Your business is growing and that means there is more to keep track of – more tasks, more steps, more people, and more things involved that must be efficiently organized and arranged to keep things moving forward. This is where process documentation comes into play. Process documentation breaks down exactly what needs to be done to complete a task from beginning to end. By documenting processes and procedures, chaos will be averted, and your business will continue to be run consistently and efficiently.
In this guide, we will take a closer look at process documentation including:
- The goal and benefits of process documentation
- The parties involved in processing documentation
- How to document the process
- A process documentation template
But first, let’s define what process documentation is.
What Is Process Documentation?
Process documentation is a document used within a business that outlines the exact steps necessary to complete a new or existing task or process from start to finish. Process documentation is ongoing and tells employees the “how” of a process and serves as an ongoing reference to eliminate confusion and maintain consistency. Current processes can also be streamlined by creating a process document.
A process document can assist employees in all aspects of a business from sales to marketing to human resources and so on. Process documentation can be in the form of tutorials, checklists, forms, screenshots, flow charts, videos, diagrams, and more – anything that describes how a process should be completed. While visual components aren’t required to be in procedure documents, they do help the readability and bring clarity in implementing certain processes.
This brings us to process mapping and this question – Is process mapping the same as process documentation?
Process Documentation vs Process Mapping
Process documentation and process mapping may sound like the same thing, but they do have some differences, mainly between their layouts. Process documentation is centered around a written document that outlines key details while process mapping is more of an in-depth visual aid for the entire process. Though process documentation frequently includes a visual aid like those listed above, they don’t go into as great of detail as a process map will.
What Is the Goal of Process Documentation?
The goal of process documentation is to keep track of a process during its execution to learn from the process and improve upon it in the future. Writing process documentation can help your staff to analyze each step in the process and suggest ways to improve upon or change that process. This can help to identify flaws, improve quality and efficiency, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction.
Process documentation can also help employees to see the big picture and understand the purpose of a particular project and what the overall impact will be.
What Are the Benefits of Process Documentation?
Implementing the documentation process can seem like a tedious and time-consuming undertaking, but the benefits of process documentation are great and will only result in positive outcomes for the future of your organization. Here are a few of the benefits of creating a process document:
When going through the documentation process, you can evaluate the effectiveness of each step or task in the process. This allows you to identify any inefficiencies that may be happening and pinpoint where improvements can be made or what processes may be altogether unnecessary. By ensuring that instructions are clear and concise, there will be less decision-making in the process and less confusion among employees resulting in less time to complete tasks.
Process documentation also provides a big-picture view, making employees aware of:
- What role each step has in the process
- What role each employee has in the process
- How the business’ bottom line is affected by the process
When employees are aware of what they are doing, what others are doing, and why they are doing it, duplicated tasks are eliminated and improvements to the process can be made resulting in greater efficiency.
Valuable Training Materials
Process documentation can also help to train new employees. Process documents can help new hires to understand their specific role and how it fits into the organization as a whole. When process documentation is already in place, a significant amount of a manager’s time is saved. New employees can immediately familiarize themselves with the processes they will be involved in and have the resources they need for a smooth transition.
In addition to process documentation, Great Lakes Advisory’s training and consulting services utilize process mapping and standard operating procedure development to help companies develop effective training programs, manuals, and guides.
Maintain Key Knowledge
Another key benefit to having process documents in place is their ability to maintain key information and knowledge. Oftentimes a single employee may be specialized in a certain process, creating a difficult and chaotic situation if that employee is absent or no longer working for the company. By keeping a record of those processes, a stand-in or new employee can seamlessly step in to continue the work.
Who Should Be Involved in Process Documentation?
Process documentation is most effective when these three parties are involved: the project team, stakeholders, and external parties. Each brings a unique perspective to the documentation which can aid in streamlining processes and increasing efficiency.
The project team has the greatest knowledge of the process and is responsible for process documentation. As the team is performing the process, they can document it to ensure that all steps are included and recorded properly.
It is helpful, however, to involve someone that is not on the team in the process of documentation. This allows for a fresh perspective and insight can be given as to how the process can be approved upon. This also ensures that the project team is not having to interrupt the flow of the process to record the steps and necessary details.
Any stakeholders who are involved in a specific project should be included in process documentation. This will allow them to gain insight into processes used and to give the team any necessary feedback.
External parties can provide a fresh and unbiased perspective on business practices, helping to improve processes along the way. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help to develop more efficient ways of carrying out a process.
Great Lakes Advisory can be that fresh perspective for you. Our business process documentation services can help your business achieve maximum efficiency and help you prepare your business for future success. Schedule a consultation today.
How to Document Processes
If your organization is starting from scratch without any process documentation in place, these steps will be helpful at the beginning of that task.
Identify the Process and Its Scope
First, determine which process needs to be documented and how and why that process will benefit the organization. State what the desired outcome is of the process and provide a short description of what is included in the process as well as what is not included.
Once you have determined which process to document, gather as much information as possible on each step in the process. Identify what the starting point is of the process, or what initiates the process. Once that is established, create a list of all employees (list by job title, not their actual names) who are involved in the process being documented and define their roles.
Next, you can begin to brainstorm the tasks that are a part of the process. This can be done by interviewing those employees you listed who are involved in the process, or by observing them as they complete tasks. Finally, list what resources are needed to complete each step.
Organize the Steps
Once you have brainstormed and compiled a list of all the necessary tasks in the process, it is time to organize those tasks into sequential order. Be sure to not split up actions that logically go together, while at the same time not making a step too lengthy. A good rule of thumb is that if a step includes more than one verb or the word “and,” it should be broken up into two steps. Utilize subheadings for longer tasks and use layers to provide additional information in a less prominent text below the main step. When writing down the steps, make the document easy to read by using headings, bullets, charts, and tables.
Visualizing the process isn’t required but it does make it easier to get an overview of the process and improves the readability of the document. Flow charts are a good way to visually represent the process step-by-step. Screenshots or other graphics can also provide additional clarity and be easier and quicker for a new hire to process and comprehend.
Review, Test, and Gather Feedback
Once the process document is completed, have all the employees involved in the process review and test the process document. This is a very important step in the documentation process and will help to determine any corrections that need to be made or any loopholes that may be there.
Don’t forget to ask for their feedback. This is just as important as testing the document and is invaluable in creating a process document that aids in your organization’s goals and works for your employees. Do they have any concerns, improvements, or objections? Are there any missing or out-of-order steps?
Reviewing and refining process documents is an ongoing process, and it is best to revisit the documents yearly or quarterly to ensure all information is up to date and that tasks are being done most efficiently and cost-effectively.
Process Documentation Best Practices
- Make the document clear and easy to read-only provide the necessary information and make it easy to follow. Avoid using jargon or abbreviations that everyone may not understand.
- Keep formatting simple.
- Store the document in a location that can be easily accessed by everyone within the organization.
- The document will have to be updated frequently so make it easy to edit and search.
- Review documents at least once a year.
- Create a process documentation template and style guide to help standardize the process for future documents.
- Instead of one large document, create individual documents for each process to avoid confusion.
- Ensure that you back up the document so that it can be restored if something unfortunate happens to it.
- Get feedback from employees, including frontline staff who can provide valuable insight into shortcuts, loopholes, the importance of each step, etc.
- Use flowcharts, screenshots, and graphics to clarify steps in the process, especially those that are hard to explain.
- When getting started with documentation, avoid documenting all processes at once. Start with a single process within a department or a major process that is common to the whole organization.
- Be flexible and willing to adjust the process to make the steps flow naturally
- Have a plan in place to update the documents if/when a process changes.
- Document when the process was last updated.
- Keep your process documents secure and out of the wrong hands by making sure there is a way to manage document access through secure log-ins.
- Link to any related documentation that comes after the documented process. For example, when an employee has gone through the process of updating a client’s profile, other processes may include sending a communication or updating a mailing list.
- Take the time to implement the new documentation. All the time put into creating the document will be wasted if it isn’t put into use.
Process Documentation Template
Having a process documentation template ensures that the document’s style and format are consistent and that no details are left out. Using the same process documentation template for all of your organization’s workflows will create a professional, uniform document that your employees can easily utilize. We’ve designed a process documentation template that is free to download! Feel free to customize this template for the unique needs of your business.
The Bottom Line
Process documentation can be a valuable part of your organization’s day-to-day workings. From improved efficiency to streamlined training materials, the benefits are great and can allow your employees to understand how they fit into the big picture and how their efforts affect the bottom line.
While process documentation brings many benefits, planning and writing one can be a time-consuming task. At Great Lakes Advisory, we do the hard work for you so you can focus on growing your business and keeping your clients happy. Our business process documentation services can help your organization achieve optimum efficiency and set it on the course for future success. Contact us today to learn more.