Five major problems with free documentation templates

R66E2T133WUsing free documentation templates to accelerate your management system and compliance projects is obviously appealing – everyone likes to get something for nothing, after all – but, as with so many other situations, if something sounds too good to be true, it invariably is.

Unless you can verify the reliability of the site that the free templates come from and the accuracy of the content they contain, then you are putting your organisation and data at serious risk. Here’s why.

  1. Anyone can submit content

Online, it’s an oft-repeated adage that if you’re not paying, you’re the product. Consider the motivation of the people who supply free templates. What’s in it for them? Your information? Worse? Anyone could have contributed content. Think about that for a moment. With free templates, not only is there no guarantee that the authors have any expertise whatsoever, the files you download might even endanger your organisation. It’s one thing wasting time adapting templates that are ultimately valueless, it’s quite another to willingly – if unwittingly – infect your machine with malware and put your network at risk while trying to improve its security and efficiency on the cheap. (This irony is something that the security consultants you’ll eventually have to call in to fix the problems you’ve created will enjoy; it’s not something you’ll find amusing as you struggle to justify the extra expenditure to your bosses.)

  1. Out of date

The lackadaisical approach to content submission also applies to keeping free templates up to date. Even if the content seems perfectly plausible, there’s no guarantee that it’s current. Management system standards are updated every three to five years as industry best practice evolves and technology advances, and frameworks such as ITIL®, COBIT®, etc. are regularly revised to address feedback from practitioners. The templates you download for free probably won’t have been updated for years. No one is going to go to the effort of updating their templates if there’s no paid incentive for them.

  1. Too basic

Creating and managing management system documentation is by no means easy. Professional documentation templates will reflect this – that’s their point. The templates you use should be comprehensive enough to address what’s required of them while enabling you, the user, to understand what your organisation needs to do to maintain compliance. Free templates often include only the most basic of information, and, with little to no quality control, will likely contain fundamental errors. Proper documentation templates that are created by experts and rigorously tested in the field will, by their nature, cost money to create and continually improve. When you pay for templates, you’re paying for this consultant-level expertise. If you’re not paying, you’re only going to get rudimentary information.

  1. No continuity

No single source of free documents will supply all of the templates you need, so if you do want to go down the free route, you’ll have to investigate a number of sources and rely on documents from different authors, in different disciplines, from different locations. Because the content comes from different sources, there will be no consistency between templates. This means you will constantly find inconsistencies in phraseology and terminology, differences in interpretation, and variations in approach, meaning that your ability to integrate the various documents into a single usable management system will be significantly hindered, if not obstructed altogether.

  1. No aftercare support

Need to speak to the author of the template for some extra guidance? Want to clarify a compliance issue or have an ambiguous point explained? Want implementation guidance in the form of manuals and guidebooks? Require training packages for your staff so that your management system is actually used properly? Think you’ll get any of that from the folk who supplied the free templates? Quite. There’s no support from the providers of free templates. Implementing management systems is difficult – you need to know that help is at hand, if and when you need it.


Authoritative documentation toolkits

If you’re serious about implementing a comprehensive, up-to-date, authoritative management system or compliance project, then ITGP documentation toolkits will give you everything you need.

  • Developed by industry experts, who write, review and compile all of the content that goes into the toolkits.
  • Up to date with the latest standards and best practices, so you can be assured the management system you produce is up to date, too.
  • Rigorously reviewed by industry experts before publication and constantly updated after.
  • One-time-input and automation features help save you significant time developing your management system.
  • Fully formatted and styled, ensuring consistency and high-quality templates.
  • 12 months’ free support as standard.

ITGP’s documentation toolkits have been designed to give you considerable time and cost savings compared with engaging consultants or devising the documentation yourself.

The difference between our documentation toolkits and those freely available elsewhere is that our templates have been written and reviewed by acknowledged authorities, and we have a vested interest in ensuring the toolkits’ accuracy, quality and usefulness. Unfortunately, not every source is reliable or guaranteed to reflect the correct nature of the management system documentation requirements.

Most importantly, we exist. If you have any enquiries or need any help, you can pick up the phone or email us to receive a response. We can’t provide advice on other people’s documentation – and neither can they.

Find out more about ITGP’s documentation toolkits >>