As your business grows, so does its complexity. There are more steps, more people, and more things involved that may not always be arranged in the most efficient way.
Rethinking how your business works may sound daunting, but it’s bound to get you major efficiencies. Process documentation is the first step towards this!
This easy guide to process documentation will help you do it just right.
Read on to find;
- What is Process Documentation?
- Why Do it: The Importance of Process Documentation
- How to Document a Process
- Tips and Tricks: Process Documentation Best Practices
- What’s in It for You: Benefits of Process Documentation
- Easy Starter Process Flowchart Templates
Process documentation provides a detailed description of how to carry out a business process.
It includes all types of documents that support a process, like
- links to other applications
- process maps
It is used as a guide to help employees at all levels, including decision makers and stakeholders, quickly understand company processes.
Documenting a process will help you achieve 5 key things:
1) Helps improve processes. Identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies by documenting the exact processes. You’ll quickly see what processes that you need to improve or get rid of.
2) Helps train employees. You can use process documents to help new employees understand their job roles and familiarize themselves with the processes they’ll be involved in. Even experienced employees can still refer to these documents whenever they want to make sure that they are executing the process right.
3) Helps preserve company knowledge. Keep a record of processes known only to a few people specialized in doing them. That way even when they leave, the newcomers can resume the work easily.
4) Helps mitigate risks and maintain operational consistency.
5) Detailed process documentation is also a vital part of patents and trade secrets.
Who is Involved in Process Documentation
There are 3 key ownership roles in process documentation. In some cases, the same person may play all three roles.
Using a step-by-step method to document a process will help you get it done quickly.
Step 1: Identify and Name the Process
Figure out which process you are going to document first. Determine its purpose (why and how the process will benefit the organization) and provide a brief description of the process.
Step 2: Define the Process Scope
Provide a brief description of what is included in the process and what is out of the process scope, or what is not included in it.
Step 3: Explain the Process Boundaries
Where does the process begin and end? What causes it to start? And how do you know when it’s done? Get these boundaries well defined.
Step 4: Identify the Process Outputs
Establish what will be produced by the process or what result the process will achieve once it is completed.
Step 5: Identify the Process Inputs
List down what resources are necessary to carry out each of the process steps.
Step 6: Brainstorm the Process Steps
Gather all information on process steps from start to finish. Either start with what triggers the process or start at the end of the process and track back the steps to the starting point.
The brainstorming session should involve those who are directly responsible for the process tasks or someone with extensive knowledge of it, as they can provide precise data.
Step 7: Organize the Steps Sequentially
Take the list of steps you’ve come up with and put them in a sequential order to create a process flow.
Keep the number of steps to a minimum and if a step includes more than one task, list them under the main step.
Step 8: Describe who is Involved
Decide each individual who will be responsible for the process tasks. Define their roles. Keep in mind to mention their job title rather than their name.
Also be considerate about those who would be referencing the document. Write it in a way that any employee with a reasonable knowledge can read and understand it.
Step 9: Visualize the Process
This is to improve clarity and readability of your documentation. Using a process flowchart, neatly visualize the process steps you’ve identified earlier.
Step 11: Note down Exceptions to the Normal Process Flow
A business process may not always follow the same flow due to various reasons. Mention these exceptions and what steps will be taken to address them.
Step 12: Add Control Points and Measurements
Identify where risks could occur in the process and add control points to help the process owner when monitoring the process.
Establish measurements to determine the effectiveness of the process and to help improve it.
Step 13: Review and Test the Process
Gather everyone involved and review the process flowchart you’ve mapped. Are there any missing steps? Is everything in order? Once done, test the process and see if you’ve missed anything.
- Keep the document simple and concise. While it should be technically accurate, it should be easy to follow.
- Have a proper plan in place to update the documents when/if the process would change. Make sure to review them at least once a year.
- Or assign a process owner who can do regular reviews and notify others of the changes.
- Keep separate documentation for every different process to avoid confusion.
- When documenting processes for the first time, avoid covering the entire organization at once. Start from a single process within a department or a major process common to the entire organization.
- Store the documents in a location that is easy to be accessed by anyone who is looking for it.
- Make sure that it is easy to be revised when needed and the new version can easily be distributed to everyone involved.
- Have documents stored online in a central location via a process documentation tool. This will automatically help with the above mentioned two best practices.
- Use appropriate examples, graphics, color coding, screenshots, multiple platforms etc. as necessary.
- Make sure the process documentation complies with the existing standards of your organization.
- If you are highlighting the process flow in a verbal format, always balance it with graphics – a process flowchart.
- Add swimlanes to your business process flowcharts to distinguish different process roles, timelines etc.
- Create a process documentation guide, which anyone can refer to as a standard template for documenting a process.
- Make use of existing documentary material, records, interviews, case studies, field-diaries of project staff and the knowledge of employees to gather information for process documentation.
- Helps get everyone on the same page by providing a common view of the process steps. A common view is necessary for consistency.
- Where there is clear process documentation, changes to processes can be made in a timely, straightforward manner.
- Helps identify ideal conditions for effective collaboration and performance.
- Helps identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in processes (even in those “well-refined” procedures) that may otherwise go unnoticed.
- A clearly documented process saves time and prevents errors by removing any confusion and by providing clear instructions.
- Decreases costs and unnecessary spending of resources.
- Helps improve the overall quality of processes and quality of the outcome.
- Helps increase employee productivity as well as satisfaction.
- Since it is clearly recorded how processes should be carried out, it makes it easier to outsource work.
- Process documentation also helps easily automate processes when needed.
Basically, process mapping helps represent the documented information like process steps, process roles, inputs and outputs in a streamlined picture.
Following are process flowchart templates/ process mapping templates that you can quickly edit online with information of your organizational processes. Click the template to open it in the Creately editor.
Feedback on the Easy Guide to Process Documentation
This process documentation guide covers everything you need to know to document a process properly. Follow the process documentation steps we have discussed above, and make use of the process flowchart templates to ensure a quality documentation process.
In our Community, you can find more process flowchart templates.
In our next guide, we’ll be discussing process improvement techniques that will help you streamline your business processes easily.