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IT Documentation: 9 Standards and Best Practices

Read Time: 5 minutes

What Is IT Documentation? 

IT documentation encompasses all written materials and instructions central to system operations, procedures, configurations, and setups in an Information Technology (IT) environment. It serves as a reference point for IT professionals, facilitating system maintenance, troubleshooting, and operational consistency. 

Effective documentation covers everything from network diagrams and hardware inventories to application dependencies and service records, ensuring comprehensive understanding and efficient management of IT resources. 

Having accurate IT documentation significantly impacts the efficiency and reliability of IT operations. For example, documentation supports disaster recovery by providing clear guidelines and procedures, and streamlines everyday tasks by offering a centralized source of crucial information. This ensures that both new and existing staff have the necessary knowledge to efficiently manage and operate IT systems.

Why Follow Standards and Best Practices in IT Documentation? 

Adhering to established standards and best practices in IT documentation enhances clarity, consistency, and accessibility, making it easier for IT staff to manage systems effectively. Standardized documentation reduces the time needed to understand systems and procedures, facilitating quicker problem-solving and decision-making. 

Best practices encourage the creation of documents that are logically structured, clearly written, and relevant, ensuring they meet the needs of their intended audience. Following these also ensures that documentation supports legal and regulatory requirements. 

Compliance Standards for Technical Documentation 

Here are some examples of established standards that provide industry guidance for IT documentation.

1. IEC/IEEE 82079-1

IEC/IEEE 82079-1 sets the criteria for creating clear, comprehensible, and accessible instruction manuals for any form of product or service. It emphasizes user-centered and safety-conscious documentation, aiming to ensure that users can perform intended operations correctly and safely. 

The standard covers the structure, content, and presentation of instructions, stressing the importance of meeting users’ needs and abilities. Adhering to IEC/IEEE 82079-1 benefits organizations by enhancing the quality and effectiveness of their documentation. It reduces the risk of user error and improves satisfaction by providing clear and reliable guidance.

2. VDI Guideline 2770

VDI Guideline 2770 focuses on the digital delivery of technical documentation for equipment and products. It specifies requirements for document structures, formats, and metadata to ensure consistency and interoperability across different platforms and systems. The guideline aims to facilitate efficient, accurate documentation management and distribution.

Following VDI guideline 2770 allows organizations to streamline their documentation processes, improving access and readability while ensuring compatibility with various digital systems. This leads to better documentation practices, reducing time wasted on searching for information and enhancing operational efficiency.

3. ISO 2651x

The ISO 2651x series focuses on ergonomics in technical documentation, ensuring that information presented is user-friendly and easy to comprehend. It covers various aspects, including the design and presentation of information, to enhance readability and understanding. The goal is to ensure that users can effectively access and use the information, improving overall interaction with technical documents.

Adopting ISO 2651x series standards benefits organizations by making their documentation more accessible and user-centric. This leads to better user experiences, increased safety, and efficiency in performing tasks, contributing to greater satisfaction and productivity.

4. ISO/AWI 21999

ISO/AWI 21999 is a developing standard aimed at managing technical documentation over digital mediums. It focuses on the lifecycle of digital documents, including creation, management, distribution, and preservation. The standard seeks to ensure that documentation remains relevant, accessible, and secure throughout its digital lifecycle.

IT Documentation Best Practices 

In addition to the industry standards above, here are some best practices you can easily implement to improve the effectiveness of IT documentation.

5. Use a Standardized Format for All Documents

Using a standardized format for all IT documentation ensures consistency and ease of understanding. This approach minimizes confusion, as users become familiar with the layout and know where to find specific information. Standardization promotes efficient information retrieval, saving time and reducing frustration for IT staff and end-users alike.

6. Ensure That Documentation Is Easily Accessible

The accessibility of IT documentation guarantees that crucial information is readily available when needed. It facilitates quick decision-making, problem-solving, and efficient system management. Accessibility can be achieved through well-organized digital repositories, intranet sites, or documentation management systems, ensuring that documents are searchable and retrievable.

7. Incorporate Diagrams, Flowcharts, and Screenshots

Visual aids such as diagrams, flowcharts, and screenshots make IT documentation more understandable and engaging. Visuals can simplify complex information, making it easier to grasp at a glance. They aid in explaining processes, layouts, and systems, providing a clear, visual representation that complements written descriptions.

Using visual aids enhances comprehension and retention of information. It caters to different learning styles, making documentation more inclusive and effective.

8. Implement a Version Control System to Track Changes 

A version control system helps in tracking modifications made to IT documentation, ensuring integrity and accuracy over time. It allows for the maintenance of different documentation versions, providing visibility into changes and the ability to revert to previous versions if necessary. 

Version control is crucial for managing document updates. It ensures that users always have access to the most current and correct information, and provides a clear audit trail of changes, supporting accountability and compliance. 

9. Automate Documentation for System Dependencies

Creating documentation for system dependencies involves the use of tools and software to dynamically track and document the relationships and interactions between different applications, services, and systems within an IT environment. This process is crucial for understanding how different components rely on each other, ensuring that any changes or updates do not disrupt the overall system functionality. 

Automated application dependency mapping tools enable quicker identification of potential issues and dependencies that could impact system performance or availability. It also supports better decision-making regarding system upgrades, migrations, and integrations by providing a comprehensive overview of how different components interact.

Automate IT Dependency Documentation with Faddom

Faddom is not a traditional IT documentation tool, but it can help provide accurate documentation of network topologies and assets in the IT environment. Faddom’s agentless IT discovery capabilities allow you to discover all IT assets such as servers and business applications, and gain visibility into your hybrid infrastructure.

Before you can work with the assets in your IT environment, it is first critical to discover and document everything. Even if teams have not taken the time to create comprehensive, written documentation, Faddom can perform discovery of IT assets without needing to integrate with other software. It does not merely repeat information from elsewhere—rather, it creates original IT documentation that is a single source of truth and is automatically updated.

Once Faddom is done mapping the environment, you can search for anything such as an IP, server, subnet, port, or host name to see all the cloud-based and on premises connections, dependencies, and installed software details. You can also map physical network devices such as switches and routers, and export all the information into formats such as VISIO, XLS, and CSV.
Learn more about Faddom for IT documentation or start a free trial to the right!

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