Business Process Documentation

Why You Need to Document Business Processes

“How do you do send out an NDA to a partner prospect?”, “Where is the project charter for xyz client?” or “What do I need to do if I want to expense something for my team?”.

How many times have you heard questions like these at your office? These questions tend to be posed by new employees, but more often than not, even people who have been around for a while can end up having these questions.

Until a process is documented someone will have to stop what they are doing to explain it. You can expect this to happen repeatedly, especially for actions like sending out contracts, which happens frequently. 
After explaining the process a number of times there’s a good chance that the process starts to be explained a bit differently each time. Or, more importantly, the person explaining the process might omit a key step that could lead to a mistake or unintended outcome.
Ultimately, you’re facing a situation where multiple workers just spent time executing an old process with suboptimal results. In addition to the frustration and anxiety the worker felt while fumbling through the process, the business was negatively impacted on multiple fronts. First, the opportunity cost – the workers were essentially redoing work that had already been done (figuring out the process) and because the process was not documented one worker had to stop what they were doing, possibly on another task, to help the original worker. There is less confidence in the quality of the result and there could be additional time spent correcting a mistake due to the missed or incorrectly implemented step.
Because of situations like that one, anything that needs to be done more than twice needs to be documented. We’ve listed the negatives, but here are some of the positives of documenting business processes.

  • Consistency & Predictability
  • Less time spent on tasks
  • Minimum resources associated with tasks
  • Reduce project cost
  • Improve efficiency – Framework for approaching a problem
  • Improve overall quality
  • Increase customer and employee satisfaction

A business is essentially a group of interrelated processes, and if these processes aren’t in writing, breakdowns can and will occur. Companies have repeatable processes fundamental to their successful operation; thus, process documentation serves as a crucial guide for employees and managers to reference.

Here’s the golden rule of Standard Operating Procedures: Anything that needs to be done more than twice needs to be documented.

Goals of process documentation

  • Eliminate flaws
  • Reduce time spent on tasks
  • Decrease costs
  • Decrease resources associated with tasks
  • Improve efficiency
  • Improve overall quality
  • Increase customer and employee satisfaction

While it is now clear that business process documentation is critical for a business, let’s have a look at the different types of procedures and learn why it is important to document them.

Define job roles

Everyone in your business should understand what their role entails and what their responsibilities are. Defining job roles within your business will also be helpful when it comes time to review staff against any key performance indicators (KPIs). It also avoids staff doubling up on processes that could be done by one person. 

Improve training

Having a clear and concise manual for each role in your business will make training new staff a lot quicker and less stressful. Documented procedures also mean a team member can go on holiday or take sick leave without it heavily impacting your business. If staff members know exactly what their role entails, there will be less confusion.

Standardize processes

Having clear guidelines for staff allows processes to be standardized across your business to achieve consistency. This ensures your staff is able to work across different units within your business and new team members can be trained by any one of the existing employees.

Reporting procedures

No one is perfect and mistakes get made at all jobs. Each role in your business should have a direct line of command clearly listed and should detail what to do in the event of a mistake. Having this clearly set out means staff will be able to react quickly to mistakes and ensure they don’t become bigger than they need to.

Streamline your business

Documenting procedures can help streamline your business and make it more efficient. It will also help you uncover unnecessary procedures so you can implement more efficient processes. This can help cut costs and divert staff attention to more important tasks.

Compliance

Most businesses are required to adhere to certain laws and regulations. Ensuring procedures in your business are well documented will mean you can show you have been following procedures if any legal action is taken against your business.

Documenting procedures is an important aspect of running your business. Not only can it help improve efficiencies and boost productivity, but it can also allow you to take time off for a vacation and not worry about the future of your business.

[…] most people’s “Quantum Leaps” in business are […] not just marketing breakthroughs but breakthroughs in delegation. — Perry Marshall

Process Documentation as Living Documents

While the workflow level might be more stable, the procedures will change or rather be adjusted and improved. In a business, the procedures have to be continuously adjusted and improved because in many cases they exist in an ever-changing environment. For example, used software applications get updated and their user interfaces change. The person who is doing the procedure should, therefore, be able to update and adjust it when necessary.

Your business process documents are continuously being used and updated, therefore, they are a set of living documents. Updating these documents continually is what ensures that the system keeps on working.
Do you document all the processes that are being performed in your business or project?  If you have any questions about the topic discussed in this post or about any of our services, send us an email!Photo by rawpixel on Pixabay