Process documentation is more than just a list of steps.
The best business process documentation is thoroughly researched, tightly edited, simple and useful. It gets employees on the same page, and it evolves with your business needs and goals.
But where do you start when it comes to how to write a process document? And why is process documentation so important? Let’s start by defining it.
What is process documentation?
Business process documentation is, at its core, a simple concept. A process document is a roadmap employees, managers, clients and vendors can use to see how a process within your business should be performed.
The goal of business process documentation is to:
- Create a process.
- Outline specific steps.
- Meet a business need.
The last part is crucial. While many companies focus on how to document a process, the most important question to ask is: Why are you documenting it? If you don’t define that first, you’re likely to end up with a bunch of checklists that don’t connect to your larger business goals.
Why process documentation is important
Without process documentation, your employees are reinventing the wheel every time that task, project or process needs to be done. While some processes can be taught, the only way to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks is to have a central, clearly defined process.
Benefits of business process documentation
With documented processes, your company will be able to:
- Ensure knowledge stays within the business, even as employees come and go.
- Quickly onboard new employees using proven processes.
- Monitor projects easily because you can identify exactly where you are in the process.
- Improve processes each time by changing just the steps that aren’t working.
- Decrease the time, cost and resources needed for each task over time.
- Hold everyone to the same standard.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in your business so you can take action.
How to make a process document
When it comes to how to write a process document, every companies’ needs are different. However, all business process documentation should be simple, functional, collaborative and accessible. Use the steps below to create a customized process document for your company.
1. Identify your goal
Why are you defining this process? What business goal will it help you achieve? Setting your intentions and sharing those will keep your team on track.
But remember: While we’re attaching each process to larger goals, the processes themselves should be as specific as possible. Ideally, you’re attempting to standardize and compartmentalize small processes that can be combined with other processes later to create a full plan.
2. Identify your audience
Who are you writing for? Is it employees, vendors, managers, clients? Consider how much knowledge each stakeholder will have, and what kind of access they have to files, documents or places.
3. Offer context
Write a short explanation of each process — a few sentences is plenty. Explain when and why people should use this process, and whether they need to get approval before doing so.
4. Fill in the details
Answer the following questions:
- Who will be involved in the process? List people by job title, not name.
- How does the process begin?
- How does it end?
- What is the intended result of this process?
- What resources do you need to complete it?
5. Make a list of steps
This brainstorming step, known as “listing,” is critical.
- Ask your team to identify each step in the process, and put them in order.
- If a step includes multiple verbs or the word “and,” consider breaking it into two steps.
- Use headings to show which information is most important and which steps should be completed as part of each larger task.
6. Make the process visual
Once you’ve nailed down how to document a process, focus on formatting and visuals.
- Use bullets, tables, lists and headings to break up large blocks of text.
- Create flowcharts to represent important or complex steps.
- Add screenshots, charts or graphs that show what the proper process looks like.
- Create a simple visual indicator to show people where they are in the process.
7. Gather feedback
Ask employees who will use the process to review it and provide feedback by a certain date. Once you’ve made any necessary edits, distribute the final version to your team and start implementation.
8. Distribute the document
Notify employees when the documentation is ready. Avoid sending it as an attachment, which can lead to multiple versions being saved on desktops. Instead, try using a shared Google doc (set to view only) or save it directly to your server so everyone’s accessing the most up-to-date version.
9. Test it
Use your new process documentation for a week (or whatever time frame makes sense) and ask people to provide feedback as needed.
- What steps are missing?
- Are there any obvious flaws?
- What additions would be helpful?
10. Update your process
Make necessary edits and redistribute the document. (Or, in the case of a single, shared document location, notify users that changes have been made.) At this point, you’ll essentially just loop back through #s 8, 9 and 10 from here on out. While many processes will become static, the best business process documentation is always evolving and improving, so be sure to treat yours as the living document it is.
Process documentation and time tracking
As you develop effective processes, consider the role time tracking and productivity play. How much time are you spending on each step of each process? Are you charging enough to cover that time? Or to make a profit?
These are the kinds of questions time tracking can answer. With Time Tracker, you can:
- See exactly where your time goes.
- Save up to 30 hours a month.
- Increase revenue by as much as 30%.