Four Tips for Documenting Business Processes
Annie: "Hey, James, can you show me how to run a weekly opportunity report in Salesforce?"
James: "Just a sec, I'll send you the tutorial the CMO created."
Annie: "Uh, I'm afraid that document confused me more than I already was. Can you show me instead?"
Can you relate?
Most process documentation is overwhelming, confusing, and a time suck. But employees waste hours trying to figure things out when they could be more productive by referring to effective process workflows.
In this article, we share four tips on how to document a process so it can better serve employees.
Note: Tired of spending hours creating SOPs no one uses or refers to? Tango helps you create step-by-step workflows in minutes that take the guesswork out of tasks. Try it now.
Why should you document business processes?
Before diving into how to document a process, it's essential to know how adequate documentation can impact your business.
Here are the main benefits of documenting your business processes.
Ensures you follow and meet compliance standards
Every industry has its standards and regulations, and not meeting these standards can cost your business.
Providing documented business processes helps ensure that employees will comply with the industry and company-wide standards. With documentation, employees can have reliable business processes to reflect on before taking action.
Ensures a consistent approach to performing tasks and activities.
Forbes reports that companies lose 20 to 30 percent of their revenue each year due to inefficiencies. Without documented processes, employees are left to their own devices. This leads to a lack of synergy in staff’s work. Some employees manage to establish sound procedures and achieve good results, while others achieve only mediocre results due to poor operation processes.
The beauty of documenting business processes is that it helps define the best approach for executing specific tasks and integrating them into repeatable systems. You systemize the process and make it a standard operation procedure (SOP) that you share with all employees and coworkers.
This allows you to align your entire team and ensure consistency in how they work. Maintaining consistency and upholding your standard is more manageable when everyone follows the same process. You can also be sure they are leveraging the best approach, allowing you to get predictable results.
Cuts the learning curve and improves efficiency.
Documenting business processes helps you define and provide clear instructions that allow your employees to move from learning to implementation. This leaves very little room for error because employees will not have to make decisions. They just have to adhere to and act on a documented process that works.
This is especially important for:
- Remote teams
- When the company works with contractors
- When employees enter or leave an organization
Clear instructions also make it easier for employees to do their jobs, eliminate any confusion, and allow them to complete tasks faster.
Optimizes business processes and saves time.
According to a study from Panopto, employees wait for information and support from managers or leadership for an average of five hours per week. Without a documented SOP, the employees in your organization are likely wasting time awaiting guidance. Writing business processes helps you standardize and communicate operations processes and boost productivity and quality.
It’s also a valuable way to spot performance sinkholes and areas of inefficiency. Even better, you can uncover tasks that can be easily automated or outsourced, saving time and resources.
4 Tips On How To Document Your Business Processes
Documenting business processes benefits managers and their teams and promotes a productive atmosphere. At the same time, when done poorly, it will harm your productivity more than it will help.
Here are a few techniques to consider to ensure that your processes are documented in a way that benefits everyone within your organization.
- Business processes work better when they are digestable: Keep them simple and accessible.
More often than not, businesses suffer from poorly documented processes more than the lack of documentation itself.
It’s common to see companies create lengthy documentation and throw it at employees, expecting it to work. For instance, the company might have a process document that breaks down the process for doing attribution marketing with Salesforce.
Here is the problem with this.
- First, it will require lots of stages (there are several attribution marketing models. First-touch attribution and last-touch attribution are only two of them)
- Second, it will require visual maps, flowcharts, outside reference guides, videos, many screenshots, etc.
- Third, it will take tons of steps and pages to systematize such a process into one SOP document.
In the end, this documented process does more harm than good and makes employees inefficient.
A better approach is to break down the process into smaller, actionable, and replicable steps. Then create well-detailed SOP documents for each of the steps. Not only will this make the documentation easier to digest, but it will also make it more actionable—and less overwhelming.
Taking our example of marketing attribution using Salesforce, an ideal approach would be to create an SOP for each attribution model. You can define the steps or phases, segment the tasks into smaller process chunks, and generate documentation for each.
That’ll make you shift from processes that look like this:
To processes that look like this:
- Processes evolve depending on context: Create standard but modifiable processes.
Businesses are constantly looking for ways to evolve, be more efficient, and make more money.
As such, standard operating procedures quickly become outdated. What worked three months ago may not work today. Or even the perennial and most straightforward change driver—business budget—can dictate processes.
Documented processes should be living documents that get reviewed periodically (ideally every six months), so they keep up with the new standards.
While most companies like to use PDFs, they are not easily editable, especially for images and visual process maps. To make changes, the company often has to start from scratch and invest in new resources.
The best way to approach this is to use a business process documentation tool that makes it possible to create Workflows that you can update anytime.
This tool lets you capture, edit, and share your processes in minutes. It allows you to change:
- Single elements such as screenshots or descriptions
- Entire workflows by either adding more steps or removing and updating previously used ones.
This means you don’t have to start from scratch every time you update your SOP documentation.
- Coworkers don’t have to guess what you have in mind: Help them visualize the steps in a process.
Designing text-heavy SOPs will only overwhelm your coworkers. It’s easier to explain things using visuals than written content.
Think of processes such as explaining how to use a specific tool—you’ll provide the most value doing it with screenshots and screen recordings.
This also makes the process easier to implement, as your employees can visualize it and replicate what they see in the images or follow the steps as the video unfolds. Best of all, humans learn faster from pictures and videos than from reading. So, add screenshots, screen recordings, images, flowcharts, videos, etc.
- Your colleagues have valuable insights: Make your documentation process collaborative.
Knowing your audience is key to creating effective SOPs. Instead of creating processes for everything, figure out who you’re making it for and what they struggle with most. Then create documentation geared towards solving those pain points.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your audience new employees?
- How many people will be reading your process documents?
- What prior knowledge do they have?
Then ask your colleagues the following questions:
- What questions do you google the most?
- What do you ask your colleagues for help with?
- How will this SOP help you in your daily activities?
- Which processes require a great deal of time and effort?
These questions will help you know who to design the documentation for and why. Next, identify your colleagues who are good at performing the tasks that need to be documented and collaborate with them in the documentation process.
Using collaborative documentation software like Tango, you can bring your entire team inside a shared Workflow and have them leave their insights and comments. By doing so, you are sure that your documentation meets specific needs and serves the company's growth.
Improve Your Business Process Documentation Using Tango
The secret sauce for creating effective process documentation is to keep them simple, actionable, 'updatable'—and make sure it meets/solves your employees' pain points.
Tango is a chrome extension and desktop process documentation tool that lets you create awesome playbooks and guides using screenshots.
With Tango, distributed teams can collaborate and store process documentation in a single dashboard.
Tango is being used to streamline documentation in companies such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Bytedance, IBM, Pluralsight, and more. Try Tango today.