Written by Nate Josephs

Sr. Systems Engineer/Data Center Manager

In the previous articles on policies, processes, and procedures, I defined policies as guidelines or rules for all work impacting the data center.  Processes are high-level steps needed to perform a desired output.  Procedures serve the distinct role of explaining in detail how to perform tasks.  Procedures minimize error by ensuring work is performed consistently, efficiently, and conforms to best practices.  Within this fourth and final article on policies, processes and procedures, I will offer the following tips for creating effective procedures.

Determine the Right Amount of Detail:  As mentioned, the goal of procedures is to provide detailed instructions for completing activities.  A big challenge when writing procedures is determining the right amount of detail to include.  When documenting how to use particular software, do you need to explain how to turn on the computer and launch the software?  Or, do you skip over those details and just include steps necessary to use the software?  The amount of detail to include depends on your audience.  For example, if you are writing cable installation procedures intended for certified cable installation vendors, skipping details on how to terminate cables ends makes sense.  Instead, focusing on your organization’s unique cable labeling standards is more appropriate.  However, if the cabling procedures are intended for data center technicians who only have basic cabling skills, including “step by step” instructions on terminating cable ends makes sense.

Use Fewer Words:  I remember my English teachers telling everyone in class to write more clearly and concisely.  Clear and concise writing is especially important when creating procedures. Staff members shouldn’t have to waste time sifting through pages of extraneous text when searching for something.  Make your procedures manuals user-friendly by reducing the number of words while preserving the content’s meaning. Here’s an example of a wordy procedure:

  • “When a delivery arrives, you need to be sure to inspect every box, or crate for damage. Do not accept any shipment that is damaged.  If you do find damage on a shipment, contact the customer immediately and follow their instructions.”

Here’s the same procedure written more concisely:

  • “Inspect all deliveries when they arrive. If damage is found, DO NOT ACCEPT THE DELIVERY.  Contact the customer immediately for further instructions.”

Add More Pictures:  The old cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” truly applies to procedures.  Words used to describe or explain something may make perfect sense to the author.  However, a person reading the procedure may not fully understand or misinterpret the written explanation.  Diagrams and pictures help avoid any misinterpretations and can dramatically reduce the amount of text needed.

The following is a procedure that effectively uses pictures while keeping the amount of words written to a minimum:

Parting Words:  Procedures explain how to perform specific tasks. One tip for creating effective data center procedures is to know your audience and provide the appropriate amount of detail based on their skill level and expertise.  Another tip is to use clear and concise wording to make it easy for users to quickly comprehend the content.  Finally, use pictures and diagrams to ensure readers understand the content.  Utilizing these tips will help you create effective procedures that will aid in reducing error and increasing uptime for your data center.


Be sure to check back here soon for the next installment on Tips From A Data Center Manager.