Documenting processes and procedures can seem like a daunting task, and it’s common not to know where to start. This documentation process will guide you through everything you need to know on creating clear and concise documentation.
Effective documentation plays an important role in streamlining business practices, reducing training time and understanding expectations. It does take time to document business processes; however, the benefits to the staff and the business in terms of time and cost-saving makes the effort worthwhile. When a process or procedure is documented, it is much easier to identify inefficiencies and pinpoint where improvements can be made.
Follow these steps to make capturing processes easy and quick. Any team member can replicate this process by following this step by step guide.
Step 1 – Plan the documentation using The Process Documentation Preparation Form
Use a template/form for pre documentation planning to ensure that steps are not missed, and consistency is maintained. Using a form also makes it easier to delegate and to keep track of the assigned task. Once people are confident with writing process documentation, the documentation can be done straight into your company Operating Systems/Operations Manual/Intranet as a draft.
Step 2 – Define the name of the process
Write the name of the process. Use names that clearly explain what the process is for example, Opening Procedure or How to Open the Shop or Opening Checklist.
Step 3 – Define the purpose statement
It’s important to write why something is done so that it has meaning. Why is this process necessary? What is the purpose?
Step 4 – Include the process boundaries
Boundaries/expectations include when the process starts and when it ends. What is the trigger for the process to start? How do you know when the process is complete?
- Reports must be sent to the Sales Manager by 5pm every Friday.
- Expenses reports must be submitted by email by the last Monday of the month.
- The banking process starts as soon as the cash machine daily report has been finalised, and the amounts are reconciled.
- The leave application process is complete when the Manager has signed off for approval.
Step 5 – Define the process owner
The owner is the role who is responsible for the process or procedure. Always use the name of the role as opposed to the staff members name. Team members come and go, but roles rarely change. List any other role that may play a part in the process.
Step 6 – List resources
List any resources that are required to carry out the process including equipment, supplies, software, links, templates, policies etc.
Step 7 – Define the outcome
What is produced by the process, or what is the expected result?
Step 8 – Select the best method to capture the process
With modern technology, you are only limited by your imagination. Mix different methods of capturing processes if it makes the process easier to understand and get the desired result.
- Screen recording
- Audio recording
- Text and images
- Workflow diagram
When selecting the best method for capturing the process, consider WHAT you are documenting, WHO will be reading and using the process, WHERE they will be using it, and HOW will they access it.
- A procedure for how to store glass capsules in a drawer is easier to explain by either video or photos to avoid confusion and show the desired result.
- An apprentice technician wanting to know how to change over a panel on an air conditioner could access a short video tutorial and watch it on an iPad.
- A new receptionist may require a printed checklist on the desk to show how to transfer a call.
- Record a 30-second screencast showing how to enter new client details into a CRM program.
- A written step by step procedure with some images could explain how to order a courier and prepare a package for delivery with contact phone numbers and pick up times.
Step 9 – Gather equipment for video and screen recordings (if applicable)
If you are recording video, use a good phone camera or video camera and invest in a good microphone such as a lapel microphone if you are demonstrating something. Always do a test video to check the sound and video quality. Work out how you will transfer the video to your Business Operating Systems/Operations Manual/Intranet.
For screencasting, use an app such as Loom. Most screencasting apps will create a link to the video so you can add this directly into your process or embed the video directly into your document or platform. If you are recording actions taken in different windows or tabs on your computer, have these open before you record to avoid delays and signing into different programs. Also, check sound quality and avoid background noise.
Step 10 – Assign the task of capturing the process
Not all processes should be written by the business owner; in fact, most of them shouldn’t. The task to capture the process should be assigned to the process owner or to the department head who can delegate to someone in the business who can produce the result. Remember to set a due date and follow up on progress. Make sure you train all team members who have been assigned process capturing tasks in this process, give them a copy of this guide along with a copy of The Process Documentation Preparation Form.
Capture The Process
Step 1 – Outline the process
Outline the process with WHAT you do, step by step – no details at this stage, state what needs to be done from start to finish. Start with a verb, for example, sign agreement, assign a due date, report an incident, approve the request. If you are using video, your outline will be your guide for the points you want to cover. Remember not to make the recordings too long. Try to keep within 2 – 3 minutes. If you need longer, break up the contents into shorter videos. Sticky notes can work well for this step. Write one step for each sticky note.
Step 2 – Fill in the details or shoot the video
From your outline, fill in the details. Describe the HOW of the process. Document to the detail that is necessary to obtain the result. Only add what is relevant, make the process too long, and people won’t read it all, make it too short, and you won’t get the desired result. If you are using video or screen recording, use your outline as a guide to how you will break up the videos. Scripts are hard to follow so consider having 3 or 4 key points to cover and keep this handy next to the camera or computer.
Step 3 – Process flow
If you haven’t already, put each step into the sequence so that the process flows and number each step. Remember to include decision points as you build the sequences of the process – if this happens, then that.
Step 4 – Use consistent formatting and design
The design and layout are important so that the documentation looks professional and is easily recognisable from other types of company documentation. Whichever method you choose, make the format consistent. Always use the same font, line spacing, headers etc. Consider using a template that can be copied. Include the template and the capture process in your company documentation process.
Step 5 – Add supporting notes and resources
Even if you are capturing your process with video, it’s a good idea to have supporting notes or a checklist that provides a simple overview. If the process requires resources, add these such as links, templates, forms, file paths and attachments.
Step 6 – Write and speak in everyday language
The goal is for anyone with some basic understanding of your business to be able to complete the process by reading, watching or listening. Write in a clear tone, do not use over-complicated words or jargon unless it is necessary. If you are recording your voice, speak clearly but keep it natural. Don’t try to be perfect. The key is to have your outline somewhere visible so that you don’t forget any vital information.
Review The Process
Step 1 – Check and improve
It is the process owners responsibility to read through the process or watch the video recording and check that everything required to complete the process has been included. Check spelling, grammar, links and the formatting. Are all the steps clear enough to allow anyone with a basic understanding complete the process? Add any improvements where you can and highlight inefficiencies that you can bring up for discussion later.
Step 2 – Get another set of eyes on the process
Have somebody look over the process who isn’t usually involved in the process to test their understanding. Get feedback to ascertain if the process can be followed, and does it have enough detail or too much unnecessary detail.
Step 3 – Review by management
Decide within the business who will make the final process documentation approvals. If necessary, have a group meeting to discuss the process with all relevant parties.
Step 4 – Make additional improvements based on feedback
Based on the feedback from other team members and management, make any recommended changes and update the documentation. If you have made videos or screencasts, avoid re-recording if possible by adding supporting notes if further clarification is needed
Step 5 – Perform the final test
The final test of the process is to teach the process to someone who is not familiar with the process. Any misunderstanding or missing parts will come to light while teaching. Use the training technique of:
- Teach the process
- Do the process together
- Allow them to complete the process by themselves and give feedback
Step 6 – Get approval to publish
Once all the changes and improvements have been made to the process, it’s time to get the final approval from management. Now the process is ready to be published in your Business Operating Systems/Operations Manual/Intranet.
Step 7 – Update the documentation as it changes
Most processes will change; it’s the nature of business. Change can be positive; it usually means that improvements have been identified. When things change, make sure that the changes are made to the process immediately; that way, everyone will have access to the latest version. Any changes should go through an approval process to ensure that only those with authority can make changes to processes.
Most owners keep their knowledge in their head. In order to set up repeatable and reliable systems, you have to get the knowledge out of your head and into a format that your team can understand, follow and help you improve. You need to define the most critical activities in your business, who is responsible for carrying them out and how should they be done each time. When you can achieve this, you can delegate which frees you up to do more of the strategic work of the business. The time invested in documented these processes and procedures will have a big pay off as you continue to grow. Without documented systems, you will always be a slave to the business.
Another benefit to having everything documented into an operations manual is the added value to your business. If you decide to sell in the future, a systemised business is far more attractive than a business that runs from inside the owners head.
Need your systems documented but don’t want to do it all yourself? If you would like to know more about how to simplify and systemise your business to free up time without losing control, book a call and let’s talk.