How to Create an Organized & Helpful Documentation Checklist

How to Create an Organized & Helpful Documentation Checklist

Not all vital IT processes are about diving into software or administrative settings, some involve documentation of IT policies and procedures.

While creating manuals or guidelines may seem a little less exciting, getting your business IT processdocumentation right is just as important as learning the latest feature of your cloud platform.

Without clear documentation, you could end up with compliance violations, security risks, and confused users that aren’t sure what to do in a particular tech-related situation.

Poor communication in documents costs US businesses nearly $4 billion per year.

What IT documentation does is help users understand how to use certain business processes, relay specific information to vendors and customers, and offer rules for handling communications, software, and other technology related items.

Examples of IT Documentation:

  • Manuals that help customers understand how to use a product or service
  • Privacy and data compliance documentation that explains policies
  • Requirements documentation for a product development team
  • Software policies for employees
  • Business continuity plan that describes recovery processes
  • Cybersecurity policy documentation

In many companies, there are different teams of people creating your IT documentation. Some documents are crystal clear to the reader, while others may be totally incomprehensible.

What an IT Documentation Checklist does is provide you with a framework of best practices for IT documentation that keeps it consistent and easy to understand.

What Should Be Included in My IT Documentation Checklist?

You can think of an IT documentation checklist as an outline for any type of technical documentation that you’re creating for your business. It helps ensure no important piece of information (like a version number) is accidentally left off and helps keep your documentation organized.

Here’s an example of things to include in your IT documentation checklist.

Table of Contents & Page Numbers

You’d be surprised how many people jump into a document and never lay out a table of contents. This is an important component because it can both help you organize the information in the document and allows readers to jump to a specific section they need, rather than having to search for it.

Page numbers should go without saying, but many people forget to add them to technical documentation, making it very difficult for a reader to reference certain areas.

Description of Your Sections

It’s helpful to readers to include a short description of what a section contains at the beginning of each one. This summary can help readers identify if that section may contain the information they need.

Use a Section/Subsection Format

Using sections and subsections helps to keep information organized and can make it easier for the reader to understand. If you just go and put everything in a manual without dividing it up with headers, it’s easy for people to miss things in an ocean of text.

This format would look like:

User Password Policies

Multi-factor authentication

Strong password requirements

Sharing of passwords

Phishing Policies

How to report a phishing email

Phishing warning signs

Use Images, Screenshots & Diagrams Where Possible

An image can often instantly clarify what took you three paragraphs of text to explain. To aid communication and help emphasize particularly complex or important information, use images, screenshots, and diagrams in your documentation whenever possible.

Write in Comprehensive Terms (to Humans)

So many technical documents are written in industry jargon that’s very dry and difficult for readers to get through. It’s more important for the documentation to be comprehensive than to use the most technical words possible.

Remember when writing technical documentation that humans are going to be reading it. Write to make it easy for even a non-technical user to understand.

Date of Version Update

IT documentation is often updated as technology and policies change. If a user has three different versions of the same compliance policy on their computer, how do they know which is the most updated one?

It’s important to always include the version number and date of the last revision, so everyone can ensure they’re referencing the most recent copy.

Reference Links

If you’re referencing other documents in your documentation, offer links to those or details on where to find them.

For example, if a section about shadow IT in a policy manual tells users to “Reference the List of Approved SaaS Applications before using any app,” you should link to that file so users don’t have to go searching for it.

Where to Get Further Information

If someone has a question about your documentation, it’s a best practice to let them know where to go to ask that question and get further information.

Include a contact page, email, and/or phone number where someone can get further information.

Company & Copyright Information in Footer

If your technical documentation or any information included in it is copyrighted, include that in the footer of your documentation along with your company name and website. This way is if a page was ever separated from the document, the reader would know who created and owned that content.

Do You Need Help with Your IT Documentation or Processes?

Creating documentation that has data privacy compliance requirements can be particularly tricky. It’s a good idea to get help from an IT professional like C Solutions. We can help you ensure your documentation is clear, in compliance, and communicates effectively.

Schedule a free technology consultation today! Call 407-536-8381 or reach us online.