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an IT Technical Writer Talking to a Developer at a Desk, Representing the Importance of IT Documentation

All IT products require proper documentation, from simple software applications to complex network infrastructure. IT documentation helps key stakeholders like employees and customers understand the functioning of your IT products and maximize their potential. This documentation can take many forms, including SOPs, system documentation, user manuals, or FAQs. Despite its importance, many people don’t know how to write IT documentation, creating frustration and miscommunication between the developer and the consumer.

If you’re interested in improving your skills in creating IT documentation to enhance your team’s efficiency, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover more about writing IT documentation, its different types, and the advantages it brings.

What is IT Documentation?

IT technical documentation is recorded information, typically created by an IT technical writer, detailing an organization’s IT infrastructure, systems, processes, and protocols. This documentation guides internal IT team members and external stakeholders, including customers, clients, and partners, about various products, systems, and services. IT documentation is helpful for various projects, such as:

  • Creating a project proposal or SOP
  • Crafting training manuals to ensure new employees can adapt to the IT infrastructure quickly
  • Documenting steps of a repetitive procedure for future reference
  • Write self-service manuals to help customers with the usage and troubleshooting steps of software or hardware

Types of IT Documentation

Before discussing how to write IT documentation, it’s essential to understand the numerous forms it can take. IT documentation writing isn’t limited to a specific kind of document. Instead, it covers different aspects of IT management and system maintenance. Listed below are just a few of the few common IT documentation types created by IT technical writers:

System Documentation

As the name suggests, system documentation provides information about a system, whether hardware, software, or another kind of application. This type of IT documentation outlines system architecture, configuration settings, and procedures for deployment and maintenance. It may also include some essential FAQs about the system features to guide users and employees about its functioning. 

Network Topology and Diagrams

Network topology and diagrams offer insights into the layout and connections of a network infrastructure. This form of documentation is particularly helpful in teaching stakeholders about the physical location of various network devices and how they communicate with each other. 

These diagrams may also sometimes include visual representations of VLANs, routing protocols, and security configurations. This IT documentation type aims to help stakeholders manage the IT networks and troubleshoot any possible issues.

Process Documentation

Process documentation details step-by-step instructions for completing tasks or achieving specific outcomes. For instance, a process document may help employees in software development or IT infrastructure deployment. 

This type of documentation often includes flowcharts, checklists, and narrative descriptions to clarify each process step. In addition, this IT documentation may highlight critical roles and responsibilities, best practices, and potential pitfalls to avoid, all of which are crucial for boosting productivity and improving customer experience.

User Guides and Manuals

a Person Pointing at a Computer Screen with Code, Representing the Importance of an IT Document

Understanding how to write IT documentation benefits your employees and improves customer experience. User guides and manuals instruct and inform users on the proper way to utilize products, services, or software applications. These documents provide step-by-step guidance on using a product or service, while also providing support for troubleshooting any issues that may occur.

User guides and manuals often also include details of a product’s features and functionalities, ensuring that a customer can make the most of the product. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essential documents in IT technical documentation, providing step-by-step guidelines for routine tasks, troubleshooting, and best practices. They ensure operational efficiency, system reliability, and security by standardizing protocols and facilitating knowledge transfer within the IT team. SOPs play a vital role in maintaining smooth IT operations and are crucial for onboarding new staff.

How to Write IT Documentation

IT documentation poses a clear benefit to organizations, and the variety of document types ensure that all companies can develop a document that is best suited to their particular needs. While the number of document types may feel overwhelming, it is important to recognize that many of these documents are created through a similar writing process,

Create a Documentation Strategy and Governance

The first step in writing IT documentation is establishing a documentation strategy and governance framework. This means you need to clearly define the objectives of the IT document and identify key stakeholders. You should also develop guidelines for the creation, maintenance, and accessibility of the document. 

Pick the Right Tools and Templates

The next step in how to write IT documentation revolves around picking the right tools and templates. You should first find out the type of document you want to create. Is it system documentation to inform employees and users about the functioning of hardware and software systems, a user guide or manual that guides users about the features and utilization of your product or services, or something else entirely? The answer will dictate your next steps, so careful consideration is key.

Once you identify the desired IT documentation type, find templates that suit the needs of your business, while simultaneously selecting the right tools or solutions for crafting the best IT technical document. It can be helpful at this stage to consult other experts in your field, or you can partner with Essential Data Corporation to leverage the proficiency of IT technical writers. They can help you develop an exceptional IT document highlighting all key points with clarity. 

Assign Roles

It is now time to contact key organizational stakeholders who can help you in the documentation process. These can include individuals from IT teams, such as system administrators, network engineers, or software developers. Once you have a credible team, you should assign tasks to each member that best align with their skill set. 

For instance, system administrators can be responsible for documenting hardware configurations, while network engineers can focus on creating network and topology maps. This ensures that tasks are completed on time and all members are held accountable in case of a delay. 

Focus on Document Standardization

IT documents must be standardized for consistency, clarity, and uniformity. For this, it is important to focus on adhering to a set of predefined guidelines to format and organize documents. For example, use the same format of titles or headings and incorporate images or screenshots consistently. 

This results in cohesiveness throughout your document, making it easier for users to navigate and comprehend. IT document standardization also facilitates team members’ collaboration, as everyone follows the same guidelines and can quickly locate information. As an additional benefit, this standardization makes it easier to develop future IT technical documentation.

Provide Access to the Document and Implement Security Measuresa Person Sitting at a Desk Looking at a Computer While Writing IT Documentation, Representing the Importance of IT Documents for Clarity

53% of companies have experienced a data breach related to use of third party software or extended access in the past year. In the interest of security, another step in writing the IT documentation process is to make the document accessible to only those who need it. This means establishing a system to store the document securely and control access to it. 

This can involve using password protection and encryption. You can also implement a management system with user permissions based on roles and responsibilities, which secures your crucial business data from breaches and ensures only authorized members access the information. 

Regularly Review and Update the Document

The final step in developing an IT document is to review and update the crafted document regularly. By establishing a periodic review cycle with dedicated team members for the task, your IT documents are sure to remain up-to-date.

The assigned team members can be IT specialists who update the document per the IT policies and procedures and any changes in a system or product. This ensures team members and other stakeholders have access to the most up-to-date version of the document. 

Benefits of IT Documentation

While developing and writing an IT document is no small feat, it is important to recognize the significant benefits this documentation can provide.

Preserves Organizational Knowledge

IT documents help preserve organizational knowledge by collecting information about systems, products, and procedures in one place. They wrap all the best practices, valuable insights, and lessons learned within an organization into a single, easily-navigable document. Thus, critical knowledge is retained even if key personnel leave or roles change. 

Save Time and Effort

Without a proper IT document, your employees may spend hours finding the correct information. 31% of surveyed employees said the frustration of being unable to find information made them feel burned out, while 16% reported the struggle made them want to leave their current company.

Thankfully, IT documentation takes the hassle out of data sorting, offering clear and concise instructions about developing or deploying a system or product. This ensures that all employees have access to the desired information and can quickly perform tasks in the given time without feeling burned out. They can then focus on other organizational responsibilities, saving time and effort across the board.

Train New EmployeesA Person Looking at Two Computer Screens on a Desk, Representing the Benefits to Efficiency that IT Technical Documentation Can Bring

Training new employees is mandatory for an organization’s success: 40% of employees who don’t get the necessary job training to be effective in their positions will leave within the first year. This is where IT documentation takes center stage, as these documents possess clear guidelines and instructions about various processes and regulations critical for employee effectiveness. 

If training falls short of expectations, new employees can go through these documents to fill in any gaps. With the ability to read an IT document at their own pace and gain a step-by-step understanding of a business operation, they are freed from relying on other employees for training. 

How Essential Data Can Help

Crafting IT documents from start to finish can be a chore. Working with an IT technical writer can make all the difference. Technical writers leverage their expert experience and communication skills to provide top-tier documentation for companies of all sizes, across industries.

Want to learn more about technical writers and the benefits an IT document can bring your business? Check out some of our related content below:

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or [email protected] to get started.