Every business, from the smallest to the largest has processes that not only drive how it works but can define how successful it is. Despite its importance, business process documentation is often not in place or is fundamentally outdated. This can create risks but can also limit the opportunities for finding improved ways of working. How can you drive process improvement if you don’t fully understand the current process?

Why Document Your Processes?

As a business, team, or department grows, it becomes increasingly important that there is some sort of process documentation to ensure there is clarity and certainty around the ways of working. There are many reasons for doing so, but perhaps one of the most apparent is that without some type of documentation, the chances are that people will find their own, unique ways of performing the “same” task. This raises the possibility that things won’t always be done the right way and might even result in customer dissatisfaction. Documented processes help to define a standard way of working. It doesn’t stop there though. Clearly defined business processes unleash many other opportunities for process improvement, such as cost reduction, efficiency gains, better customer service, improved compliance, and increased staff satisfaction. Read more about these in our How Process Mapping Helps Drive Success for SMEs article.

What Is Process Documentation?

Business process documentation can take different forms such as text documents, process maps, training videos, or something software specific (it could even be a combination of these), but regardless of how it is delivered, it should satisfy (at a minimum) the following:

• Clarity around what is being done

• A level of detail around how it is done

 Who is responsible for the different steps

• The expected inputs and outputs to the process

• Any deadlines or time sensitivities that help to understand when the activities need to be performed or completed

There is lots of other information that could, and probably should be added to a companies process documents but it makes sense to focus on the basics to start with. There is little value in layering a process document with lots of additional information if the process itself is unclear. The documented process not only needs to be accurate but must also be easy to read and understand. Anyone should be able to read a process document and understand the steps that are being taken. This isn’t to say that they could go away and perform the task, but specialist knowledge shouldn’t be needed to understand the basic process that is being described. If possible, try and avoid using jargon and unresolved acronyms. While they can sometimes be hard to avoid, overuse can make documentation impenetrable to anyone other than the author. Simplicity is the key to producing effective process documentation.

Business process documentation should not be confused with procedures, which go to a much lower level of detail, or policies that govern how processes should be performed. These should be connected to the process documentation, but never in a way that blurs the clear distinction between the three.

If you would like to understand more about the process documentation approaches that could help your business, then please send us a message or book a free initial call with us here.