Process Documentation: Blueprint, Best Practices & How-to Guide
Process Documentation the ultimate and comprehensive how-to guide.
Find out what it is, how to produce it, why it’s important, the benefits it can bring, and what is considered best practice.
Want to know more? Let’s get started.
What is Process Documentation?
Process documentation maps out the necessary steps to completing tasks and workflow – a way of showing every person within an organisation ‘how’ to do something. Setting out a blueprint of best practices, internal processes and workflow on how a process should be completed and always runs smoothly.
There are several ways to document processes: business process mapping, diagrams, videos, policies, tutorials, checklists – and even GIFs.
A common form of process documentation you’ve probably heard of is a standard operating procedure (a SOP) used across a variety of different industries. The healthcare sector, for example, uses SOPs for medicine rounds and patient admissions, helping to reduce the risk of mistakes and accidents.
However, all types of processes can be documented – food preparation, selecting new suppliers, budgeting, payroll, and accounting… as long as there is a standardised process – it can be documented.
It all just boils down to whether you decide to invest your time in doing so.
Process Documentation Strategy
Where do you start with your process documentation strategy? Have a clear set of goals and targets. Ask yourself
What do you aim to achieve by documenting business processes and working with process documentation? Do you have a specific goal that you want to achieve with your processes?
Which: How do you decide what processes you need to document? Create a list and identify which procedures and processes you use regularly, core to daily business and, which has a high level of mistakes
- Which processes are core to your business?
- Which processes do you use the most?
- Which are key to compliance and industry regulations?
- Which processes have high mistakes?
- What process protect staff health and safety?
- What processes require tools and equipment?
Who: Who can offer the most knowledge on each process? This knowledge from experience can be key to documenting best practices and creating a detailed guide. How do employees actually complete the process? Do they do things differently because they have learnt a better way of completing the task or process?
Way of gathering information is following people through a process, interviewing and asking questions, or asking them to write a brief on the steps they take to complete the process.
Resources: Understand resources needs, key information, or tools and equipment required in any processes. Do you already process guidelines to start working from?
Implementation: How will you implement using the process documentation? How will you incorporate working with the process documents? Have you looked at business process management software that can also offer process automation tools and workflow management?
Optimise Process Flow – Do things need to run in sequential order or can they be performed non sequential? What makes the ideal process?
Results: What results do you want to achieve? How will you measure success?
How to Create Process Documentation
Process documentation should start from the bottom-up – with the project team, who are directly involved in the day-to-day activity. Don’t dismiss the knowledge that comes with lived experience – take full advantage!
Regardless, gaining a broader perspective with a ‘fresh’ set of eyes wouldn’t go amiss either. Involve those who aren’t actively involved in the processes too.
Now you’ve got your team, let’s get stuck in with what you need to do to document your process successfully:
- Start with the process name – nothing fancy – keep it clear and concise (i.e. Content Publishing).
- Define the start and end points – where you start and where you need to get to. Processes could be triggered by events (a complaint), or they could be outcome-focused (gaining new customers).
- Document your activities – these should be delivered in verb form. For example, approve copy, or distribute forms.
- Organise your processes – now you have all of the activities required to finish the task, make sure they are in sequence, and critical decision points* are highlighted.
- Review and Test– Ensure you haven’t included extraneous roles or left out vital information – have your sequence reviewed.
- Delegate roles – Decide who takes responsibility for each step.
- Transcribe process – this is where the documentation is published to the appropriate channels. Many businesses are using knowledge management principles such as ‘Single Sources of Truth’ to ensure processes are all found in one place within a company – perhaps on software or through the intranet.
- Continual process review – It doesn’t stop there. Processes should be continually reviewed. This could be by all the relevant stakeholders, or you may choose to employ a consultant or ask for feedback from external contractors. Welcome feedback, and make adaptations if and when required!
*An example of a key decision point is upon completion of an event or milestone. Say you’re completing your monthly newsletter, a key decision point would be upon completion of the first draft (and subsequent editing decisions).
Why is Process Documentation Important?
Why document processes and procedures? According to the BP Trends report 2020 on Business Process Management, only 1.5% of the 129 companies surveyed said that all their processes were modelled and documented.
Yet 72% of businesses either strongly agreed or agreed that BPM practices and technologies helped improve their organisation’s efficiency, versatility, and customer satisfaction.
So, what’s the reason businesses choose not to document their processes? Perhaps it’s time constraints, the fear of becoming ‘too corporate,’ or it feels like a pointless task when change is constantly happening. Some businesses believe that standardisation would dampen creativity levels – standardisation and creativity aren’t the likely pair.
“where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.”
Standardisation can actually spur on creativity, allowing employees the time to think – rather than worry about having to remember countless processes. But to be recognised – documentation is vital.
Benefits of Process Documentation
Clear documented processes and checklists reduce the number of decisions need to be made, remove confusion in how a process should be completed, and reduce time completing tasks.
When everyone follows the same business process, you get consistency of service or production standards which benefits your customers.
Here are a number of benefits that process documentation offers business:
Reduces Business Vulnerability
There is a reduced risk that you’re left in the lurch when an employee goes off ill, leaves, or is on annual leave. It can take days for an employee to find out ‘how’ to do something if they don’t know where to find it, whereas if your business is up to date with knowledge sharing – they can be up and running as soon as possible!
Improved Efficiency and Quality – with Fewer Mistakes!
Having a clear step-by-step guide reduces confusion, bad decisions are avoided, and decision-making fatigue decreases too. In an environment with all these factors present and everyone following the same processes – tasks are completed more consistently, and that high standard is upheld.
Safety & Compliance
Following procedures ensures that employees are following the safest steps for performing tasks. This increases the safety of all members of a team and demonstrates a business is following rules and regulatory compliance.
Process Optimisation and Consistency
Businesses should be looking to work to an optimal capacity. Having processes documented allows for this in two ways. Visualisation of the process allows for easier analysis (bottlenecks, for example, are easier to identify), and with the process shared among team members, employees can offer expertise on potential improvements.
Without documenting a process, essentially it means everyone performs it a different way every time and reinvented by someone. Documenting processes offer a single source of truth.
More efficient employee onboarding
Having standardised documents for new employees can save mountains of time when they are just starting. It helps them visually familiarise themselves with their roles and what tasks they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, allowing them to move forward more quickly.
Outsource tasks easier to contractors and freelancers as they can quickly adapt to how you work.
Help working from home (WFH) or employing remote workers.
Covering holidays, vacation, sickness, maternity or temporary covering a role when a person leaves the company and the recruitment process is happening.
Process documentation helps identify tasks and processes that can be automated, saving both time and resources.
Documented processes makes it easier to scale your business, franchise, create subsidiaries or sell your business as the processes and procedures are clear and defined for the business to easily carry on trading to high standards.
Knowledge Retaining and Sharing
Record processes and business knowledge on how certain business processes run especially if only a few people know this critical knowledge. Without it, when a person leaves, any process knowledge leaves with them.
Save Money and Resources
Reducing mistakes saves both time and money but also enables team members to work faster and at a higher standard and improved quality.
Process documentation Best Practices - Things to Remember
Process documentation is essential, but it must be done right. Here are 10 tips for ensuring best practice:
- Put your document in a centralised location that is easily accessible.
- Ensure your instructions are clear and concise, free of jargon and abbreviations that are not common knowledge.
- Keep your document secure – manage access by having a secure log on.
- Backup your files – we all know that stomach-clenching feeling of losing unsaved work.
- Don’t overcomplicate matters – make sure your processes are clearly defined and not too broad. Create more than one process if you need to.
- Ensure the document is simple and easy to edit.
- Track and control the changes made – document authors can make changes, but older versions can be archived.
- Create process documentation templates (if you have similar processes).
- Link related documents with one another – it makes perfect sense if one process organically leads onto another process.
- Ensure you have an effective communication plan to ensure your documents reach the employees they need.
Process Documentation Increases Productivity
We admit, documenting your processes can be a long and tedious task, especially if you’re a larger business with several processes. It takes time and effort, and the benefits may not seem to be immediately obvious.
Yet, if you can look beyond this – process documentation can bring so much wealth, value, and productivity to your business. It’s a certain way to eliminate wasteful activity and increase efficiency all across the board.
This is where Checkify can help your business. We offer you a way to document your business processes in checklists which has built in guides to help team members perform each task or process in the best possible way.
Checkify stores all documents in one central place accessible 24/7 from anywhere on the planet(with internet). Keeping your data secure with secure log-in and back-ups to keep your business process documents safe and accessible.
Whether it’s a simple checklist, or a video complete with script, the purpose remains the same – so find what works for you, and invest your time wisely!
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