Businesses of all sizes rely on processes to keep them function smoothly. As your business grows, there are more processes involved and it’s more complicated to keep all employees updated of the changes. This is where process documentation comes in handy.
In this brief guide to process documentation, we’ll explore what process documentation is, why your business needs it and how to create a process document that’s engaging and easy to understand, with templates you can start customizing immediately using Venngage.
Click to jump ahead:
- What is process documentation?
- What is the purpose of process documentation?
- How do you write a process document?
- More process documentation templates
What is process documentation?
Process documentation refers to the task of outlining the steps needed to complete a process.
A process document typically includes any types of materials that support documenting a process, including:
- Process maps
- and more
For instance, a business process document can include a standard operating procedure (SOP). Here’s an example of an SOP in the form of an escalation matrix:
What are the purpose and benefits of process documentation?
Businesses can use process documentation for a number of reasons, including:
To ensure consistent operational proficiency
Essentially, a process document serves as a tool to help maintain consistent quality across business processes.
By documenting a business process in detail, company helps reduce operational ambiguity for employees and make sure that everyone within or across departments understands how to execute a process to achieve the best results.
To train employees
Process documentation is essential for new employee orientation. These documents serve as training materials to help new hires get up to speed with their new roles.
An SOP checklist like this one, for example, helps simplify the blog publishing process for new employees:
For more process documentation templates in SOP format, check out our post on the top 15+ SOP checklist templates you can use to streamline your business processes.
To preserve knowledge
As important processes are well documented, company won’t have to worry if a key employee leaves and takes the knowledge with them.
To improve processes
As you continuously document processes, you can notice the differences or the changes between old processes and new ones. This helps employees to find out what’s working and what’s not and make recommendations to improve existing processes by using different styles — PDCA for example.
How do you write a process document?
Step 1: Identify your process
The first step requires you to define the process value in relation to your operations. This definition gives your process an objective. Plus, you can easily name the process document.
Here’s an example of a process infographic named “How to Use Google Meet”:
The “What” and “Why” of the process are clearly defined, helping readers know what this business process document is meant for. The scope of the process is also clearly identified through this (more detail in the next section).
Step 2: Define its scope
“Task creep” happens when steps from one process overlap with another and create routine redundancies.
It’s important to determine at the beginning what’s going to be covered and what’s not within a process document.
Authors must include their scope definition upon naming and defining the process involved. Doing this helps readers limit the vocabulary’s context and references. As a result, the process documentation becomes much more coherent and easy to understand.
Step 3: Determine the process start and end
Every process has a start point. Programmers declare their variables and containers before adding anything else. Thus, your process must define the variables that initiate the processes involved.
For example, customer service can only start their processes after a customer sends their complaints. Then, they can end the process after support teams have resolved the problems and satisfied the customers.
Here’s an example of an escalation matrix designed for Customer Support team that can be included in a process document after the section about the process start and end:
Step 4: Determine the process inputs and outputs
List out the resources needed for employees to complete the process—these are the process inputs.
Your objectives dictate the process’ desired outputs, or in other words, what the process will achieve once completed.
Some process documentation doesn’t include process outputs. However, including them can make your process much more coherent.
Step 5: Determine the process task executors
Appoint one or more task executors underneath each process activity.
Process document authors must identify task executors by their job title rather than their name because it helps others understand the duties and responsibilities of each team or company member, no matter the department they’re in.
Step 6: Break down every step detail of the process
Every activity in your process requires a “verb + object” format to reduce ambiguity in terms of the tasks that need completing. You can write your process activities as “create Trello card,” “escalate problems to Engineering,” or “run program.”
Complex processes that require two or more actions require a sub-step. Sub-steps help break down every process’ step detail. For example “publish a blog post” can have a sub-step set that includes “check the blog post category,” “add tags,” “add featured image,” and more.
All process document authors should make specifications a necessity because general process statements will create confusion.
Step 7: Visualize the steps
Including visuals in your process document makes it easier for employees to understand and conceptualize how best to execute the process.
There are many types of visuals you can use to assist with your process documentation, but a flow chart template or a step infographic is often recommended.
Here’s an example of a process flowchart outlining the steps necessary to handle any undesirable behavior within a company:
Step 8: Brainstorm process exceptions or disruptors
Your processes will smoothly run 90% of the time. However, it might need to adapt to some exceptions in some future processes.
For example, a waiter will usually seat guests and give menus afterward. But they can make an exception for guests who have reserved and ordered their food online.
Some exceptions are more complex than the initial example. Thus, you can use this three-step list to effectively handle exceptions for your business process documentation.
- List potential disruptors: Review your process objectives and outputs. Identify the possible objects and events that might cause disruptions. Lastly, list these disruptions.
- Create solutions: Create sub-steps to solve these disruptions from the optimal path. Then, assign these sub-steps to the process activity disruptor it intends to solve or optimize.
- Review solution efficacy: Did the solution solve the issue 100%? Use measurable parameters that help you measure the solution’s performance.
Step 9: Review and test the process
Before implementing the process, gain feedback from all the team members involved in the process and look for areas of improvement.
Once done, employees can start the process implementation and measure its effectiveness along the way. Processes should be reviewed regularly to optimize job productivity and efficiency.
Process documentation templates and examples
Here are a few templates to help you visualize your process documentation with numerous approaches.
This complaint resolution flowchart is better used for more complicated processes that require multiple steps with different scenarios.
You can customize this process documentation template for your own company’s complaint resolution process, or use it for any other more complex processes.
Or take a look at this business process diagram:
This is an excellent starting diagram you can use to document processes, especially for short processes.
You can fully swap out all the assets in the 5-step cycle to fit your process documentation needs. Upgrade to a Business plan to use My Brand Kit and have all your process documents reflect your brand guidelines.
If you’re in need of more process flowchart examples, here’s another one:
This template is the best among all our suggested process documentation templates because it clearly indicates the start and end of your process documentation. Plus, it’s an excellent decision-making diagram for any branching process activity.
For more process documentation templates, check out the post: 20+ Process Documentation Templates to Guide Business Processes
In summary: Documenting processes with visuals can make them easier to follow and understand
Process documents don’t have to be boring and confusing. Now, you can use these tips to create the best written and visualized process documents for your project needs.
Instead of documenting processes using Word or Google Docs which are not meant for data visualization, opt for a process documentation tool like Venngage to make sure your documented processes are engaging and easy to grasp.
Simply sign up for a Venngage account and start customizing your own process document. It’s free to get started.