Learn the basics of process documentation & some helpful tips to set one up for success.
Published 27 Mar 2023
Process documentation is the method of recording, mapping, and describing business processes as they are being executed by staff members. It is designed to help employees and managers gain a better understanding of process workflows—essential for determining opportunities for optimizing performance and operational agility.
Although procedures and policies are referenced within the process documentation, it is important to note that process documentation is not the same as documenting procedures and policies. Whilst documentation of procedures and policies outline step-by-step directions and guidelines or laws for carrying out a process, process documentation outlines the necessary activities needed for completing the process or task from beginning to end.
Processes are what keep a business running. It is for that reason that processes need to be continually analyzed and reviewed, to determine which are still working and which ones need eliminating or changing. Why document it though?
Whether your organization is looking to create new processes or refine existing ones, it is crucial to have processes documented. Process documentation serves as a roadmap for the organization. While it may be a task that’s seemingly tedious and time-consuming, it actually provides organizations with a number of benefits, some of which are:
Simply put, process documentation becomes valuable for standardizing and scaling operations.
To better visualize the tasks involved in creating a successful process documentation, below is a brief overview of its 5 stages:
As a technique for collecting, analyzing, and communicating experiences in contextually appropriate ways, documenting change plays a significant role for learning from and improving upon the work carried out in companies. Derived from the Process Documentation PDF Report of IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, here is an example of process documentation for a development initiative in the Middle East:
Title: Euro-Med Participatory Water Resources Scenarios (EMPOWERS)
Project Objective: To expand the poor’s access to water through improved water resource
Process Documentation Goal: To reveal underlying social and cultural patterns, particularly those that could become obstacles to the project’s main objective.
Focus Areas: Changes in decision-making, gender issues in villages, and protectorate levels in participating countries
Period Covered: From the beginning and all throughout the four-year project
Outputs: Allowed those most involved in the project to take a step back and reflect on trends, patterns, opportunities, and warning signs, and to adjust their approach
Process documentation training is a series of practical lessons to help employees develop skills for documenting processes. Adequate training enables workers to maximize their time and effort when introducing new or updating existing processes. Training for general process documentation includes courses on effective communication and problem solving, among others.
It is inevitable that during interview sessions, the people involved in the process will have ideas of their own to improve the process. Some may feel excitement and have expectations that their everyday tasks are bound to get easier, but when you don’t meet those expectations, you may end up disappointing them which may result in damaging morale. This is why you must be cautious, and, if possible, directly set their expectations. Remember that the goal of your process documentation is to map out or capture current processes as a reference for future improvements.
Depending on what medium you will choose for publishing your process documentation, consider adding visuals like flowcharts, diagrams, and screenshots of ideas and processes that are difficult to express. If the platform you’re using allows video tutorials, you can add that in, too.
A template serves as a framework. It makes documentation a lot easier and simpler since it already gives you an idea of what data is needed. The success of process documentation relies on how accurate the collected data is going to be. That said, having a clear and structured process documentation template contributes to collecting accurate data.
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Earlier we mentioned that maintaining documentation plays a part in the success of process documentation. Creating a revision schedule will guarantee that the process documentations stay up-to-date.
Process documentation should be recorded and shared with the company through any means but paper. Not only does it cost more to have it done by paper, but it also tends to get lost along with other paper documents in the long run. It is best to choose a medium that makes storage easy and secure, can be shared and accessed by people in your organization, and is easily maintained or updated. Since we now live in the technological era, there are a bunch of tools available that can satisfy those needs. It’s just a matter of finding the right one for you.
SafetyCulture is a digital platform and process documentation software that allows teams to keep a record of everyday operations by completing digital checklists and forms.
During process discovery, SafetyCulture can serve as an excellent data mining tool, as it allows you to not only monitor the performance of employees in executing a process in real-time but also reveals flagged issues associated with it and the corrective actions they took. SafetyCulture also saves all process documents securely in the cloud. Having your documents stored on the web, allows you to easily access and share documents with the people in your organization. Templates can be created, updated, and scheduled for employees, this allows easy maintenance and standardization across teams.
"In our business, we’re required to write procedures, checklists, and forms to use onboard yachts and ships. For any company looking to streamline their procedures, and become more efficient, SafetyCulture made all the difference." Stuart Biesel, President of MTSI
Jai Andales is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, she creates well-researched articles about health and safety topics. She is also passionate about empowering businesses to utilize technology in building a culture of safety and quality.