosystem of customers, partners, and extensive supply chains. Without the ability to easily share documents, unnecessary friction and expenses are bound to happen.
Select a comprehensive tool that allows you to easily collaborate with your IT team(s) and outside parties. Using Scribe as a collaboration tool, you can:
- Create a single source of truth for how teams should be completing processes.
- Quickly share comprehensive feedback on documentation.
- Share ideas, files and updates in a centralized platform.
With Scribe, you can share information with one click, and:
- Export as PDF document.
- Embed in existing tools and internal wikis.
- Export to Confluence.
- Send to teammates or clients with a URL link.
- Copy into a document with HTML or Markdown.
9. Make documentation a common and regular activity: Don't wait until something goes wrong to start documenting. Start documenting small routine tasks and move to other significant ones. Over time, your IT team will thank you for the relevant information at their fingertips—quickly troubleshooting problems and reducing the number of IT support inquiries.
10. Review and update IT documentation regularly: Reviewing and updating your documentation is an ongoing process. Establish an update cadence and assign individuals responsible for reviewing. This ensures documentation is accurate and up-to-date.
IT documentation challenges
IT documentation challenge: The inability to trace documents throughout their lifecycle.
Solution: Document traceability is difficult to achieve without IT documentation software—Scribe easily digitizes your documents and implements a system to manage the records lifecycle.
Benefits of document traceability: The ability to determine document status, track changes and authorization, and share with stakeholders.
IT documentation challenge: Your documentation contains sensitive information that needs to be held securely.
Solution: Electronic document management software like Scribe can address this challenge. You can set permission levels to control how individuals inside and outside your organization can access Scribes. With Scribe Pro, you can also redact sensitive content from your documentation.
Benefit: Only permitted individuals will be allowed access, giving you control over control over document searchability and accessibility.
IT documentation challenge: Paperwork requires reprints for each edit, wasting business time and resources.
Solution: Electronically managing documents allows for easy retrieval and editing. Using AI-powered documentation tools like Scribe, you can edit and update your documentation in seconds—and with universal updates, the changes will be made wherever your documentation is stored.
Benefit: Employees can save time by avoiding manual editing and printing of paper documents, and focus on more productive aspects of their job.
Lack of accessibility
IT documentation challenge: Paper-focused document management system creates problems when team members are unavailable for document sign-off.
Solution: Scribe allows your IT team to access and update documentation, no matter where an employee is. As long as there's internet connectivity, employees can access and work on documentation from anywhere.
What makes IT documentation different from other types of documentation?
Effective IT documentation tells about your IT landscape and also reflects the tenets of software documentation best practices.
IT documentation systems enable your IT team to see exactly what is happening at any time. A software documentation example will include the following:
- Where a unit is located.
- What parts of the network it accesses.
- What software is installed on it?
- How the software is licensed.
- Which services the device provides or requires.
- The person responsible for the operation of the unit.
- Who uses the device?
- Which maintenance contracts have been concluded.
- When and by whom changes were made to the unit in question?
What should you document?
The following are examples of information you should document (and not limited to):
- Administrative credentials and passwords should be stored in a secure, preferably encrypted, location, but accessible in case of an emergency and by other IT staff.
- Network and system overview gives your IT employees a comprehensive overview of your IT infrastructure. This may be one or more documents, depending on the size and complexity of your infrastructure.
- Software and license inventory: Create a detailed list of the software you have, who uses it, and if any spare licenses are available if needed. This will prove invaluable in the event of a licensing audit.
- Project-based documentation with a project plan, responsibilities and goals to ensure your projects are completed efficiently.
- Information system: Document all the software that supports business processes and how they interact with each other.
- Hardware inventory: Create a detailed list of the hardware you have, where it is, who uses it, and if any spare devices are available if needed.
- IT policies that encompass your IT approach to various aspects of managing the infrastructure. This includes:
- Internet policy (access to third-party resources like cloud platforms, what content is accessible, what content is blocked).
- Information policy (privacy, appropriate email use).
- Hardware management policy (how often hardware is replaced, how old hardware is used, etc).
- Network and Security policy (what networks and systems exist, for what purpose, who has access, etc).
- Backup and Recovery (when and how recovery is done).
How do you document IT systems?
Documenting IT systems involves creating comprehensive records of the system's architecture, configuration, processes, and procedures.
1. Capture the system's architecture, including diagrams and descriptions of hardware, software and network components.
2. Document the configuration settings of various system components, such as servers, databases and network devices.
3. Document step-by-step procedures and consistent processes for tasks like system installation, configuration changes and troubleshooting.
4. Document customizations or modifications made to the system, including changes to default configurations, custom scripts or code, and integrations with other systems.
Your IT documentation management system is critical to your team’s productivity, and directly impacts the security and privacy of your business, customers and vendors.
For all your work to pay off, it’s critical that you have all that documentation clearly organized and accessible.
While it’s possible to perform documentation manually, using IT documentation software maximizes your efforts and makes the process that much easier.
Documentation software not only saves you time, but it also provides tried-and-true frameworks to guide your work.
Empower your IT team to succeed—sign up for Scribe and create your IT documentation for free today!