Process Documentation: The Must-Have Guide for 2023 [With Templates]
Process Documentation: The Must-Have Guide for 2023 [With Templates]
February 27, 2023
February 27, 2023
Tango Head of Marketing
Nick has been leading high growth teams and scaling early stage tech startups for 10+ years (most recently at Clearbit). He's been in a fantasy football league with his best friends from high school for just as long...and has never won. 😂
Process documentation is the process of capturing procedures in a document. It gives team members step-by-step instructions to complete a task or project.
Raise your hands if you’ve been part of a fast-growing team. If you’ve used the expression “building the plane as we’re flying it.” And if you’ve experienced the highs and lows of trying to keep everyone on the same page as things evolve in real time.
It’s no easy task, especially without process documentation to pave the way.
Process documentation keeps your team in the loop with instructions on how to perform specific tasks or projects. It can also help you manage different tasks, improve procedures, and track progress.
Want to increase your team's efficiency and productivity? You’ll need a roadmap. Scroll down to learn why and how to document a process—with tips and templates you won’t find anywhere else.
Why is process documentation important?
Process documentation is essential to managing different tasks and projects. It empowers everyone to be more productive and efficient with their work.
Documenting procedures comes with many benefits, including:
Increased efficiency and productivity, at both an individual and company-wide level
Preserved institutional knowledge
Creates a culture of documentation that helps new employees get up to speed and companies protect employee knowledge through times of change
Prevents accidents and helps employees follow protocols
Eliminates vagueness and missed steps, keeping everyone on the same page
Decreased busy work
Helps with reducing meetings, lack of communication, and unnecessary tasks
When process documentation is done right, it standardizes tried-and-true approaches to revenue-driving initiatives and increases team productivity. By regularly documenting processes, your team can rally around common goals and cut down on unnecessary tasks and meetings.
How to write a process document
In an ideal world, what happens when you write a process document? Team members follow your process document to the letter and accomplish the task at hand with confidence. And without quite as many questions for you along the way. 🙃
But how can you ensure steps don't fall through the cracks? The secret to effective process documentation is, well, in the process.
When creating a process document, follow these steps to cover your bases—and set everybody up for success.
1. Determine the process to document
The first step is to choose a process to document. While this may seem like a step that goes without saying, you may have many different tasks you want to document.
You could start with the most important process on your list. Or you may see an opportunity to combine several high priority processes into one process document.
Once you have a process in mind, think about your goals for it. If you want to teach people how to properly address and close a customer support ticket, for example, tie it back to a bigger “why.”
Maybe one of your Q1 goals is to ensure every customer who writes in gives your team a positive rating. Maybe you’re working on improving your Net Promoter Score (NPS), and issuing a quick survey at the end of every conversation will help you determine how likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to a friend.
With the process and goal(s) in mind, give your process document a name, and then move to the next step.
2. Meet with stakeholders
It's time to get the team together! Before starting to document procedures, you may have to gather essential information. After all, you might not know every detail just yet.
To fill in the blanks, you’ll need to connect with stakeholders. Stakeholders are typically people who:
Have expertise with the process being documented
Deal with the process on a daily basis
Are experienced with writing documentation (maybe that's you!)
Once you have the band all together, you can start collecting every bit of information needed to complete the process. If you'll be co-creating a how-to guide, now’s a good time to agree on who will be responsible for creating each part of the document.
💡 Tango Tip
Ask for your team's feedback on the process you’re documenting, as you’re documenting it. Any one-off or consistent sources of confusion? Look for ways to clarify and streamline the process before pushing it live.
3. Identify tools and resources
When team members start following a process document, they’ll need to know which tools and resources they'll need to complete the process. This can be a particular software, a web-based tool, or even a specific document.
Once you've gathered these resources, make sure they’re available to your team and note which step of the process they'll be useful for. Then you can create a section listing all the resources and tools needed to complete the procedure.
4. List the process steps
Now, let's get into the details—because what's a process document without step-by-step instructions?
The main part of your process document should be listing the steps needed to complete the task. This section should strike a healthy balance between simple and detailed. You want to keep it simple enough to follow easily, but detailed enough to be done correctly.
Start by stating when a team member should perform this task. For example, when a customer leaves a bad review, it might trigger you to register a customer complaint.
After that, list the process steps in the order they need to be completed. Give details for each step and include any equipment or resources needed. Add sub-steps for clarity, if you’d like.
5. Decide who's involved
For your process document to be effective, roles and responsibilities need to be super clear.
Figure out who should be performing each task or step in the process and document it. Whether there’s one person or multiple team members involved, clear swim lanes will go a long way. Does your directly responsible individual (DRI) need to let someone know once they’ve completed a task? Flag that as an action item in your documentation, too.
6. Create the process document
Once you have all the information needed, it's time to create your process document.
Combine the details, resources, and roles into one document. If the process is lengthy or difficult to understand, you can make it more digestible by:
Adding bulleted lists
Including images and screenshots
Creating a flowchart
Pro tip: If there are exceptions for any of the listed steps, make a note of them—and include instructions for what to do in those cases.
7. Test the process
You don't want your team to get stuck following your process document. That’s why it’s a good idea to review and test the process a couple of times.
Follow the steps yourself to see if you can complete the task. Better yet, have someone who doesn't know the process test it for you. Before you move on, confirm each step makes sense and doesn’t require any additional explanation.
Once you're able to reach the goal of the procedure document and replicate the process multiple times, it’s time to ship it and start sharing it with your team.
8. Improve the process
Processes change with time and new technology, and so should process documentation.
Track the adoption and effectiveness of your process documents (and your policy and procedure manual!) regularly. Are people using the content you’ve created? Are there ways you can improve the process? Asking for feedback is key to keeping things current (read: valuable).
For example, there might be a new tool on the market that can speed up the process, or maybe a team member found a faster way to complete the task. Update your process document whenever something changes.
💃 Let's Tango: Document processes in seconds
It can take hours to document all the processes you have in place—from writing out detailed instructions to taking screenshots of each step. Not to mention the fun of formatting everything correctly.
Want to create beautiful how-to guides in seconds?
With Tango, you can document while you work. Run through your process like you usually would, and in a few clicks, you'll have a process document that looks like this:
Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, document processes and help team members complete tasks more efficiently. They tend to be very detailed and overview the impact of the procedure. You can add images, screenshots, and bulleted lists to your SOPs to make them more digestible.
If you want to keep things more actionable, you can document procedures using a checklist. Team members will be able to easily understand the task and show their progress as they complete tasks. You can also add multiple checklists divided by tasks.
Here's an example of a checklist process document:
Process documentation can be intimidating at first. But the more you document processes, the easier it is to keep the trains on the track as your team scales and your business changes.
Some tools can speed up procedure documentation and make it easy for team members to find them. For example, you can use Tango to quickly create how-to guides with screenshots and share your process documents in Google Docs or Dropbox or add it to a knowledge base with live embed functionality.
You also want to make it easy for team members to understand the process and access it at any time. That's why, when creating process documents, you should:
Use visuals: Add images, flowcharts, and screenshots to help team members understand the process instead of reading through blocks of text.
Make it accessible: Let your team members know about the new process document and make sure it’s easy to find.
Create a template: Simplify process documentation by creating a template so you won't have to start from scratch.
Get feedback: Stay on top of feedback and ask team members how you can improve the process.
Using the right tools and tips can help you streamline the process and create a replicable process document that everyone can follow easily.
The bottom line
Process documentation is a commitment—with countless upsides. Creating a culture of documentation will not only speed up knowledge transfer and process improvement, but also empower everyone on your team to teach, learn, and do their best work.
What happens when you have unstructured documentation?
Having unstructured documentation and not properly documenting processes can mean losing critical information, inefficient operations, and poor job satisfaction. That's because team members won't know how processes work, making their work less efficient and more confusing.
What's the difference between process documentation vs. process mapping?
Process documentation focuses on step-by-step written instructions, including details and roles. Process mapping focuses on visualizing the process, usually with a flowchart.
What is the best way to document processes?
The best way to document processes is by tailoring them to your team and how they learn. This can mean, for example, including easy-to-follow instructions with bulleted lists and adding images for clarity.
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