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Passing The Torch At The End Of The Road

Dave Mason SQL Server Documentation

This is my final week of employment with my current employer. I've decided to leave and begin my search for other opportunities. Now, as in the past, my final two weeks have been hectic. Numerous people have wanted my time for knowledge sharing in the hopes of having a smooth hand off to whoever ends up filling my shoes. Although my decision to leave came abruptly, I've been ready for the hand off for a long time. Let me explain.

I've long felt the need to document my work: the different processes I oversee, the basic architecture of the environments I manage, what's necessary to know on the network/storage/virtualization side, how backups are performed, what the SQL Agent jobs are doing, etc. I tend to document all of that and more. In general, if someone asks "How's this work?", I like to have something they can read to quickly get up to speed.

The time to create that documentation isn't right before you leave. That work begins soon after you're hired. It continues from week to week, month to month, and year to year. For many, this is drudgery. I get it. For me, it's not quite so bad. I enjoy writing from time to time, ya' know! But there are benefits we all can reap long before our time is up. Consider this event that happened to me recently:

Don't think of documentation as a drain on your time. Think of it as in investment that pays off farther down the road. Plus, it's really gratifying when someone asks you a broad question and you say "Oh. I have documentation for that. I'll send it to you."

A Few Ideas

If you've never been a regular "documenter", it might be a little daunting to get into the habit. Here are a few ideas that may help:

  • Word documents: you can document just about anything with Microsoft Word. I'd recommend separate files for each documentation topic.
  • Self-documentation: some things practically document themselves if they can be expressed as the output of a query. SQL Agent jobs and job steps are a good example. You might even go crazy and run the queries on demand in a spreadsheet or from an SSRS report.
  • T-SQL comments: documenting your code is a must. Put a comment header at the top of stored procedures, views, user-defined functions, etc. Someday, someone will have to figure out what your code does. Note: that someone might be you!
  • Videos: who wouldn't want to hear you dulcet tones? Make a video that others can watch when they want to know "how stuff works".
  • Blog posts: writing online articles about what you do at work can be an added avenue for documentation. You didn't think I made up all of the stuff on my site out of the blue...did you?
  • I won't be in the office on Monday or thereafter. But that's OK. For three and a half years, I've been preparing. People will know what I've done, and how I did it. The "new Dave" will be well prepared. I made sure of that.


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