Tips for Ease in Creating Documentation
Documentation – even the word makes most engineers cringe. Engineers like to get in and fix something or set something up and then walk away. Most engineers will tell you documentation is a necessary evil they would rather not deal with. You have come to end of another project with nothing left to complete but the documentation. The project manager is bugging you every hour and the client loves the system but wants to see the promised documentation. You sit down at your laptop in front of a blank word document or excel spreadsheet and the dread begins. Hours have to spent writing down things that are already implemented and working. You have to remember the IP addresses, the logins, the passwords, and connectivity diagrams. Why does this have to be so hard? Well, it doesn’t! If you can remember a few tricks and use a few tools along the way, your documentation can be a breeze at the end.
Tip # 1 Use Available Tools to Your Advantage
There are many tools out there that will practically write the documentation for you. Some of these are as easy as connecting the tool and hitting enter. OK, it’s not quite that easy, but they can make life a lot easier when it comes to documentation. Some examples include the complex ones like Nessus which many security engineers use to document vulnerabilities and the remediation of the vulnerabilities. Some other tools may be using the output from Kiwi Syslog to reflect changes made. These tools don’t have to be overly complex. Just utilize them to speed up the documentation process.
Tip #2 Capture Screen Shots
Screen shot captures of configs and changes to configs are great ways to capture documentation. The best advice here is to get them as the installation, upgrade, or troubleshooting is occurring. This way things can be easily recalled because a picture is available.
Tip #3 Take Notes
How many times have you gotten to end of troubleshooting something and ask yourself how did I fix that? If notes are taken during the process, then the answer is already available. This also allows the engineer to have a readily available source of information for the final documentation. Instead trying to remember what happened, a simple copy and paste from your notes creates the documentation.
Tip #4 Use Timecards
Chances are, you have to submit timecards for work being done. Use these as source of documentation. Detail out in the timecard at the end of the day all the things that were accomplished. This becomes an instant source of documentation. Timecards must be done anyhow. Utilize them to help you instead of looking at them as another necessary evil.
Tip #5 Document as You Go
A common theme among the previously mentioned tips is the final trick to avoid having a documentation nightmare at the end of a project or troubleshooting. Document as you go! It’s a lot easier to write things down, capture screens, and remember logins and passwords if documentation is created as the system is being installed or fixed. Nobody enjoys sitting down at the end and trying to remember what was changed or how something was setup.
At the end of the day, no one truly enjoys doing documentation unless you are a tech writer. It must get done to properly understand a deployed system and what has been done with that system. Hopefully, these tips will help with your future IT projects. Happy documenting!
A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.