One of the first questions I ask new clients is for documentation about their technology so we can start work. The response is generally a bunch of forwarded emails with “let me know what’s missing”. When pressed, there is admittance that they should have an organized document. However, it’s a challenge to move from the status quo unless something catastrophic happens. I understand.
Here are three tips that lead to a draft document of your technology. Please don’t worry about formatting and organization. Creating one central place for your information is the goal. As it is a key to your business, store it securely (I don’t recommend sharing it via social media) but make it accessible so you’ll work on it! I have a strong preference for text files, but a word doc is fine too.
Tip one – set aside time each day
One method to capture all your technology is to set aside time each day to write about it. I prefer to spread it throughout the day. I find five minutes here and there to capture one small part is easier than staring down a half hour block of time and a blank page. In the morning when you first sit down at your workspace, jot down a quick list of the technology you need right then. There you’ve started! It’s not important to provide all the details right now. Here’s an example:
- Windows desktop – Win 10
- WiFi & ISP
At other times throughout the day, take a few moments to look up details and add other information as you can.
- Windows desktop – Win 10 purchased 2015. Dual monitor. Power supply replaced 2016.
- Adobe subscription – renews Q3
- Microsoft subscription – renews Q4
- Scrivener – testing beta. license key v2 win & mac.
I hope you get the idea! Repeat this gradual capture over the week filling in details as technology is accessed. I’m not concerned with formatting and organization, you’ll figure out a system that works for you. However, I do ask that you keep a version date either at the start or end of the document. This requirement is explained in the next tip.
Tip two – paper copy
I know, the myth of the paperless office! Paper will survive a power outage (and some types of water damage). This is where your version date is important. When you make significant changes to your list print a new copy and destroy the old one.
Outages (power, network, and/or service) can prevent you from accessing important information. The multiple nor’easters that blew through here in March reminded me of the power of paper (and business cards).
Tip three – role play
When I was an IT Manager the question most often asked by the partners at the firm was “what if you’re hit by a bus on the way home?” In other words, was my documentation up to date? Did it provide enough details that someone could keep things running? I prefer to start with other situations such as what if you hired a new employee? The day after they’re hired, you unexpectedly need to spend several days out of the office. They’re now responsible for x, y, or z. As you go through different situations you may find details to add to your documentation.
I hope this introduction to creating documentation helps your business.