IT documentation plays an essential role in ensuring that your team can build, operate, and maintain technology systems effectively. To ensure that this documentation is consistent and useful, it’s important to establish IT documentation standards. In this article, we’ll explore the best IT documentation standards and considerations to help you create a process that works for your organization.
What Are the Best Standards for Technical Documentation?
Technical documentation is essential in the IT industry. It helps users understand how to use products, troubleshoot issues, and provide feedback to developers. So, it’s crucial that this documentation is easy to understand, follows strict standards, and is up-to-date. Here are some of the best standards you can follow for technical documentation.
1. Use a Consistent Format
The first thing that users should notice when reading your technical documentation is the consistent format. Using a consistent format helps readers know what to expect when navigating through your documents. It also makes it easier for readers to find information quickly by identifying each section with a unique header. This format should be used consistently throughout all of your documents. For example, if you use numbered sections in one section, use the same format in all the other parts of the document. If you use bullet points in one section, stay consistent and use bullet points in all sections that require it.
2. Use Simple Language
Technical documentation should be written in clear and concise language. The use of jargon, technical terms, and complex sentences should be avoided as much as possible. Your documentation should be understandable to all readers – including those who are not familiar with the technical jargon. Use simple words and short sentences that convey your message effectively. For instance, when talking about software specifications, use layman’s terms rather than technical terms that can be confusing to readers. Keep in mind that simplicity is key to effective technical documentation.
3. Be Specific
Technical documentation should be precise and to the point. Users should be able to find the information they need easily. This means including details such as software version numbers, module names, the name of the person who created the documentation, dates, and so on. Be specific about the problems that the product solves and how to use it. Being specific also means providing examples that users can follow. For example, if your product is a software program, provide detailed instructions on how to install and use it. Add screenshots, diagrams, and other visual aids to make your document more user-friendly.
4. Be Consistent with Terminology
Using consistent terminology is key to effective technical documentation. All nouns (words that name people, things, or ideas) and verbs (words that describe an action) should be used in a consistent manner throughout the document. For example, if you refer to a specific module in your documentation, use the same name or terminology throughout the document. Inconsistencies in terminology frequently lead to misinterpretation and confusion among readers.
5. Keep It Engaging
Technical documentation doesn’t have to be dull and boring. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Technical documentation can be engaging while still being informative. Use a conversational tone, add humor where appropriate, and share stories when it is relevant to the context. Engaging documents make it easy to hold your reader’s attention. Make your documents concise and use creative headings and sub-headings to make reading easier. Keep in mind that effective technical documentation is a balance between technical accuracy and readability.
Why Do You Need Documentation Standards for IT?
Documentation standards provide a structured approach to creating and maintaining technical documentation. Adherence to standards enhances readability, and findability and helps to establish E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness). But why do you need documentation standards for IT?
1. Ensures Consistency
Documentation standards ensure consistency in writing, style, and layout. Uniform documentation makes it easier for users to navigate across different products and systems created by the same team. A consistent approach to documentation will make it easier and quicker for users to find relevant information.
2. Enhances Quality
Standards define what content is appropriate and what should be left out. Following set standards helps to create documentation that is of high quality and free from errors. By following the standards, you can avoid mistakes and ensure that the customers’ comprehension and satisfaction are high.
3. Promotes Collaboration
A uniform approach to documentation makes it easier for technical writers, editors, and developers to work together. Collaboration is essential, and documentation standards create a basis for that collaboration. They can ensure that communication is efficient, clear, and comes from a shared perspective.
4. Improves User Experience
Documentation standards can improve user experience by making it easier for users to navigate, find relevant information, and understand how to use products. When technical documentation is clear, concise, accurate, and easy to understand, users will be satisfied, and customer loyalty will be increased.
Open Standard vs. Closed Standard
When it comes to choosing between open and closed standards, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, making the right choice can have a profound effect on your business operations, costs, and future growth. An open standard refers to specifications for implementing technology that is publicly available, allowing anyone to adopt or modify the technology.
Open standards have a higher level of accessibility, making them a favorite for many businesses. They also promote innovation and foster competition in the marketplace. HTML, HTTP, and XML are some examples of open standards.
On the other hand, closed standards are controlled by a single entity, limiting accessibility and innovation. They are proprietary and require licensing fees to use, which could be a limiting factor for many businesses when adopting them. Examples of closed standards include Microsoft’s DirectX and Apple’s QuickTime.
Open standards can be advantageous to businesses looking to save on costs and promote innovation. Since they are freely available, they do not require licensing fees, making them a cost-effective solution.
Due to their accessibility and compatibility with multiple devices, they could also provide a wider reach for your business. Closed standards may be more expensive, but they offer a higher level of control and security. They ensure that there is consistency in the user experience and are easier to troubleshoot since they are controlled by a single entity.
Closed standards can also have a higher level of reliability since they undergo rigorous testing before release. When making a choice between open and closed standards, consider your business’s needs, costs, and future growth. Conduct adequate research, speak to experts in the field, and analyze your business’s requirements before settling for either of the standards.
It is also prudent to consider that the standard you choose will have a long-lasting impact on your business operations, making it essential to make the right decision.
Understand Which Authoring Standards You Are Dealing With
When it comes to authoring content, there are different standards to consider. Each standard has its own set of rules and guidelines that ensure that the content is properly formatted and structured. In this section, we will take a closer look at some of the authoring standards you may come across:
HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the most common authoring standard for creating web pages. HTML is used to create the structure and content of a web page, including text, images, and videos. HTML uses tags to mark up the content, which tells web browsers how to display the content.
CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is used alongside HTML to add style and design to web pages. CSS is used to control the layout, colors, and typography of a web page. CSS uses rules and selectors to style the HTML content.
XML, or eXtensible Markup Language, is a flexible authoring standard that is used for storing and transporting data between different systems. XML is commonly used for creating RSS feeds, sitemaps, and other web content that needs to be easily shared and reused across different platforms.
Markdown is a lightweight authoring standard that is designed for creating content for the web. Markdown uses a simple syntax to format text, which is then converted into HTML. Markdown is commonly used for creating content for blogs, documentation, and other types of web content.
Do the Standards Fit Your Goals?
When choosing an authoring standard for your content, it is important to consider whether the standard fits your goals. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What Type of Content Are You Authoring?
Different authoring standards are better suited for different types of content. For example, HTML and CSS are great for creating web pages, while XML is better suited for storing and transporting data. Markdown is great for creating simple web content, like blog posts.
Do You Need to Share Your Content?
If you need to share your content across different platforms or with different systems, XML may be a better choice. XML is designed to be easily shared and reused between different systems. Markdown is also a good choice for sharing content, as it can be easily converted into HTML.
Do You Need to Add Style and Design to Your Content?
If you need to add style and design to your content, CSS is a great choice. CSS allows you to control the layout, colors, and typography of your web pages. HTML can also be styled using CSS, but it is not as flexible as CSS.
Learn More Today with Liongard
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, IT management has become more complex than ever before. This complexity has made IT documentation essential for every organization. With the right documentation tools, IT professionals can streamline their workflows, reduce errors, and improve the security of their systems.
One tool that has garnered considerable attention in recent times is Liongard.
What is Liongard?
Liongard is a powerful IT documentation platform designed to help MSPs and IT professionals automate their documentation processes. The platform uses agent-based technology to collect data from various systems and applications, providing a unified view of the IT environment.
With Liongard, IT teams can automate the documentation of critical assets like hardware, software, and cloud services. The platform also provides visibility into security issues, changes to systems and configurations, and activity logs, among other things. With all this information at their fingertips, IT teams can quickly diagnose and resolve issues, ensure compliance, and prevent security breaches.
Key Features and Benefits of Liongard
Now that we have a basic understanding of what Liongard is let’s explore some of its key features and benefits:
Automated Data Collection:
Liongard uses agent-based technology to automate data collection from various systems and applications, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Office 365, and more. This automation provides IT professionals with real-time visibility into the IT environment, giving them the tools they need to identify and resolve issues quickly.
Liongard integrates with leading PSA/RMM tools, including ConnectWise Automate, Datto Autotask, Kaseya VSA, and others. This integration creates a unified documentation platform that brings together data from different sources. With unified documentation, IT teams can document and manage all their systems, applications, and services from a single platform, reducing the risk of errors and mistakes.
Liongard automates the documentation of critical assets, including hardware, software, cloud services, and more. This automation saves IT professionals time and effort, allowing them to focus on higher-level tasks like ensuring compliance and preventing security breaches.
Liongard provides IT professionals with real-time alerts when changes are made to systems or configurations. These alerts enable IT teams to quickly diagnose and resolve issues, minimizing downtime and preventing data loss. The platform also provides visibility into security issues, such as authentication failures, unsecured domains, and SSL/TLS issues, among others.
Reports and Dashboards:
Liongard provides powerful reporting and dashboarding capabilities, giving IT teams visibility into the health and security of their IT environment. With customized reports and dashboards, IT professionals can quickly identify trends, monitor alarms, and measure performance against SLAs.
IT Documentation Standards FAQs
What is IT documentation?
IT documentation refers to the process of documenting information about an organization’s IT environment. This documentation includes information about hardware, software, cloud services, configurations, security, and more. IT documentation is essential for IT professionals to effectively manage their IT environment, ensure compliance, and prevent security breaches.
What are the benefits of IT documentation?
The benefits of IT documentation include:
- Improved visibility into the IT environment
- Reduced errors and mistakes
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Better decision-making
- Improved security
- Prevention of data loss
What are some common mistakes to avoid in IT documentation?
Some common mistakes to avoid in IT documentation include:
- Failing to document critical information
- Inconsistent documentation practices
- Outdated documentation
- Overcomplicating the documentation process
- Not following documentation standards or best practices
- Not reviewing or updating documentation regularly
What are the IT documentation standards?
The IT documentation standards include:
- Standard documentation templates
- Consistent naming conventions
- Standardized data definitions
- Clear documentation of roles and responsibilities
- Consistent documentation practices
- Regular review and update of documentation