What is process documentation?
Process documentation is a holistic description of how your organization runs things, from start to finish. It is a collection of all relevant activities put in sequence – depicting the required steps, responsible roles, decision points, alternative process paths and various process outcomes.
Its level of detail changes depending on the purpose of your process documentation (more on this in our blog post on process modelling). And many times, it also holds details on tools (such as software applications or physical artefacts) required to execute an activity, or other relevant information for a specific process, such as detailed work instructions, guidelines or handbooks.
As such, process documentation enables teams to execute recurring tasks in a consistent manner – eliminating guesswork, saving time and ultimately ensuring the optimal quality and performance time and over again. It is the go-to source-of-truth for getting things done, making it a vital operational blueprint for any organization.
Why is process documentation important?
Fundamentally, process documentation means that your employees have a clear, step-by-step instruction on how to complete a process autonomously.
When done well, process documentation delivers manifold benefits to a business, from driving process ownership and improving efficiency, to guaranteeing operational quality, and more!
1. Create transparency
Provide greater context into your business processes and shine a light on how they operate – who does what, why and how – adding more transparency across the organization and helping your teams collaborate more effectively.
2. Streamline processes and improve efficiencies
Leverage your structured process overview to uncover weaknesses and identify areas for improvement (check out out blog post on how to optimize processes), allowing you to work out new tactics to maximize performance.
3. Ensure consistency and maintain quality
Reduce operational ambiguity and mistakes with a tried and tested process blueprint, limit variance in performance, and hold everyone up to the same high standard.
4. Boost productivity
Ensure your operations are running efficiently – be it through people executing tasks, or process automation – a clearly defined process layout helps guide everyone’s work.
5. Inspire process engagement
Bring more clarity into your business processes, get everyone on the same page and cultivate a sense of accountability for each team member involved.
6. Ensure effective compliance
Make important protocols explicit and promote the application of necessary rules and regulations to meet your company’s compliance requirements.
7. Facilitate onboarding of new colleagues
Easily introduce new hires to established business processes, make it easier for them to adapt, learn and get in tune with your company‘s working culture.
8. Retain process knowledge
Preserve valuable information and ensure that key process knowledge stays within your organization, even as employees come and go.
In addition to creating your process documentation for it’s various immediate advantages, it’s also important to keep in mind that your documentation exercise is never truly set and done. It’s a living resource in your company that evolves together with your working practices and should therefore reflect the latest changes accordingly. Your organization should revisit its defined processes regularly, to maintain their accuracy and ensure iterative improvements.
A cyclical procedure model – such as the Process Management Life (PMLC) – helps you drive change and foster a culture of continuous be a great facilitator in this endeavor. Check out our free webinar on this topic, learn more about our best practice PMLC approach and discover how you can use it to fuel process excellence in your organization!
Example of BOC Group’s Process Management Lifecycle (PMLC)
How can process documentation support your business?
Process documentation can be leveraged to create transparency and support optimal performance in all aspects of your business. But to make things a bit more tangible, here’s a few of the core application areas we often observe in practice:
Laying out the preferred way of executing processes plays a central role in standardizing business operations and providing all stakeholders with a blueprint for long-term operational success.
Having a standard definition of a process that everyone can follow leaves less room for mistakes, empowers consistency and facilitates the assurance of set quality standards.
Documenting processes helps you clearly specify the requirements (internal or external) that your people and/or processes need to adhere to and comply with.
Being able to observe your processes in a holistic and in-depth manner allows you to quickly determine the potential risks associated with them, and define measures for mitigation.
A defined process blueprint enables you to create awareness around all relevant safety instructions, and document then in one place – easy for employees to refer to as they carry our their tasks.
Describing your processes in detail allows to identify their critical dependencies and make sure that your business continues to operate as intended, even in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
Emergency and Crisis Management
A clear outline of your operations facilitates the orchestration of key resources, and makes it easier to put systems, processes and people in place to adequately respond to an emergency situation.
A complete process documentation captures all important info, activities and dependencies to other organizational assets and/or departments, making it easier to align and harmonize business and IT.
Process Automation, RPA, Digitalization
Transparently outlined processes make it easier to identify opportunities for digitalization and automation – and serve as a prime guide for its execution.
Who should be involved in documenting processes?
Process documentation can include a range of stakeholders in your organization, but there are 4 key ownership roles to keep in mind:
1. The Designer/Process Modeller
As the name suggests, the designer holds the responsibility for designing and documenting your business processes. He/she makes sure that all the process steps have been recorded properly, and that your blueprint is kept up-to-date and accurate over time. Directly contributing to your organizational transparency and process standards, the designer is one of your most crucial stakeholders in the process documentation exercise.
2. Subject Matter Expert
Once you process blueprint has been defined, it’s often being passed on to the so-called subject matter expert, who then validates the documentation and gives feedback to the process designer.
3. Process Analyst/Consultant
The process analyst or consultant is responsible for improving your process documentation from a methodical point of view. Apart from ensuring the methodical quality of your process models, he/she typically also supports in planning and moderating process management workshops in the organization, and fostering the set quality standards.
Lastly, the process reviewer is in charge of assessing your processes from both a methodical and business perspective. He/she makes sure that your process documentation is consistent throughout the entire organization and conforms to the defined modelling guidelines and best practices.
From syntax errors, to model layouts, naming conventions and more, the process reviewer (often the owner of the process) approves the process documentation and its content before it’s made available to its consumers.