Several different processes make up a business. The different processes that constitute a business need constant reviewing and improving. These processes are generally improved based on how to provide better value to the end customer.
The process has to be analyzed, pain points identified, solutions designed for problems, and a new, improved process designed and put in place. It requires a lot of deliberation on the part of the team managing or working in different phases of the process.
This deliberation can be made easier with process documentation that helps in having a detailed description of process execution.
What is Process Documentation?
As the name itself suggests, process documentation means documenting a process in its most basic sense.
Process documentation is essential as it gives everyone involved a clear and concise idea of the steps involved in the process’s working. The process document gives an outline of the steps involved to complete a task.
Documenting a process is helpful, as this serves as the basis for further improvements in the process.
Without proper documentation, it will be difficult to identify problems and bring improvements or changes in the process. Documentation makes all these tasks much easier to manage.
Goals of Process Documentation – Importance of Process Documentation
Process documentation aims to help understand the process, learn to implement the process, adjust the strategy, and improve it. Processes help in:
1. Reducing and Eliminating Flaws
Process documentation provides you with an opportunity to reduce and eliminate flaws. As the entire business process is mapped out, it reduces the number of erroneous decisions.
Thus, improving the accuracy required to accomplish a task.
2. Reduces time spent on Tasks
Having a structure to refer to allows your employees to spend less time on any task.
3. Decreasing Costs
Understanding how the business process works allow you to ascertain the spots that require tweaking. The processes that run smoothly don’t require interventions; this reduces the cost of completing any process.
4. Decreasing the Number of Resources for Each Task
A proper structure allows you to plan a task effectively. The number of resources required to finish a task can be mapped out. This mapping will enable you to reduce the wastage of resources.
5. Improving Efficiency
Process documentation provides readers with explicit directives. This process reduces the number of decisions required to complete a process and reduces confusion about the task.
Thus, reducing the time needed to finish the task efficiently.
6. Improving Quality
Process documentation increases uniformity in every process. When there are clear directives regarding business processes, it becomes easier for everyone to follow uniformly. Thus, improving the quality of business processes.
7. Increasing Customer Satisfaction
Well-oiled machinery rarely falters. As the processes run smoothly, the chances of a mistake are reduced. Fewer mistakes mean happier customers. Having a process document significantly reduces the number of unhappy customers.
This low number of complaints is easy to redress.
How to Write a Process Document?
A process document provides a clear idea of each process in a business.
It outlines each process from start to end and records each step involved in the process. This gives a clear picture of what happens at each stage of the process and how each stage of the process is carried out.
A process document is an integral part of a process. Every improvement brought about in the process is also documented, and a new process document created adding the improvements made.
This improvement would have been difficult and time consuming without a proper process document. These are a few steps that will help you develop a useful process document-
1. Determining the Scope of the Document
Determining the scope of the document and identifying which process the document is supporting. Will the document be limited to a single task or the entire manufacturing process in a plant?
2. Keep in Mind the Audience
It is a good idea to keep in mind the people you are writing for, as this will help you curate the document that is best understood by the audience. What do they already know? What do they need to know? Where are they from?
These are things that a person who is responsible for documenting the process should keep in mind. If it does not benefit its target audience, the entire purpose of the documentation is lost.
3. Be Organized While You Write
Write the document well. Let there be a title and an introduction to what the process is about. Provide enough context so that the users can relate to the document.
They can only be interested in the document if they see that it relates to them or what they are doing. An adequately organized document is easy to understand and follow.
4. Define Roles
Describe the individuals involved and how they are involved with the process. Using job titles rather than individual names might help better identification. It also means they need not be replaced if a new individual has been assigned the role.
5. Identify Start and End Points of the Process
It gives a definite identity and structure of the document. Creating a structure enables you to fulfill the goals you had set before beginning the process smoothly.
6. Determine the Outputs of the Process
Understanding the result gives the user a fair idea about the process and the logic in the steps involved. It facilitates better understanding. The output of any process is the end goal that needs to be achieved.
7. Determine the Inputs of the Process
Determining the inputs of a process gives a clearer picture of how the process evolves. It also gives an idea about the resources needed in each step of the process.
8. Brainstorm All Activities
Brainstorming all the activities related to completing the process successfully adds all the steps and not missing out on essential details. This strategy is called “listing.”
9. Organize the Available Material
Organizing the process into well-defined steps helps to understand the process better. It is advised to use caution while splitting the steps and grouping items together. Limit the number of steps.
Longer tasks are dealt with better within paragraphs.
10. Expand Steps Wherever Necessary
Expand steps to include more details or information. Items like potential hazards and exercise caution come under detailed information for each step. Some of your readers might find it hard to ascertain the concepts presented in the document.
If you provide them with thorough explanations, it improves your chances of getting your message across effectively.
11. Construct a Flowchart
Visuals are better etched in people’s memories. A flowchart is a visual representation of the process, and this helps give a clearer picture and an easy way to remember the process.
12. Add Screenshots if Necessary
Screenshots can be added to the documentation to aid better comprehension.
Images help your readers to understand complex concepts in a better way. Adding screenshots of concepts that have a complex and lengthy explanation makes it easier for the reader to grasp them.
13. Format the Information
The document should be formatted in a way that is easily scanned, read, and understood. Certain process documents don’t have a predefined format; they are written haphazardly.
These documents create confusion in the reader’s mind, leading to mishaps while following proper procedures. That’s why the proper formatting of a process document is essential.
14. Test the Process
Watching someone else using it will help you make it better the next time. It can help you in gauging your capabilities and scope for improvement. Testing the process also allows you to reduce flaws as well as to peter out discrepancies.
Asking colleagues to review the document will help give a new perspective and help you improve. Feedback from colleagues is crucial, as it allows you to understand what the reader understands when reading the document. Reviews from your colleagues can help you fill the gaps in your process document.
All processes get updated, and this means process documents need to be updated too. Process documents are redesigned continuously to integrate new ideas and improvements in the process.
Businesses need to innovate if they want to stay competitive in the modern day’s cut-throat market. This change means that the documentation explaining the process needs to be updated as well.
Updating process documentation from time to time helps the company assess its progress and innovate for the future.
Process Documentation Best Practices
1. Documents Should be Public and Visible to All Employees
Documents published by you should be visible to your employees. This visibility allows your employees to refer to the document whenever they’re in doubt.
2. Documents Should be Stored Centrally and Easily Accessible
Placing this document at a central server improves the company’s workflow. Placing documents on a protected central server makes the document more accessible as well.
3. They Should Be Easy to Edit and Search
Any document that is hard to edit or search will become a problem for the organization. The document should allow quick changes and allow your employees to search for it when required easily.
4. They Should Be Concise
The document should provide all the necessary information. If the document is lengthy, then it might become boring for the reader to go through it. Bulletin points should be used to present the instructions effectively.
5. Be Flexible to Accommodate Changes and New Ideas
The documents you create should not be stringent. Their structure should be such that it allows you to make changes. Flexibility is an essential factor that should be kept in mind while creating documents.
6. Formatting Should be Simple
Simple formatting of the document enables the reader to comprehend and then implement instructions.
7. Use Screenshots for Difficult Concepts
It is easier to explain a task or a concept using imagery. Using screenshots will allow you to explain difficult concepts seamlessly.
8. Record Latest Date of Updation
Recording the dates when you made updates to the document helps you reenter tasks that were not suitable for your business. Keeping a record allows you to trace your wrong decisions.
9. Keep a Backup
Keeping a backup improves the security of any document. If anything were to happen to the document, you would have all the information you require in your backup.
Best Business Process Documentation Tools
Final Thoughts about Process Documentation!
The process document is an integral part of the business process. It helps keep track of all the steps involved in a process and make including changes and improvements easy to do. It is a record of the process.
There are many benefits of inculcating process documentation for a business. It helps the business to improve workflow; it also creates a summary of business processes.
You can refer to this summary in case an employee quits your business. This summary will also help you to train new employees. All these factors make process documentation a must-have for any bus that wants to progress in their field.
How important do you consider the documentation of business processes?