Process Documentation: Why and How?

written by

Theresa Farrell

December 4, 2019

What’s the point of process documentation? Would you bake a cake without a recipe? Build a house without a blueprint? Obviously, most of us wouldn’t. Especially if we have standards for our output. Especially if we want each of our cakes to taste the same. We can think about our business processes in a similar way.

Why Should You Document Work Processes?

Repetitive tasks should be documented. Here’s a list of benefits:

1. It saves time.

If you have a process document, training new employees will be quicker. This also helps if you rotate tasks between co-workers. The process document can serve as a refresher for those returning to a previously learned task.

2. It creates efficiencies and allows for business improvement.

When you have a process documented, it allows those who follow that process to seek clarification on the steps, which can lead to improved efficiency. Moreover, when you have multiple employees doing the same work, the process document can help someone share if they find a better way. Otherwise they may not realize they are doing things differently. So, it facilitates collaboration.

3. It standardizes work product, creates consistency.

You can better guarantee that work turned out by different employees is similar so that your work product is consistent. Particularly, there will be fewer errors with standardized work. In addition, it may make your employees feel more confident in their work product. And if you work for a client, having the process written down shows them exactly what you are promising to accomplish.

4. It helps with keeping stats and for employee reviews.

With process documentation, you have a clear outline of what you expect from your employees. These documents can help you to provide a solid metric for measuring performance. They can also help you to pull information for internal reports on your team’s progress.

5. It protects you when employees leave.

If someone leaves your company and there is limited time to train a replacement, process documentation is key to keeping your enterprise functioning properly.

6. Provides risk mitigation.

Some industries even require documentation for legal compliance.

How Do You Write a Process Document?

This may sound useful and promising, but how do you start writing process documents?

First, you must decide on a process to document. Your document should include the purpose and a brief overview. Make sure each process is documented separately.

Then, create a scope and boundaries. So, what is included in the process and what would be considered part of another process? Figure out where the process begins and ends.

After defining your scope, it’s time to identify the results or outputs of the process. So, what is the goal of this process? What do you expect the completed process to produce?

Next is an important step. Your process document needs to contain a list of all the steps and input needed in order to complete the process. Obviously, these should be organized sequentially. It is also helpful to include screenshots and checklists. It can also be helpful to include a flowchart showing how the work is completed. In fact, adding visuals will make the documentation clearer and easier to understand.

Additional Considerations

There are several other things you should consider adding like the kind of exceptions that may occur contrary to the normal process. You should also include ways to measure the efficiency, time and/or output to be used for your metrics.

Once the document is created, it should be tested by those who are involved in the process. Then they can point out anything that was forgotten or placed in the incorrect step.

It is important for you to keep these documents clear and concise. So, they should not be overly wordy. And it should be obvious what step needs to be done at each point.

Finally, these should be living documents. Figure out how you intend to update them when there are changes and review them on a regular basis. Process documents need to be easily accessible and simple to revise.

Indeed, there are many benefits to having your processes standardized and documented. The task may seem daunting, but it is definitely important.

If you are interested in beginning to document your work processes but don’t know where to start, let us know. We can help! Our PM team assists with all types of professional materials including process documents.

And for additional program management tips, see our earlier blog: 5 Inclusive Team Communication Methods.

written by

Theresa Farrell

December 4, 2019

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    written by

    Theresa Farrell

    December 4, 2019

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    Theresa Farrell

    Theresa joined IP Services over a decade ago after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. She previously worked on both the Fraud Prevention and Privacy & Compliance teams. For most of her tenure, she has worked in Program Management as a Program Support Specialist which includes event planning, metrics reporting, program development and communication management.