IT Documentation: Do it for Your Business!
Good IT documentation saves an MSP money by saving it A LOT of time.
If you own an IT business, chances are you’ve heard about the glorious benefits of proper IT documentation practices. How they can make your technicians’ lives dramatically easier and save your business tons of time, and thus, tons of money.
But just how much time do your employees waste due to poor documentation practices, anyway? How many hours a day? A month? A year? And what about you?
You may not be able to give precise answers to these questions. But there’s a good chance you radically underestimate the number of hours — and dollars — that are lost at your MSP due to inefficient uses of time. And there’s also a good chance you radically underestimate how much of that time you could win back through better documentation.
The good news is that it’s not your fault — not entirely, at least. It’s hard to judge just how much the little things add up when you’re busy running the rest of your business. But it’s essential to take control of your destiny and your business to make things more efficient for you and your clients. By the end of this blog post, two things should be clear, if they’re not already:
- It’s all too easy to underestimate how much time (and money) your MSP wastes.
- It’s all too easy to underestimate how much time (and money) better documentation practices would save your IT business.
Time Wasted: Take it with a Grain of Rice — Not Salt
Maybe you’ve heard the following story from Indian folklore …
A man invents the game of chess and shows the emperor his creation. The emperor is so impressed by the man’s ingenuity that he allows the man to name his reward. The man asks for rice. Specifically, one grain for the first square of his chess board, two for the second, four for the third, and so on, the grains doubling each successive square. “No problem,” the emperor says, feeling happy to grant the man his humble request.
But the “humble request” turns out to be anything but. How much rice has the emperor promised? A ton. Actually, that’s a vast understatement, for in truth it’s actually
trillions of tons. To fill the entire board in the manner proposed, the emperor will need 2⁶⁴ grains of rice, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. That’s a lot of rice.
But what does any of this have to do with documentation? Quite a bit, actually. What the above story illustrates is human beings’ pronounced tendency to underestimate the power of accumulation. We simply don’t realize how quickly things add up.
This applies to time wasted as much as it does to grains of rice. If you’re a business owner, it can be easy to either overlook, underestimate, or ignore how small inefficiencies add up into huge wastes of time and money. But the right information and the right expertise can help resolve this issue for you and your organization.
The Cost of Inefficiency
Experts estimate that workers in technical fields waste about 20% of their time trying to track down information that should be at their fingertips. So, in an 8-hour workday, a technician is likely to spend around 1.6 hours just looking for information, much of which proper documentation protocols would have made readily available. Let’s put a dollar amount on this …
Say your MSP employs 5 technicians. If they waste 20% of their time searching for information and you pay them an average annual salary of 60k dollars, that means you’re losing almost 7k dollars each week on account of poorly organized information. And that’s before factoring in opportunity costs! When you factor in opportunity costs, you’re losing an additional $13,824 per week (based on a gross margin % of 50). In total, that’s …
More than 20k dollars a month! ‘Yikes’ is right. (You can use IT Glue’s “Cost of Waste” calculator to estimate the cost of time wasted at your company due to information not being easily accessible. Just plug in the relevant information — number of techs, their average salary, etc. — and voilà, you’ll see just how much inefficiency is hurting your bottom line.)
Here’s another somewhat startling statistic: A study by UC Irvine found that an office worker takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption. And having to track down a coworker for critical information during a call with a customer — you better believe that constitutes an interruption! Having to dig for crucial information that’s hidden in discrete silos can completely ruin your techs’ flow and lower their morale. This is likely to taint the customer service experience that your MSP’s reputation relies on. We start to see how the effects of inefficiency ripple outward.
But with a robust and centralized system of documentation in place, your techs can assist clients not only more swiftly, but more smoothly and confidently. A chef who has to cook a meal while simultaneously trying to find the recipe, the steps of which are hidden all over the kitchen, all while juggling knives … Yeah, that’s not going to be a happy chef. And that chef is no different from an IT tech who has to help a customer while trying to track down the information needed to provide quality assistance. So, write down your MSP’s ‘recipes’ (i.e., standard operating procedures) so your techs can serve up tasty IT support with confidence, instead of sloppily prepared meals thrown together under stress.
Don’t Listen to Your Gut
Here’s the bottom line: If your MSP doesn’t have its ducks in a row when it comes to documentation, your technicians are likely wasting tons of time not only tracking down information, but refocusing once they’ve found it. And once they’ve refocused, they’re often going to be facing a frustrated client whose patience is running thin — yet one more obstacle to working smoothly and efficiently.
Just like the grains of rice in the legend, it all adds up — all of these inefficiencies caused by inadequate documentation. It’s easy to underestimate or just plain overlook the sum of all these time wastages. Again, that’s just what humans do. From MSP owners to emperors, we’re all prone to misjudging the power of accumulation.
But once you know about a bias, it’s easier to combat it. So, going forward, keep in mind that you’re ‘wired’ to underestimate how much time your MSP wastes on account of bad documentation. On a gut level, your documentation problem may not feel like a huge problem. But as we’ve seen, our guts aren’t always great guides when it comes to cumulative processes, whether they involve rice or time.
Documentation Works … If You Do Too!
Just as the time an MSP loses to bad documentation accumulates sneakily, often going unnoticed or underestimated, so too does the time an MSP wins back once they get their documentation practices in order.
What this means is that it’s vital that you pay attention to how documentation is affecting your organization’s overall productivity and efficiency. More specifically, track data; you can’t expect to appreciate the impact that documentation is having on your MSP if you rely on casual observation. Wield the power of analytics to determine what sort of effect changes in your documentation strategies have on KPIs. And remember, the benefits of good documentation practices are not immediate; efficiency and productivity may take an initial dip while your MSP adjusts to new documentation protocols.
It can be useful to set aside time every quarter, or even every month, to go over your MSP’s documentation. Documentation isn’t something you set up once and never think about again. It’s an ongoing and evolving record of your
organization’s core operational processes. When a tech figures out a better way of solving a particular IT issue, update your SOPs accordingly.
It boils down to this: For documentation to work, you have to work on it. That’s why a lot of MSPs end up failing to harness the power of documentation; as in any industry, a willingness to put in the work is what separates the winners from the losers in the MSP space — the multi-million-dollar MSPs from the ones barely scraping by. But don’t just work hard, work smart. And remember, the right tools and expertise can enable you to do more with less.
Invest in Documentation
Documentation isn’t something to cut corners on. The reason to implement a new documentation regime at your MSP is the same reason you do anything as a business owner: you want to maximize profitability. But for documentation to serve that end, you can’t just do it; you have to do it well. So don’t document just to document. Do it to improve your IT company’s process and, in turn, its profitability. And this means doing it thoroughly, consistently, and thoughtfully.
If you’re committed to getting serious about documentation, and implementing documentation practices at your MSP that will actually save your business time and money in the long run, consider using IT Glue for all of your documentation needs. Using documentation software makes documentation immeasurably easier, and if you’re going to use documentation software, it’s a good idea to go with the trusted choice of the world’s top MSPs. There’s a reason over 200,000 people use IT Glue: it works!