IT Documentation - The Blog

Does it make sense to document maintenance work?

January 29, 2015

An often underrated potential lies in the documentation of maintenance work, no matter whether these activities are performed directly on the IT systems or on other devices that are critical for a perfectly working IT landscape. This includes at least the power supply and HVAC systems. Maintenance activities need to be performed regularly and documented in a traceable and comprehensive way.

Maintenance can affect system availability

If you want to predict the availability of your IT landscape, you need many different pieces of information. When calculating IT system down-times or up-times, do not forget to take maintenance work into account. But how long did this work take in the past? Are there records of these activities? If so, just have a look and then start the evaluation immediately, relying on actual values that confirm your estimations.

For certain types of maintenance work, it might be necessary to switch off the corresponding IT systems. At first glance, this is bad news, because it decreases their availability. On the other hand, properly maintained systems will (probably) run more reliably. Regular maintenance will reduce the probability that an unexpected failure occurs. Aside from that, the costs of such failures will usually be higher than those of scheduled maintenance work, even more because these failures – for whatever reason – tend to occur at night or during the weekend.

Documentation of maintenance activities

As always, it is preferable that you document all maintenance activities in the system you are using anyway, may this be the task scheduler of your e-mail software or a simple Excel worksheet. These solutions, however, are not very useful when it comes to link the activities to the IT systems or services undergoing maintenance. If you are using the Docusnap documentation tool, you can enter all maintenance activities related to each IT system into corresponding comments. This ensures optimum traceability of all work performed. Since all maintenance activities are documented in a single system, you can easily access particular maintenance data or create a list for a quick overview.

If you are working with a ticketing system, you can create a ticket for each pending or completed maintenance activity. These tickets should then be assigned to the IT systems they are related to. A structured change process is useful for this purpose and facilitates the communication within the IT department and the entire company. You surely want to let all colleagues know if and when IT systems will not be available as usual. In turn, it might also happen that maintenance was not performed on a system because it was forgotten to notify the technician accordingly, thus increasing the probability of occurrence of a failure. By planning and scheduling all activities properly, you can create a perfect maintenance process.

Digitise the maintenance reports and store the scan files directly in the documentation. Of course you can keep the original hardcopies as well, but in most cases, the accounting department will need them. With a digital copy, you neither need to create a photocopy nor file the hardcopy. No matter what method you choose, proof of maintenance must be kept properly. Especially for certified companies, this is a must anyway.

Does your company own an emergency power generator? If yes, a monthly test run should be common practice. Simply create a maintenance schedule in a spreadsheet application of your choice. If you are using a ticketing system, check if it is possible to schedule ticket recreation based on a template. This way, the maintenance task is no longer associated with a particular person and the only thing left is to make sure that several persons are instructed on how to perform the maintenance task. Once this has been done, maintenance is organised in a better and safer way than if it depended on one single person. This principle can of course be applied to almost all your systems.

Keep your costs under control

Do you exactly know how much you need to budget annually for maintenance? In the future, it will be easier to determine this amount. Not only the total – this is a figure your accounting department could provide. If a device fails despite all maintenance efforts, you need to make a decision: Repair the system or better replace it with a new one? For an informed decision, you need to know whether and at what cost the system has been repaired before, if ever. If you are the only member of the IT department, it is probably easy to estimate this, as every process crossed your desk, anyway. However, if multiple colleagues are involved or if you as the responsible person are not available, the decision must be taken by somebody else.

In this case, extensive documentation of maintenance activities is a must.