Management
10 MIN READ

What is Business Process Documentation?

processing-2

You we will learn how Business Process Documentation can help improve operations and process enablement.

Here you will learn everything you need to know about Business Process Documentation including the what, why, and how it helps your process preform better.

Introduction

How do you like your cup of coffee (or tea) every morning? There are so many ways to make a refreshing cup of coffee, but there is only one way to make 'your' cup of coffee - the one that hits your soul. 

A great cup of coffee | Processology

You follow specific steps to make it right - maybe you add two scoops of sugar or half a cup of creamer, or you like to make it simple like me, which is black coffee, of course! 

Imagine that your new assistant made 'your' cup of coffee this morning, and something doesn't taste right. Maybe they added too much sugar or not enough creamer. How you wish you would have given more precise instructions, like:

  1. Wash the coffee mug
  2. Brew the coffee pod
  3. Add one scoop of sugar
  4. Add three tablespoons of French Vanilla creamer

These instructions would have made it easy to follow and get the exact outcome you desired! 

The same logic applies to business processes. When you don't document how to carry out the process, it causes mayhem - confusion, risks, unexpected outcomes, and ultimately unhappy clients.

Business process documentation plays a critical role in the success of your organization. Although it is a lot more complex than writing instructions to make a cup of coffee, it does add immense value to your business operations. 

Process documentation includes a lot more than how to execute the process. It includes:

  • Who is involved in the process?
  • What do you need to execute the process? 
  • What is the required outcome of the process? 
  • Who is responsible for each activity in the process?

In this article, we will talk about everything process documentation. We will also look at the definition, benefits, and the many types of process documentation in a business. 

Table of Content

What is Business Process Documentation?

Business process documentation is the process of outlining detailed step-by-step guidelines to execute a given process. It is a technique undertaken by businesses to make their processes learnable, viewable, and improvable. It primarily focuses on answering the question - 'how is the process implemented?' Business process documentation is one of the key components to business process improvement.

process map

A business is nothing but a set of interrelated processes - like a mesh; all focused on producing a valuable outcome. Each process has its guidelines that need to be documented together in one place. This way, they are all stored together and are accessible to anyone who is involved in the process execution. 

Imagine the process of raising a ticket to your tech support team for assistance when it comes to fixing a system. The tech support team has a set procedure for responding to the tickets, allocating the ticket to a team member, resolving the issue, and sending a notification of ticket closure. 

Now imagine the chaos that you could experience if the process isn't documented. Each technician may confirm the ticket differently or not at all. You may find that multiple techs are working on the same issue at the same time or that the problem isn't fixed at all. WOW!

This is a classic example of spending unnecessary time, effort, and resources on a simple task. This can all be avoided if the process is documented and not in your employees' heads! 

Strategic documentation of processes is the key to successful business operations. It eliminates unpredictability and frustrations to bring clarity and uniformity to your business processes. It acts as a reference document for your employees whenever there is a lack of clarity, or a teammate is out sick, or on the beach sipping Margaritas!

Why Should You Document Business Processes?

A business has various advantages of documenting business processes. Some show an immediate impact on day-to-day operations, while the others come in handy in the big picture. 

There is no denying that documenting business processes is an integral part of business operations - which is why 96% of companies have invested in some process documentation (as stated by a survey on BPM trends). 

Let us look at the key reasons why you should document your business processes:

  1. It allows you to standardize your processes - Standardizing processes is a primary goal of business process documentation. It eliminates variations in the execution of processes, thus reducing the risk of unpredictable outcomes.

    Process documentation outlines the activities that are tried and tested to achieve the business's best possible outcome. Everyone across the business is expected to follow these guidelines when executing the process.

  2. It establishes a culture of accountability - According to Partners In Leadership, over 90% of employees consider accountability as one of their organization’s top development needs.

    Process documentation cultivates a sense of accountability and ownership for each team member, team, or department who is a part of the process.

    There is no room left for ambiguity when it comes to holding people or teams responsible for activities. If you do not document your process, you won't know who to reach out to when there is an unexpected incident. It contributes to the increase of responsibility and efficiency, leading to: 

    • boost in team member engagement and satisfaction
    • more clarity of the bigger picture within the organization
    • better operations
    • increase in business revenue due to satisfied, responsible, and motivated employees
    • less worrying about blame games and lack of responsibility

  3. Training new employees becomes easier - When a new team member is onboarded to your team, you assign them projects with set processes. If these processes are not documented, there are chances you might miss out on sharing important details, procedures, or files to carry out activities that are part of the process.

    training workflow

    Business process documentation is an excellent solution to implement smooth team member transitions. This hands-on training guide allows lower risks when a new team member is onboarded, on vacation, or out sick. When you document processes and training guides, you ultimately:

    • waste less time and effort on training and transition
    • reduce confusion for new employees with a reference document
    • enable faster team member onboarding for new team members
    • exhibit your company culture of productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness to new employees (your first brand ambassadors!)
    • drive team member buy-in with transparent and documented processes that are in sync with your company vision
    • boost team member morale by providing process reference guides and training material that builds confidence within them

  4. It presents an opportunity for process improvement -  Documenting a process lays out all your cards on the table without anything to hide. From procedures to dependencies, it gives you a complete picture of how your process is currently executed. This presents an excellent opportunity for you to find gaps in your processes.

    No matter how well your process produces the outcome, there is always room for improvement. You can make sustainable and timely changes to your process to find a more efficient way to achieve the same or better outcome. Process documents help you:

    • identify frictions in the current process workflow
    • eliminate redundant activities to save valuable time and effort
    • brainstorm for alternative steps that are more effective
    • increase the productivity of employees by improving process cycles

What are the benefits of process documentation?

While process documentation has many benefits, here are some of the most common:

  • identifies the process workflow
  • identify bottlenecks
  • consistent execution of every business process
  • compliance with rules and regulations that apply to the process
  • the smooth functioning of interrelated processes
  • understand process inputs and outputs
  • reduces time spent on brainstorming alternate solutions
  • less burnout for you and your employees due to disorganized processes
  • reduced stress and anxiety for you and your team thanks to structured and systemized processes

4 Common Frustrations With Undocumented Processes 

We have seen how documenting processes can benefit you by increasing your business operations' efficiency and productivity. Now let's look at what happens when you do not document your processes.

Here are the common frustrations that businesses face when they fail to document their processes:

Process Mayhem

What happens when you don't have a recipe for the new dessert you want to bake this weekend? You don't know how much butter to add, or how long to pre-heat the oven, or how long do you let it rest before you dig in. 

Of course, you can improvise based on your baking experience, but will it get the exact outcome you were hoping for every time? Again, this is a cake recipe where you can compromise on the taste. But you cannot do that when it comes to your business processes.  

Business Process Documentation list down all the activities required to produce a specific business outcome. A slight change in the execution of any activity in the process can lead to major flaws in the outcome. This is why documenting processes is critical to successful business operations. 

Failing to document processes can lead to:

  • missing of steps and activities in the process
  • incorrect execution of the process
  • variations in the process or outcomes
  • involvement of the wrong people/teams/departments in the process
  • longer working hours and burnouts due to lack of detailed references to the right execution methods
  • missing out on things that matter - planned vacations, movie nights with family, practice sessions with kids

All these contingencies directly impact your business operations, performance, and client experience.

Unnecessary Utilization of Resources

When your processes are not documented, there is a lack of clarity in the process's execution. You end up spending a lot more time and effort getting things right. 

If you're operating with a flat tire, you may still accomplish your mission. However, it's going to take more time, resources, and revenue than it should. - Michael D. Wilson | Founder @ Processology

If you're operating with a flat tire, you may still accomplish your mission. However, it's going to take more time, resources, and revenue than it should. - Michael D. Wilson | Founder @ Processology

Process documents store all the information required for a process in one place, accessible to everyone involved in the process. If the documentation does not exist, it may lead to confusion, to-and-fro communication, unnecessary mail threads, and unnecessary utilization of other valuable resources.

Unnecessary utilization of your valuable resources leads to an increase in your operational costs. 

Team member and Customer Dissatisfaction

Process documentation, as we discussed earlier, is a key driver of accountability and ownership. Accountability and ownership in process execution promote team member satisfaction.

Lack of process documentation can lead to confusion, irresponsibility, and blame games. This has a direct impact on team member satisfaction.

Again, team member satisfaction directly affects team member productivity and business operations, leading to inconsistent business outcomes. If your outcomes do not create business value, you will see an increase in client dissatisfaction. It is a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction that can be improved and controlled by documenting your processes. 

Missed Opportunity to Improve Processes

Process documentation outlines every aspect of your business process. You can pinpoint every gap in your process and an opportunity to increase the efficiency of the process.  

The lack of business process documentation can cost you an opportunity to fill the gaps within your processes or improve their effectiveness. Process documentation helps you evaluate your processes and determine whether your processes are efficient or if certain steps need to be eliminated or revised to perform better operations. 

Types of Business Process Documentation

While there are various types of process documents, we have listed down the primary types of process documentations used across businesses:

Process Maps

Process maps are sometimes classified as a part of process documentation, while at times, they are considered independent entities. 

Perfect Oats Diagram

Process maps are defined as the visual representation of a process flow using icons, diagrams, and flowcharts to see process steps. They play a critical role in understanding the overlaps of multiple processes. Creating process documents such as process maps can be accomplished using documentation tools like Lucidchart, or visio.

Learn more about Business Process Mapping here.

Process Library

A process library is a process documentation database that includes process maps, instructions, procedures, process flowchart, and everything else related to business processes. think of it as process knowledge base of sorts.

Let us take an example of a business system that needs to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations. In this case, all the process documentation needs to be stored together in one place to be accessible immediately without any hassle. The absence of such documentation may raise the issue of compliance and regulations. 

Process Training Documents

Training documents serve the purpose of training and onboarding new employees, team members, partners, and departments for your processes. 

The documents act as reference material to avoid confusion, ambiguity, and wasting of time and effort. They are excellent resources for employees when an accountable team member is out sick or on vacation.

Process Checklists

As the name suggests, a checklist is a list of all the to-dos in executing a process. It lists down all the activities that need to be performed to complete a process or procedure.

It is a full-proof list of all the tasks that are needed to complete a process. These tasks can be determined only when a process is executed multiple times to find the best possible combination of tasks. 

Process Document Templates

Process document templates are created to describe some elements of the business process, process workflow, process state, or process solution. They act as standardized process documents used across the business in various projects, processes, and functions.

Templates are reusable and help you follow best practices when executing the process.

Bringing It All Together

Business process documentation is vital to the sustainability and growth of your organization. It is a function of Business Process Management (BPM). Without process documentation, you lead your employees, teams, and departments into a state of disarray. Document your processes to operate your business better, and in turn, live better.

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