Best Practices for Documenting Field Service Projects, Actions & Assets

Managing documentation is not easy in any industry, but field service documentation is particularly challenging to get right consistently.

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    Field service operations involve a great deal of managing documentation, with information flying back and forth over the Internet, phone lines, and sometimes even scrawled on handwritten notes in the margins of work order printouts. So, it is no wonder that many field service managers find keeping track of all those notes and updates one of the most challenging things about the job.

    Managing documentation is not easy in any industry, but field service documentation is particularly challenging to get right consistently. This article explores why maintaining high-quality documentation on your projects, actions, and assets is important. It then highlights some best practices any field service business can follow to increase the quantity and quality of their documentation.

    What Are the Benefits of Keeping Detailed Field Service Documentation?

    We live in an information-based society and work in an information-based economy. Therefore, tracking vital information can be invaluable for informing your strategic business planning, decision-making, and analyses.

    Good documentation helps you learn from past experiences

    Memory is unreliable. It does not matter if you are the fresh-faced engineer right out of college with quick recall or the veteran frontline technician who has seen and fixed every problem under the sun.

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    Their experiences are valuable, but you can’t trust memory regarding something as important as field service knowledge bases. So, when you document problem resolutions, processes, project plans, and inventory your assets, you ensure accurate records of what happened within your organization that you can call up at any time that information is needed.

    It makes communication easier

    Repeating and rephrasing the same information over and over again to different personnel is not only time-consuming, but it can also lead to errors unexpectedly creeping in. Field service operations should not function like a game of telephone. When you maintain detailed documentation, everyone has a single source of truth (SSoT) they can reference for information on a given issue.

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    Managing documentation helps you oversee resources effectively

    Detailed project and work order logs provide a history you can reference to understand what resources were needed to complete similar past work. That knowledge can inform your planning for future project scopes and budget cycles. As a result, you can make better decisions about allocating resources in the future and avoiding waste.

    Why Aren’t Staff Using Our Documentation?

    Generating good documentation involves more than just dumping all the information you have in a flat text file. Even veteran writers and field service teams can fall into a few common traps when generating good documentation. Unfortunately, the most experienced personnel often overlook the basics when getting their documentation as useful as possible.

    Some of the most common mistakes we have seen include the following:

    1. Too much technical jargon

    Loading up documentation with technical terms and insider jargon does not give those readers the context they need to extract useful information. If someone needs to look up documentation in the first place, they lack some important context on the topic. Give them the tools to get closer to the topic with clear, simple language.

    2. Too complicated

    Hand in hand with too much jargon is overly complicated writing. If you throw too many nuances at a reader, you will tax their working memory, and they will struggle to remember the fundamentals. Keep it simple.

    3. Not standardized or centralized

    If you have multiple copies of documentation floating around, in multiple different versions, stored in various locations, users will not know which to trust. And so, they will not trust any at all. So, establish that single source of truth. Maintain one master copy of the documentation in a repository users can always find.

    4. Hard to access

    If technicians cannot find your documentation, they will not use it. So ensure that a centralized repository is easy to access on as many different device types as possible.

    Best Practices for Documenting Field Service Projects, Actions & Assets

    No two field service companies’ needs are the same, but every company can benefit from following some universal best practices.

    Create a documentation plan

    Take the time upfront to establish a clear documentation plan. What is the goal for documenting your field service company’s projects, actions, and assets? How does it fit into your overall business plan? If you understand documentation’s role in your overall business strategy, your team will create and use it better.

    For example, are you generating volumes of documentation to ensure regulatory compliance because fines are steep in your sector? That will steer you towards generating detailed checks for better process control.

    Are field techs often working on their own? Then your documentation might consist of more troubleshooting flowcharts to help support better decision-making for employees who cannot easily reach out to senior colleagues. Use field service software that can link and load documentation on their mobile devices.

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    Use templates for managing documentation

    Do not leave your technical personnel struggling to structure documentation in a useful manner. Instead, create documentation templates that guide them towards creating content that fits your documentation strategy, such as checklists or flowcharts in our examples earlier.

    Set design and style standards for your documentation

    Beyond templated structure, your documentation should also have consistent style and language. You should maintain an agreed-upon set of industry terms and acronyms so readers are not constantly left looking up a term unique to one team in their field service management software.

    Remember, the goal of documentation is to convey core ideas as simply and efficiently as possible. That requires constant and easy-to-understand language across your entire knowledge base.

    Keep documentation updated

    It is important to accept that you are never done with documentation. A field service knowledge base is a set of living documents that must be monitored, curated, and updated as your customers and business evolve. Set an update schedule and assign key stakeholders to review the documentation at a rate that lets you stay ahead of major changes.

    Out-of-date documentation is dead documentation. So, try not to have any of it.

    Velosio Can Help You Optimize Work Order Management

    Field service software, like Dynamics 365 from Velosio, can help you generate more and better documentation. Customizable templates, deep design and support tools, and powerful search make knowledge bases in Dynamics 365 one of the most powerful tools in your technicians’ arsenal. So, if you are ready to improve your field service company’s documentation, contact Velosio about Dynamics 365 for Field Service today.

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