Process Documentation: 3 Free Templates to Help
Your company runs processes.
And your team’s success depends on the quality of these processes. Simply put, good processes produce good results, while bad ones produce bad results.
But creating good processes is only half the battle. You need to document them as well. That way, you can generate positive outcomes consistently and efficiently.
In this article, we'll explain what process documentation is, why it's so important, and how to document your company's processes the right way. Plus, you’ll get three process documentation templates to jumpstart your own documentation efforts.
Sound like a plan? Let's get started!
What is Process Documentation?
Process documentation is the act of creating documents that outline the specific steps to complete a process. They can take the form of written policies, checklists, video tutorials, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and more.
The goal of process documentation is to help companies streamline and improve their processes, as well as share internal knowledge to align teams.
Process documentation templates, which we'll discuss later, help companies document essential processes quicker and with less effort.
Why is it Important to Document Processes?
Once you commit to documenting your company's processes (and learn how to do it correctly), your team will become more productive, incur fewer expenses, and produce happier employees. Let's take a closer look at each of these three benefits:
There are a bunch of ways to get from San Francisco, CA, to New York City, NY.
You could, for example, drive down to Southern California and catch the I-10 freeway. Once you get to Florida, you could merge onto the I-95 freeway and follow it until you reach the Big Apple. This route will get you to your destination, but it will take a really long time.
Why not take the I-80 freeway instead? Doing so is a much more direct route and will save you hours of travel time. Process documentation is similar…
Once you create process docs, you and your team will get things done more efficiently because you'll know the optimal way to get from Point A to Point B. You won't take extra steps or make mistakes. You'll produce quality results in as little time as possible.
Process documentation leads to better results, too.
Employees make mistakes when they don't fully understand how tasks should be completed. Once a process is documented, employees can follow steps to achieve the desired outcome.
As long as your company has hired capable team members, they shouldn't have problems following directions. This means that the tasks you ask them to complete will get done faster and with more accuracy.
A More Connected Team
Finally, process documentation will help you build a more connected team.
Think about it: Documentation makes it easy to share knowledge. Once everyone in your company has access to this knowledge, they'll be on the same page about how processes should go and how work gets done.
How to Create Process Documentation
Not sure where to start? You can follow these five steps to create your own process document.
1. Define Your Process
First things first: Define the process you want to document.
What will this process accomplish? Why is it essential to achieve these things? What's the desired outcome of the process in question? What resources do employees need access to?
You need to answer each of these questions before you document a process so you and your team are on the same page about the process itself
2. Identify Key Roles
Some—if not all—of your company's processes likely involve multiple people or teams.
Before documenting the process itself, identify the key roles involved (i.e., Sales Engineer), not individual people (i.e., Bill). Why? People leave companies, but their roles don’t..
By listing roles instead of people, you'll save yourself from updating your process documents whenever one employee leaves and a new employee is hired.
3. List Every Process Step
Now that you've defined your process and identified all participants, you can list the steps.
Start at the beginning of the process. Then ask yourself questions like, "What happens next?" and "Who completes this task?" until you reach your desired outcome.
While it may seem obvious, it still needs to be said: Run through your processes while you list steps. That way you don't forget anything. When you're done listing steps, ask a colleague (preferably someone familiar with the process) to check your work for errors.
4. Note Exceptions and Control Points
Complex business processes won't always follow the same flow.
If the process you're documenting has exceptions, note them in the documentation. Then do your best to explain to readers how to handle said exceptions productively.
You should also identify control points. A control point alerts users to potential risks in a process and reminds them to monitor these situations carefully.
Here's an example: you're documenting the process your company uses to post on social media. After explaining how to create brand-consistent content and log in to various social accounts, you add a control point: “Run all text through Grammarly.”
This control point will help your company's social team avoid any embarrassing spelling and grammatical errors, preserving its image as an authority in its niche.
5. Review and Optimize Your Process
Just because you document a process doesn't mean you can forget about it. You should review every process for accuracy and, if possible, optimize for better results.
Can you automate certain parts of the process? Can you invest in software tools and eliminate specific steps? Should "Step 7" be split into multiple stages to increase user understanding? Maybe you need to add more screenshots to your documentation.
Your process documentation should be clear and easy to understand so that anyone on your team or in your organization can confidently do the task at hand.
Tips For Better Process Documentation
Now that you know how to create process documents, let's talk about how to make them better. These four best practices will supercharge your documentation workflow.
Use a Process Documentation Tool
You don't need a process documentation tool. But having one will make your life (and the lives of whoever else documents processes for your company) much easier.
With Tango’s free browser extension and desktop application, you can automatically generate process documentation in seconds—simply by walking through any process yourself.
Add Quality Visuals to Your Documents
Did you know that 67% of people learn better with visuals?
Help your employees understand the processes you're documenting by including images, charts, graphs, and other visuals to bring the content to life.
Your process documents will be more engaging, and your employees will actually remember what they read.
Make Your Documents Easily Accessible
It doesn't matter how amazing your process documents are if your employees can't access them. That's why you should store all process docs in one convenient location.
With Tango, all of your Workflows live in your team’s Workspace. . If you decide to use a different solution or prefer another storage platform, export your documents to the tool of your choice, be it Dropbox, Google Drive, or Sync.
Just remember to give your entire team access to the storage platform so they can easily view, download, or share your process documents when they need to.
Update Your Process Documents
Finally, update your process documents regularly.
Processes can change over time. You might find a more efficient way to complete a process, invest in a new software tool, or upgrade a software tool you already use.
Stay on top of these changes and update your process docs to match.
3 Process Documentation Templates
We promised you process documentation templates. Well, friend, here they are!
Feel free to copy the templates below and adjust them to fit your company's needs better.
General Process Documentation Template
The "General Process Documentation" template will help you document your company's processes. In fact, you can call it the "Holy Grail'' template if you want… But we'll leave that decision up to you. Here's what the template looks like:
Process Purpose: Why does this template exist? What goal does it help achieve?
Process Details: Write a paragraph explaining the process scope, the roles involved in completing this process, and anything else you find pertinent.
Process Inputs: What resources does a user need to complete this process?
Process Outputs: What should the result of this process look like?
- List out every step a user needs to take to complete this process.
- Be as detailed as possible.
- Include images when appropriate to do so.
Process Exceptions: Are there exceptions to this process that users must be aware of?
Process Control Points: List potential risks of this process and ask users to monitor them.
Related Resources: Link to materials that support, clarify, etc., this process for users.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Template
If you want to create a standard operation procedure (SOP), this template might be more useful. Again, feel free to customize it to suit your needs.
Company Information: List your company's name, physical address, and contact details.
SOP Version: List the version number of this SOP document (#1, #2, #3, etc.)
Name and Approval: State the name of whoever created and approved this SOP.
Date: State when this SOP was created/updated - [MM/DD/YYYY].
SOP Purpose: Explain why this SOP exists and list relevant information that pertains to it.
SOP Application: Explain when this SOP should be used and who should use it.
Included Definitions: Explain industry terms, acronyms, and other jargon in this SOP.
Steps in Procedure: List every step one needs to take to complete this procedure. Use as much detail as necessary, include images, and state known difficulties and hazards.
Resources: Share materials that may help users complete this procedure more effectively.
New Hire Training Plan Template
Every new employee should feel welcome when they start working for your company.
Name of Company
Welcome New Employee: Tell your new hire you're excited to work with them.
Purpose of This Document: Explain to new employees that this document is designed to get them up to speed in their new roles and will include [Insert Activities].
Company History: Share a bit about the history of your company and the people who founded it. Explain where your company is headed in the future. (Note: if you want employees to attend a seminar or watch a video on this topic, make it known.)
Workplace Policies: Tell new hires what you expect from them, information about personal and common areas around the office, when to take breaks, etc. (Note: if you want employees to attend a seminar or watch a video on this topic, make it known.)
Employee Benefits: Explain the workplace benefits available to new hires and how they can enroll/take advantage of said perks. (Note: if you want employees to attend a webinar or watch a video on this topic, make it known.)
Basic Information: List the software tools your company and/or department uses, the accounts your new employee needs to create, and how to access necessary info. (Note: if you want employees to attend a webinar or watch a video on this topic, make it known.)
Role Specific Information: Teach new hires how to do their jobs. Info in this section may include overarching goals and responsibilities and specific how-to details. (Note: if you want employees to attend a webinar or watch a video on this topic, make it known.)
Document Your Processes and Build a Better Business
Process documentation is essential to your company's success, but it can be a tedious and thankless task. Fortunately, there are templates and tools that make it easier (and even fun!) to share and scale knowledge so that your team is empowered to learn any process.
Ready to streamline your company’s process documentation? Give Tango a try—for free.