December 6, 2023

Your organization has purchased an expensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that comes with a comprehensive set of documentation, including user manuals, training materials, and technical guides. You leveraged the documentation and successfully implemented the system, but how much documentation have you used since then?

Technology is an investment. You want to get the most out of your system, including its operation being consistent and reliable. You regularly update your system for upgrades and patches. Ensuring that your appropriate documentation is up to date is crucial as it enables employees to understand the updated system.

Documentation captures key information, preserving that knowledge and making it available to all appropriate individuals. If only a select few individuals know how the system works, what happens when they get sick, take a vacation, or quit their job? The solution is to make sure the information is written down and this knowledge is documented.

User related documents

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User documentation supports onboarding and training to ensure employees know how to use the system properly. This enables employees to become familiar with the system so they can utilize it effectively. The user manual provides guidance for the end user, including step-by-step instructions on how to use the system. Security roles determine what employees can/cannot do and what needs supervisor coverage. If you add a module, make sure you add details of the new feature/functionality so that the documentation is not incomplete or missing information.

Training materials (eg, instructor/student manuals, cheat sheets) are used to train new and existing employees for promotions and transfers. Training materials can be used in scheduled training sessions or in a train-the-trainer scenario where a designated trainer (departmental super user or subject matter expert) trains the rest of the organization.

If the documentation is not up to date, it may confuse end users or make it difficult to use the system properly. Allow users to submit feedback (for example, via a service ticket) about the documentation, such as unclear steps, incorrect screen printing, or missing information.

IT-related documents


For IT staff, the documentation serves as a reference for how the system is used. This includes system setup/configuration, system maintenance, and troubleshooting.

Many organizations operate around the clock, so it’s critical that IT staff be able to minimize downtime. Some key files are:

1. System Architecture Documentation – Provides an overview of system components and interconnection interfaces. If you need to move your environment from on-premises to the cloud, having up-to-date architecture documentation minimizes uncertainty about what components you have and how they are connected.

2. Data-related documents (for example, data dictionaries and data flow diagrams)—documenting data structures. If a table is dropped, do you know what processes, including reporting, are affected?

3. System Maintenance Documentation – Does the upgrade affect the patching process? Does the nightly processing schedule need to be updated? Or any backup schedule (daily, monthly, quarterly, etc.)?

4. Troubleshooting Documentation – A guide to diagnosing and resolving common technical issues. When you upgrade the database version, are you familiar with the new system information and codes in advance?

As systems change, make sure documentation is updated to reflect those changes. You can use a date stamp in the footer and enable versioning to identify when the document was last updated.

Also, don’t forget to update your disaster recovery and business continuity documentation. In the event of a disaster, you want to ensure that your organization can minimize any business disruption. Disaster times can be chaotic, and up-to-date documentation can reduce stress, especially for employees filling in absentees.

For more information on the importance of keeping your system documentation up to date, Follow me on LinkedIn!

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