One of the most aggravating problems as an IT professional is dealing with inadequate or nonexistent documentation. Many IT professionals have witnessed firsthand the headaches that arise from organizations that do not maintain proper documentation of their systems, infrastructure or procedures.

Contrary to what you may think, documentation is the single most important tool in supporting technology. It saves valuable time in identifying and troubleshooting issues while allowing an engineer to better understand the systems they are supporting without having to play detective. It is vital to have all pertinent information readily available, especially during emergencies.

Proper documentation allows for others to help solve an issue when the engineer holding all of the knowledge is unavailable. A responsible company must ask themselves, “What if something happens to our systems administrator? How will we move forward?” A company’s IT knowledge should not solely exist in one person’s head. This concept is known in the industry as the “Bus Test” – if a particular person were to be hit by a bus, would it be possible for someone else to take over their responsibilities?

Documentation does not just mean maintaining a list of usernames and passwords. Documentation refers to company procedures, project plans, access to accounts and vendors, common issues, diagrams, etc. Any recurring process should be noted and detailed with specific instructions. It is important not to take for granted any information that may be helpful in the future, even if it seems simple or common knowledge.

IT departments tend to be so consumed in the day-to-day minutiae that documentation is often relegated to the backburner. In truth, it does not require much effort to maintain good documentation and any effort is returned exponentially. It may not be the most exciting duty as an IT professional but it is undeniably essential.

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