Keeping your feet on the paper trail

Documentation matters

Along with all of the flying cars, moving sidewalks and robot butlers, one thing the future was definitely supposed to bring with it was the end of needing to write things down. In 2015, shouldn't everything happen digitally and automatically? Do we really need manuals, logs, ledgers and the like to explain the steps involved in Process X, or show that Procedure Y has been completed on schedule every month over the last five years?


We missed it on our initial post-Christmas sweep, but last month a thoughtful, well-argued post appeared at Cisco Learning Network's VIP Perspectives blog presenting the case for thorough and ongoing documentation in IT. The author refers to documentation as a "lost art," and while it may not have become extinct everywhere, it would certainly qualify for inclusion on a list of threatened or endangered work activities.


Most people probably assume that they'll be in charge of whatever IT functions they're responsible for into the forseeable and maybe even far-distant future. And as long as the person in charge is on the job, why does anyone else need to know how (and why) things are done a certain way, right? The Cisco Learning Network blogger thinks that most IT professionals sense the need for documentation, but struggle to make it happen.


One source of inspiration, the post argues, is the Cisco Certified Design Architect credential. The CCDA includes information about network audits, and has some solid foundational ideas about how to start and follow through on documentation. Rediscovering and recommitting to documentation, however, is an idea has broad application in IT and probably shows up in a lot of certification and training programs.


Many other writers have shared thoughts about the importance and means of effective documentation over the years. One good source is an article at TechRepublic that outlines 10 steps any IT pro can take to create more effective documentation (and make the documenting process easier to follow through on as well). For example, documentation by illustration can simplify things both for the person in charge of documentation and the people who are next in the data chain. And another good step to take is to test your documentation before passing along. Can you make sense of your own instructions?


If you're still getting around to making resolutions for the new year, this is probably an area where many could find room to improve. Resolve to do a better job of documentation in 2015, and you'll be making IT better organized for yourself and easier for others at the same time.

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About the Author

GoCertify's mission is to help both students and working professionals get IT certifications. GoCertify was founded in 1998 by Anne Martinez.