What is Process Documentation? A Complete Guide
Every business is built on a collection of processes.
From hiring new employees to running weekly reports, you and your team follow a series of steps, each of which is designed to help you get closer to your goals.
The question we have is, have you ever stopped to document these steps? In this article, we'll explain:
- What process documentation is
- Why process documentation is beneficial
- How to effectively document your processes
- Four things you can do to improve your documentation efforts
Let's get started!
What is Process Documentation?
A process document is exactly what it sounds like: an internal document that outlines a specific process in a step–by-step manner that's easily understood by the reader.
The best process documents are dynamic, i.e. updated on a regular basis to reflect the changes and improvements a process might go through over time.
"Great," you're thinking. "But what does a process document actually look like?"
Process documentation can take a variety of forms, including checklists, tutorials, how-to guides, standard operating procedures, process maps, and screenshots—whatever helps you explain your company's processes in a clear and concise manner.
What Are the Benefits of Process Documentation?
Process documentation is an important practice, allowing companies to easily analyze and improve their current processes, boost employee productivity, increase remote worker understanding, and ensure its resources are properly allocated.
Let's dive deeper into each of these benefits:
Improves Current Processes
Process documentation will give you a bird's eye view of your current processes, which will allow you to better analyze them and pinpoint inefficiencies. You'll then be able to adjust your workflows and empower your company's employees to reach peak performance with less effort. (Just remember to update your process documentation once changes are made!)
Boosts Employee Productivity
Process documentation tells employees what to do and when to do it. This will help them eliminate errors and produce higher quality work in less time.
This is especially true for new employees who aren't yet familiar with your company and the way you do things. The ability to study process documentation when completing tasks will help new hires get up to speed and become meaningful contributors quicker.
Increases Remote Worker Understanding
Remote work exploded during the pandemic, and continues to be a popular working arrangement today. 45% of full-time U.S. employees work from home at least once a week.
Here's the thing: a remote worker can't peek their head into an adjacent cubicle and ask a coworker a quick question. They can schedule Zoom meetings and/or send colleagues Slack messages. But these communication channels take time to use.
Your remote employees will be much more productive and effective when they have access to detailed process documentation that shows them exactly how to complete tasks.
Ensures Resources Are Properly Allocated
Finally, process documentation helps companies allocate resources in the most appropriate manner. How? By clearly explaining which resources are needed to complete specific tasks, as well as how much of said resources to use.
For example, many software tools go unused—despite a company's investment in them. If a specific tool doesn't show up in your process documentation, it's probably not needed and you can cancel your subscription to it and minimize overspending.
How to Create a Process Document in 5 Steps
Ready to create effective process documentation for your company? Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds 😊. Just follow these five steps and you'll be well on your way:
1. List Basic Details About Your Process
Start your process document with a quick explanation.
What will this process help your team accomplish and why is it important? Which resources will they need to complete this process? Which activities are included? Which aren't? And how long can they expect the entire process to take, start to finish?
Answering these questions will give readers context and ensure they're prepared. A prepared employee is, generally speaking, an efficient and effective employee.
2. Organize the Steps in Your Process
Next, explain which steps employees need to take to complete this process. Then put them in sequential order so that they can easily follow along.
Make sure to include all relevant information, such as the person and/or people involved in each step, specific "triggers" that let employees know when they've finished one step and are ready to move onto the next one, and what each step should look like once completed.
3. List Exceptions to Your Normal Process Flow
Things don't always go to plan, which means, at one time or another, your employees will have to deviate from the normal process flow you've outlined for them.
Brainstorm the things that could go wrong during your process. Then list potential solutions: if X happens, do Y instead of Z. That way your employees are, at least, somewhat prepared.
Pro Tip: When things do go wrong, add relevant information to your process documentation. Explain what happened and why it forced employees to adjust their workflows. Then catalog the solution(s) they found to ensure the process still produced a favorable result. Doing so will make your process documents stronger and prevent random issues from derailing your team.
4. Visualize Your Process
Did you know the average person only remembers 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see? That's why it's important to visualize your processes.
The easiest way to do this is to add screenshots to your process documents. That way your team can actually see what it is they're supposed to do. We talk more about the importance of screenshots later in this article. Stay tuned!
5. Review and Test Your Process
Finally, take your process documentation for a test drive.
Here's what we suggest: gather up a few members of your team and ask them to go through your process document. Does it make sense to them? Is it easy to follow? And does it produce a favorable result? If the answer to any of these questions is "No," you're not done.
Remember, process documentation exists to streamline workflows and help team members accomplish tasks. If your current documents don't do these things, you need to adjust them.
Best Practices For Successful Process Documentation
Not all process documentation is created equal. Keep these four things in mind when documenting your company's processes to make sure the end result is effective.
Make it Easy to Access
Process documentation is only valuable to your company if people use it. To ensure this happens, make your processes easy to access.
How do you do this? It's pretty easy: host all of your process documentation in a central location, such as a shared Dropbox or Google Drive folder. Then make sure your entire team has access to the folder(s) so that they can peruse documents whenever they need to.
Pro Tip: If you decide to create process documentation with Tango, you can store all of your documents in your secure Tango account and share them with your team. More on Tango below.
Include Visual Elements
As mentioned earlier, visuals make information easier to digest and understand. That's why we suggested visualizing your processes via visuals. But don't stop there…
Your process documentation should include an abundance of visual elements—especially screenshots and a few well-written annotations to accompany them. This will make your workflow documents much more effective, guaranteed.
Fortunately, annotated screenshots are easy to create with a tool like Tango.
All you have to do to create process documentation is activate Tango and then walk through your process. Tango will automatically capture each step via screenshots and written instructions, which you can edit if needed to improve clarity. That's it!
Try Tango for free today to see if it improves your process documentation.
Be as Concise as Possible
Process documents aren't novels. They should be as concise as possible, while still allowing employees to understand each step in a particular process. To accomplish this, eliminate extraneous details and boil essential information down to basic concepts.
This is another reason why screenshots and other visual elements are recommended. Visuals increase clarity without boosting word counts, which amplifies comprehension.
Regularly Update Documents
Processes change. Your process documentation should change, too, when needed.
Maybe you've found a more efficient way to complete a specific task. Update your workflow document to reflect these changes. Maybe one of your software tools was recently updated and the red button you used to click is now blue and located in a different area of your screen. Take new screenshots and adjust the wording in your documents to match.
If your process documentation isn't accurate, what's the point? Do you and your team a favor and update your process documents on a regular basis.
Streamline Process Documentation With Tango
Process documentation is important. Once you take the time to document the processes your business needs to function, you'll be able to improve them, while also increasing employee productivity, boosting remote worker understanding, and properly allocating resources.
Fortunately, process documentation isn't rocket science. All you need is the right tools and to follow the five steps we outlined in this article to create effective documents.
Looking to make process documentation even easier for you and your team? Give Tango a try.