Making documents available and findable: the Case of the Overworked System Administrators

In a large hospital, more than one hundred separate computer systems were active at any given time, ranging from medical imaging systems to the system that keeps track of who is wearing which lab coat. A handful of system administrators kept all those systems up and running. Even when they were off-duty they had to leave their cell phones switched on, because nobody else knew what to do when something went even a little bit wrong.

What was achieved

There now is a document management system. When going on holiday, a system administrators only has to show a colleague what information can be found where. Then they can go, confident that their phone will ring only when absolutely necessary. The bit of extra work involved in keeping the content of the document management system up-to-date is more than outweighed by the benefits it brings.

What it took

Ten systems were part of a pilot project, which ran for a couple of months during which a Byte Ryte consultant was present on-site for one day per week. All the work was done in close co-operation with those most involved: the system managers. Together we drew up a list of the various types of documentation that should be available for every one of the systems.

Armed with that list the system administrators went hunting for information that was available in some form, somewhere. This led to interesting finds. One installation manual was found "in the third drawer of my old desk in the wing we abandoned last year", a scanned overview of error messages "in the MyDocuments folder on my laptop at home".

Existing documentation was collected and scanned in where necessary. As we were working on that, it turned out that the hospital had a document management system available which the system administrators had not been aware of! We put all that we had found in the system. The documentation that was still missing was then produced by the system administrators themselves, in their rare spare moments. Byte Ryte supported the effort with tailor-made templates, straightforward writing guidelines, and feedback on intermediate and final results.