Are you stuck doing everything yourself? Or you can’t hand something off to a colleague to do because they don’t know how and there is not enough information readily available to show or train them? It is time to get those repetitive tasks out of your head and documented – of course, you don’t want to spend a ton of time documenting; you’re busy making money or doing your job. Just remember, getting some of the information down is better than nothing – and documenting how you do it should be incorporated into your job so you can easily pass along the work and focus on what you really enjoy or want to do. Let’s get started!
Documenting a process is part of the business process management (BPM) that we touched on earlier. Process documentation is the internal, continuous method for capturing the necessary steps to complete a process or task. A business process comprises all the tasks that lead to the delivery of a specific product or service. Ideally, your staff performs process documentation as it occurs.
Process documentation is critical for any business because it increases consistency and allows staff to learn from both successes and mistakes. Additionally, process documentation helps preserve institutional knowledge – especially for those nuances and idiosyncrasies of your company. For example, if you document all your processes related to a new client from the start it is a sure-fire way to stay organized and provides your client invaluable peace of mind if you need to take leave suddenly. It also makes your life a whole lot easier if you need to train a replacement for any reason.
How do you approach the process of process documentation? Your process documentation should be flexible, available to your team, and the tool encourages its use. To make ensure you achieve this goal, the tool should meet these basics:
- Be easy to access and share: Processes and procedures won’t be followed if no one can obtain or view them.
- Make collaboration easy: Documentation is a team effort
- Be available online: You don’t want a 3 am call asking how to do X. Also, makes sharing and collaboration much easier.
Starting the documentation process can be daunting. The easiest way to get started is to write a step-by-step guide the next time you execute the process. Remember to document the minor details and not make assumptions. It is often these little points that lead to processes not being repeated in a consistent manner by others. If you embark on a more holistic review and documentation of your processes here are some methods and tools to help.
Use flowcharts to illustrate the process
Creating a flowchart will help you visualize complex processes and how they fit into the bigger picture of your organization. The flowcharts will not include step-by-step documentation, but it will help you identify data and process flows as well as bottlenecks and potential areas for process optimization.
Implement checklists to support the procedure
Process Street is an online tool to help you convert your processes into online checklists to help ensure every step in your process is completed.
Another favorite tool of ours is Atlassian’s Confluence which has built-in step-by-step templates and the option to create checklist templates. Confluence is an online wiki where processes and other documentation can live.
Use video, graphics, and icons to make processes easier to read and follow
Sometimes it is easier to ‘show’ than ‘tell’ – just remember to keep the videos to bite-sized chunks as it is a lot easier to reshoot a two-minute video than a 15 minute one that documented an entire process.
Screenmailer is a basic tool that records your screen and sound as you walk through a process. You can then embed the video into your documentation.
Another option includes linking out to non-public YouTube links.
These tools and methods will get you started with the process of documenting how your company runs so that others can help you grow it. You should find that a few key processes will have a disproportionate impact on your business and you should focus on these. Not every process needs to be documented though make sure the key ones are. The next steps will include tweaking and improving the processes to optimize them for your business. This review will be ongoing as people come and go, your company grows, and technology continues to evolve.
If you have any questions about process documentation or any of the tools and methods discussed here, send us an email!