Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

Process Documentation: the Scourge of Infrastructure Management

Which bits of your documentation need the most amount of work, in the least amount of time? To find out, use the quality-value matrix suggested by infrastructure expert Rich Schiesser in this article.
Like this article? We recommend

The duties of IT professionals include such unappealing tasks as late-night calls, last-minute changes to test schedules, unreasonable customer requests, and weekend upgrades. But these relatively minor annoyances pale in comparison to one of the most unappealing scourges of all: process documentation. In the frequently heard words of a typical IT analyst, "I've just spent months planning, testing, and now implementing this process. You mean you want me to document it as well?"

The reluctance to document is understandable. Highly knowledgeable IT personnel usually excel more in technical skills than writing skills. Some view writing as a less important, peripheral part of their job. Others may see documentation as being "beneath" them. Many struggle with how to determine the true quality and value of the documentation they're generating. The following article describes how IT analysts can effectively make these determinations, and in the process transform a potential scourge into a possible blessing.

Evaluating Process Documentation

An important aspect of any process, such as logging trouble calls, requesting system changes, or executing disaster recovery plans, is the documentation that accompanies it. Many shops develop excellent processes but fail to document them adequately. After an initially successful implementation of the process, many of these procedures go unused due to lack of documentation, particularly as new staff members who are unfamiliar with the process attempt to use it.

Often, some documentation is better than none at all, but adding value and quality to the documentation increases the likelihood of proper use of the process it describes. Evaluating the quality of documentation can easily become a very subjective activity. Few techniques exist to objectively quantify the quality and value of process documentation. That's why the following methodology is so unique and beneficial. I developed this approach over several years while working with many clients who struggled with ways to determine both the quality and the value of their process documentation.

The purpose of evaluating the quality of content is to show to what degree the material is suitable for use. The purpose of evaluating its value is to show how important the documentation is to the support of the process and how important the process is to the support of the business. The quality of the content of documentation is evaluated with 10 common characteristics of usability:

  1. Ownership. This characteristic rates the degree to which the three key ownership roles—process owner, documentation custodian, and technical writer—are clearly identified, understood, and supported. For some processes, the same individual may have all three roles. In most cases the documentation custodian maintains the process documentation and reports to the process owner.

  2. Readability. This characteristic rates the clarity and simplicity of the written documentation. Items evaluated include the use of common words, terms, and phrases; correct spelling; proper use of grammar; and minimal use of acronyms, along with explanations of those that are used but not widely known. This characteristic especially looks at how well the level of the material matches the skill and experience level of the audience.

  3. Accuracy. This characteristic rates the technical accuracy of the material.

  4. Thoroughness. This characteristic rates how well the documentation has succeeded in including all relevant information.

  5. Format. This characteristic rates the overall organization of the material; how easy it is to follow; how well it keeps a consistent level of technical depth; and to what degree it documents and describes an actual process rather than merely duplicating tables, spreadsheets, and metrics.

  6. Accessibility. This characteristic rates the ease or difficulty of accessibility.

  7. Currency. This characteristic rates to what degree the current version of the documentation is up to date and the frequency with which it's kept current.

  8. Ease of update. This characteristic rates the relative ease or difficulty with which the documentation can be updated, including revision dates and distribution of new versions.

  9. Effectiveness. This characteristic rates the overall usability of the documentation, including the use of appropriate examples, graphics, color coding, use on multiple platforms, and compliance with existing standards (if available).

  10. Accountability. This characteristic rates to what degree the documentation is being read, understood, and effectively used; all appropriate users are identified and held accountable for proper use of the documentation.

These ten characteristics are intended to cover a broad spectrum of quality attributes to make them applicable to a wide variety of different types of documentation. The value of the documentation to the environment for which it was intended is evaluated next, using five common characteristics:

  1. Criticality of the process. This characteristic describes how critical is the process described by this documentation to the successful business of the company.

  2. Frequency of use. This characteristic describes how frequently the documentation is used or referenced.

  3. Number of users. This characteristic describes the approximate number of personnel who will likely want or need to use this documentation.

  4. Variety of users. This characteristic describes the variety of different functional areas or skill levels of personnel who will likely use this documentation.

  5. Impact of non-use. This characteristic describes the level of adverse impact that's likely to occur if the documentation is not used properly.

Each characteristic for both quality and value can be rated on a 0–3 scale, based on the degree to which elements of each characteristic were met. The ratings are defined as follows:

  • 3: All aspects of the characteristic have been met or are present.

  • 2: A significant, though not entire, portion of the characteristic has been met or is present.

  • 1: A small portion of the characteristic has been met.

  • 0: None or an insignificant amount of the characteristic has been met.

Using this rating system against the 10 attributes of quality and 5 characteristics of value enables virtually any type of documentation within your infrastructure to be evaluated. The maximum quality rating for any piece evaluated is 30 and the maximum value rating is 15.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020