One of the most common mistakes IT consulting professionals make is failing to maintain good documentation for each of their client systems.

While you may feel confident that you have memorized everything you need to know about each infrastructure, you create a serious risk for your IT consulting business if the only real repository of system information is in your memory. Here’s why:

  • Your team will never be able to respond to issues on a network as effectively as you can personally.

  • Your clients will find themselves in serious difficulties if you ever become indisposed or unavailable.

  • You will find yourself unable ever to take an undisturbed holiday if others need to contact you to ascertain passwords or other vital system details.

The reasons above make it abundantly clear that it’s essential to maintain a library of information about each customer's infrastructure.

In this article, we list seven items of documentation you should maintain for every client:

  1. IP Address Details - You should keep a detailed list of IP address details for all the key components of a network. This should include server IP details (internal and external), IPs for routers, DHCP ranges, IPs for network printers, and IPs for all other network devices.

  2. An Infrastructure Diagram - It’s easy to create an infrastructure diagram for a network using software such as Microsoft’s Visio. A visual representation of a network will help other IT professionals get an idea of how a network fits together and operates, even if they’ve never attended a site in person. Your infrastructure diagram should include the IP details mentioned in the previous point.

  3. Password Lists - There are numerous ways to maintain lists of passwords. Needless to say, these should be kept extremely secure. For internal use, you could use a password-protected Excel spreadsheet, or one of the many password library solutions designed specifically for IT consulting businesses. To maintain effective IT security, you must ensure that passwords are only available to your team on an “as-needed” basis, so you must give some thought to how the information can be accessed. When it comes to the clients themselves, you may wish to suggest that a company-specific password list is kept in hardcopy in a safe somewhere. This means your client will be able to access the passwords and pass them on to another IT professional if you or your company ever became indisposed. Ensure that your password lists include any “master” encryption keys that are usually created at the point you encrypt a PC or laptop, and are needed should a user password be lost.

  4. License Keys - You should ensure that you maintain a license database for all the software in use at each client site. If the need arises to reinstall the software, it’s unreasonable to expect clients to sift through a cupboard to find this information in old software packaging. Instead, make it a routine task to add any new license information to a database or spreadsheet.

  5. Key Functional Documentation - This documentation category includes all the instructions required to restore key systems in the event of a problem. An example would be details of the SQL configuration required to rebuild a corporate database or CRM system.

  6. Key Contact Details - It’s unlikely that your IT consulting firm is the only company involved in providing technical services to each client. Ensure you maintain details of all the other companies involved: Web hosting firms, designers, database vendors, and online backup providers. You need to ensure your team (or your successors) knows who they need to contact when things go wrong.

  7. Details of any “Quirks” - Over time, most IT systems develop individual quirks all of their own. For example, you may know very well that when users cannot print, you simply need to restart a troublesome service on a specific server – but if you don’t document things like this, others may waste hours troubleshooting when the fix is actually quite simple. So, ensure you maintain details of these quirks so that other technicians can “hit the ground running” when things go wrong.

Can you think of any other documentation that every IT consulting firm should maintain? If so, please let us know in the Comments box below

And to follow through on the tips introduced in this short article,  especially if you also support SaaS and IaaS, be sure to enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.

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