Friday, May 13, 2011

SOP Friday: The !Tech Directory

This is the first installment in a new series I'm doing every Friday called SOP Friday.

SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures. Those are the handy little processes that you can put in place to make everything in your company work better . . . if they're followed.

Some people argue that you should not put standard processes in place until you're successful, have a few employees, and are ready to really grow. I think that is very short-sighted and has cost many companies a lot of money.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Michael Gerber's E-Myth Revisited. It is a great discussion about standard procedures and why they are extremely helpful for even very small businesses.

There's an old saw that you should act like the person (business) you want to become. If you have sloppy procedures or do every job differently, then you won't be able to suddenly create and propagate SOP's when you start to grow. Just like any other muscles, your muscles of success will be trained to be non-standardized. You need to exercise those standardization muscles now, not when you have 50 employees.

- - -

So here's the first SOP

SOP: The !Tech Directory

- Overview -

The c:\!Tech directory is a key component of standardizing the machines we work on. On some occasions, we will use d:\!Tech, but whenever possible, we'll use c:\!Tech.

This directory name assures that the directory will be at the top of file listings and easy to find. Here's what's inside:

C:\!Tech
C:\!Tech\Hardware
C:\!Tech\Software
C:\!Tech\Tech Notes

Generally, this is the place to put drivers (hardware), downloads (software), source info, etc. the tech notes section is a good place for troubleshooting notes, screen caps, etc. Sometimes when you're on site, it's faster to go here than to Autotask (ConnectWise/Tigerpaw). You can even place a .pdf version of the Network Documentation Binder.

Normally, when we set up a machine, we copy various files into one or more of these directories. It is extremely rare that we don't need to copy or download some kind of file, so there's a 99% probability that this folder structure is created when the machine is brand new.

Note: We NEVER download a file to the desktop, to the "my documents" folder, to the Temp directory, or to anywhere other than the C:\!Tech directory. Why? Well, that's the essence of SOPs: If I have to re-do some work, or re-install a printer, etc., then I know for a fact that I'll find the files in the C:\!Tech directory. I don't have to waste time looking through c:\temp, c:\windows\temp, user folders, my docs, desktop, etc.

There's only one place for those downloads. They're either there or not. But they're NOT anywhere else.


- Implementation Notes -

1) Whenever a tech puts notes here, you should use either Notepad (txt format) or Wordpad save in RTF format. That way you can access these notes right from there server where you won't have MS Word available.

2) A good way to start with this SOP is to create a service ticket in Autotask (ConnectWise/Tigerpaw) to create these directories. Next, add the creation of these directories to your New PC checklist. And integrate them into your checklists for server builds and other procedures.

3) One of the most common things we use this directory for is configuration backups and notes. For example, whenever you make changes to the router or firewall, first backup the config to c:\!Tech\Hardware. Then make your changes and create another backup to the same location. Use a standard date format (see next week's SOP tip).


- Benefits -

The primary benefit of the C:\!Tech directory is that you save time, which means money. Second, it is organized so you can actually operate more efficiently. And, third, this SOP makes it much easier to send other people out to do a job, or to coordinate with remote support providers.

When there's a place for things to go, people tend to put things where they belong. As a tech support company, it's very handy to keep all your stuff in one place so you can provide excellent tech support and not waste time looking in different places on each server.


- Forms -

There are no specific forms for this SOP, although you might write up a brief description of the procedure and put it into your SOP or SAP binder (SAP stands for Standards and Procedures).

Your Comments Welcome.

:-)





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5 comments:

  1. Thanks for your initiative with SOP series.

    We also keep a similar directory on each workstation. However, we keep it on non-system partition, so that when we re-install the system, we have necessary drivers and additional software intact on a local system. In some cases, if a local workstation has non-standard applications, we take an image of the system and keep a copy also under the same directory.

    Regards,
    Agasi Jafarov

    ReplyDelete
  2. Because we have it on a backup, we don't normall put it on the data drive. But I can totally see the argument for that. The most common time we put !Tech on the D: drive is when the server is old and the system partition is just getting too full.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Karl,

    I think the PSA documents area is more appropriate for anything important. Firewall configs should always be updated in their config items as the master location--you can leave it local to the server if you want. It's our responsibility to track that kind of information--why spread it all over? Might have some potential security issues as well.

    Good tip though, it is nice to have one place to go reinstall downloads.

    -m

    ReplyDelete
  4. We do put a lot of stuff on the PSA (Autotask in our case). But there's a lot of stuff that's very handy on the local machine.

    In most cases, we have to upload info to Autotask, so the only place to put it locally is !Tech. Firewall configs are a great example. So they're in both places.

    Some things don't belong on the PSA, like client software (although license keys are often in both places).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am a one man shop. I used LPi for an RMM, now I am using Labtech. Before them, I was using Spiceworks. Since my time as a 'builder' in a neighborhood whitebox shop in the 90's, I have always had the equivalent of a !Tech directory. I do not have a PSA, as my revenues are not, yet, high enough to afford that luxury. For now, I am working with Evernote as a interim solution. I keep in it all of my clients information that you would find in a PSA. Configurations, WO's and notes, history and conversations. This handy tool is available on all on my devices, and kept current through internet syncing. I enter it and forget it until needed. And then I can find it. Combining this with the tech directory was one of the best, and least expensive decisions I ever made to move my business growth forward.

    ReplyDelete

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