Documentation

Create a Runbook Template to Speed Up Your Documentation Process

Create runbooks for any process faster without compromising on its quality using a handy runbook template. Learn what to include and how to get started here.

Introduction

Building a solid team is just the first step in the long game of scaling your TechOps infrastructure. The bigger challenge? Training these professionals to perform at maximum productivity. 

Runbooks are a great way to make your team function as a powerful unit, maintaining greater consistency and collaboration across the entire org. Moreover, a collection of runbooks makes it easier to keep new-hire training and institutional knowledge in a single place. 

Put simply, runbooks save time and streamline technical operations for high-quality outputs. 

If you’re planning to draft your runbooks, you want a template that covers all the bases to make the process easier. By creating a runbook template, you’re creating a repeatable document that's specific to your needs AND meets quality standards. 

Below you’ll find everything you need to create a detailed runbook template. And by the end, you’ll also learn how to automate runbooks and reduce manual inputs.

Who’s ready?

6 elements of a high-quality runbook template

A good runbook is actionable, accurate, accessible, authoritative and adaptable. But creating such a comprehensive step-by-step guide isn’t as simple as it sounds. Creating runbooks involves multiple stages, starting from research and outlining and ending with testing and iterations. 

A template can cut this time in half. Add your research insights into a premade layout and customize it wherever necessary. This ensures that you create more uniform documentation in a few easy steps.

Here are the six primary components of a high-quality runbook template:

1. Contacts

Start each document with the contact information of all the involved members. This includes people from the implementation team and the Command & Control group. Adding these details reduces the possibility of a communication gap, especially in the case of a critical incident. End users can reach out to a concerned person through this contact section. 

2. Roster

The next part of your runbook template will present a team roster indicating every member's responsibility. This section clarifies who's working on what, reducing confusion about roles and expected contributions. You can show it as a hierarchical flow chart or a listicle depending on your team's structure.

3. Implementation Runbook

The implementation section includes the meat of the runbook. It has all the details about the task/process and lays down step-by-step instructions to execute the task. This part explains to users the best ways to tackle the situation with a complete walkthrough of the process.

4. Backout Runbook

The “backout” section gives you steps to reverse the changes made in case you implemented the runbook by mistake. Use the backout to roll back the steps and make things as they were before. 

5. Issue Log

The issue log documents all the problems faced during the implementation or backout process. Team members can add suggestions to make the runbook error-free, like adding or removing some steps. 

The issue log also includes any technical glitches or failures during the process. Users can add any remedial measure they used to correct these failures. Users can also use the issue log to update incorrect information about the forecasted implementation time. 

6. Doc Control

The doc control section is meant to record the iterated versions of the runbook. It’s one way to make the document adaptable. 

Anyone can add suggested changes to the runbook through this section. It typically includes the author's name, the description of their suggested change, the version and the status of the change. 

Teams can also use this section for approval tracking and circulation. This means the doc control part records whoever is using the runbook and tracks the approvals required. 

How to create an ideal runbook structure?

Now that you know the six must-have elements in a runbook, let’s look at how to structure these elements for greater clarity:

1. Trigger conditions

This rule of thumb makes your runbooks actionable: present the most critical information first. For a step-by-step guide, explain the trigger conditions before everything else. These triggers clarify the requirements when users can execute a runbook. 

So, the first section should give users a few checks to confirm whether they should use a runbook or note. 

2. Summary outline

The next part will include a summarized layout of the steps mentioned in the runbook. This section explains the high-level flow of the task before getting to the stepwise breakdown. It prepares users for the actual implementation process by giving them an overview of the process. 

3. Steps and setup

Break down each step in detail once you've explained the trigger conditions and summary outline. For each stage, include a quick primer on the tools required and easy ways to set up these tools. 

You can also add potential issues users might face during implementation and give them a viable solution for these issues. 

4. Overall success 

The last section of the document includes a reference assessment for users to determine if they succeeded or failed in implementing the runbook. It validates the document to conclude if it's accurate or needs improvement. Users can also add their suggestions to modify the document and increase its accuracy. 

How to automate runbooks in 4 easy steps

Once you’ve drafted a fail-proof runbook template, focus on automating as many runbooks as possible. This helps teams offload routine tasks and processes to automation and reduce manual intervention. 

Runbook automation also optimizes different processes for better efficiency and reduced errors. Let’s look at the four steps for automating runbooks.

Step 1: Identify different functions worth automating

First, you want to take a hard look at your current setup to identify the services and functions you can automate — like creating database backups. 

List down these functions and experiment with steps to automate each process. 

Step 2: Collect information about service owners

Once you've identified functions to potentially automate, contact the owners of these functions and collect relevant details. An automated runbook should include the owners' contact information to help users connect with the right people if things go south. 

Step 3: Create subtasks involved in a function

Before automating the runbook, look at the subtasks in the entire process — from auditing and version control to deployment. It's crucial to proactively lay down the steps for each subtask to minimize confusion and maintain consistency. 

Step 4: Find and include automation opportunities

You have to set up the runbook's flow for the final step. This is where you can incorporate automation within the process. So, identify the best opportunities to script all the triggers and automate the task through trial and review. 

Making runbooks has never been easier

Runbooks empower teams to navigate through complex tasks with ease. A library of runbooks is critical to maintaining consistency and efficiency for your TechOps unit. 

With this handy guide, you can create a solid runbook template to speed up the process of creating runbooks. You can also automate recurring tasks through runbook automation. This ensures you're not spending too much time manually implementing these runbooks.