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Best Practices for Creating Business Process Documentation

How To Document a Process Effectively

Business Process Documentation

In every workplace, there’s a rhythm to getting things done. It's all about following the right steps – the processes – to keep everything ticking smoothly. But sometimes, those processes can feel like a maze. That’s where business process documentation comes in. It’s not just about jotting down steps; it’s about creating a roadmap that aligns every task with your bigger business goals.

Understanding your business processes is the first step to improving them. So, whether you’re fine-tuning your customer service or revamping your onboarding process, the right documentation can be your compass.

Ready to streamline your operations? Let’s dive in!

What Is Process Documentation?

Business process documentation provides a comprehensive outline, usually in step-by-step instructions, of a business procedure utilizing text, visuals and symbols to outline how the process should ideally function in its environment. The documentation should include the data needed to complete the process, the tools, every step in the workflow and any decision points. This documentation is also sometimes called a standard operating procedure (SOP).

Process documentation can be displayed in various ways, including:

  • Visual process maps
  • Flowcharts
  • Checklists
  • Guidelines

Why do we need process documentation?

To establish effective process documentation, your business processes should be thoroughly designed and structured. Such documentation will serve as a reliable reference for when you want to implement process improvements. Detailed process documentation will give you insights into how you can optimize your business processes and where you can implement intelligent automation (IA) solutions to increase efficiency. It’s also a good way to organize your project management and planning.

Benefits of process documentation

Benefits of Process Documentation

Many business processes are repeatable as well as critical. By documenting how they function, and every step and tool required, you can make it easier for your people to understand how the business functions, and also make it simpler for a new employee to learn and repeat these important steps.

Beyond that, though, are the opportunities business process documentation presents. These include:

  • Reducing complexity: By documenting a complex process, you can make confusing steps more transparent. This then allows your people to go in and identify areas that may be unnecessary or overly complex and brainstorm how to simplify them.
  • Eliminating uncertainty: Clearer processes also mean your people can better understand their roles and responsibilities within that work. You can clarify the chain of command and any outstanding or missing information and show who is assigned what at any given time. This can significantly reduce the amount of back-and-forth communication while trying to sort out what needs to be done next.
  • Preserving process knowledge: Have you ever had an employee who knew everything about the business, and everyone went to them for the answers? Well, what happens when that employee leaves the organization? Oftentimes, their knowledge goes with them. But with proper documentation, you can ensure these key processes aren’t lost or confused in the shuffle.
  • Highlighting decision-making: This analysis and documentation of your processes allows for better decision-making within your organization. People can identify room for growth and eliminate bottlenecks and slowdowns within current processes.
  • Ensuring consistency: Process documentation helps you standardize work so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you try to repeat a common process. This can also help you when implementing new processes or introducing automation to streamline your current workflows.
  • Maintaining compliance: Process documentation ensures that company policies, regulations and procedures are easily accessible to employees. For instance, in customer service guidelines, there might be clear rules about what information representatives can’t share during calls to keep privacy intact. Failure to comply could result in financial penalties and reputational damage.
  • Improving productivity: If your employees can easily reference how to do a specific task instead of waiting for someone to help them out, they’re empowered to do more with their day. This knowledge-sharing can also help improve employee satisfaction because they’re not wasting time trying to make sense of complex workflows.

Process documentation vs process mapping

While similar, these two serve slightly different purposes. In simple terms, process documentation is more detailed and may include additional context and background. Process mapping is simple and visual.

Process documentation

Involves creating a document that outlines the key details of a process in a written format. It tends to be accompanied by supporting materials such as images, charts or diagrams. It’s meant to be a comprehensive reference guide for understanding how a process should be executed, ensuring implementation consistency and accuracy.

Process documentation provides a detailed narrative of each step in a process, including:

  • Tasks
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Tools
  • Resources
  • Relevant guides and instructions

Process mapping

Involves visually representing the flow of a business process from start to finish. It’s a graphical representation of a process flow, typically involving flowcharts or diagrams that illustrate:

  • Sequential steps
  • Decision points
  • Process inputs and outputs

How Do You Document a Process?

How Do You Document a Process

Process documentation can be done manually by recording and relaying in detail each step, tool and role within a business process. Alternatively, you can record and document your processes with software. This can save a lot of time and money and gives you a collaborative document that you can share with the relevant stakeholders and update when necessary. Some software and documentation tools will also allow you to access this information from various devices, including smartphones or tablets, for greater accessibility.

Some tools to note:

  • Business process management (BPM): As a methodology, BPM allows organizations to understand, measure, model and improve business processes. As a technology, BPM allows for tracking, analytics and workflow transparency.
  • Process mining: Extracts data from business systems using event log data to accurately create process models showing how specific processes are executed compared to how they should run.
  • Task mining: A granular look at how a business carries out work, such as mouse clicks, copying and pasting, keystrokes, etc., to help represent visually each activity performed within the flow of a task.

Here’s what we recommend:

What it does

How it works

Our solution

For capturing as-is processes

Captures and optimizes processes with a detailed, auto-generated automation prototype.

SS&C | Blue Prism® Capture

For a more detailed view into as-is processes along with ways to improve

Combines task and process mining with analytics to capture a highly accurate, data-driven view of current processes and tasks. It uses primary path analysis, what-if modeling and predictive simulations to find the optimum workflows.

SS&C | Blue Prism® Process Intelligence

For managing and orchestrating workforces

Integrates with process intelligence to help you build and automate processes, optimize workflows, manage content, set rules and role-based workspaces, orchestrate work and track real-time insights.

SS&C | Blue Prism® Chorus

Process documentation examples

There are a few types of process documentation, including:

  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs): Detailed written instructions that outline the process steps required to complete a specific task.
  • Flowcharts or process maps: Visual representations of the steps within a process.
  • Work instructions: Step-by-step checklists or instructions guiding how to perform specific tasks within a larger process.
  • Policy manuals: Documents outlining company policies and rules to govern operations.
  • Business process models: A graphical representation of a workflow or business process including all subprocesses, roles and steps.

A good example of a documented process would be for new employee onboarding. To ensure they have everything they need on their first day, you’re going to establish a standardized onboarding checklist. This could include activities such as:

  • Completing paperwork
  • Setting up accounts
  • Downloading new software
  • Attending orientation sessions
  • Meeting with key team members

What Is the Best Way to Document a Process?

The Best Way to Document a Process

Here are the main points you’ll need to hit in your process documentation:

  1. Set a process scope with due dates, stakeholders and performance metrics.
  2. Name the process you’ll be documenting.
  3. Determine the process boundaries (i.e., the process start and endpoints).
  4. Decide on the outputs and final result.
  5. Select what inputs are required to execute the process.
  6. List out all the activities and steps performed in the process.
  7. Sequence the activities according to the business process flow.
  8. Identify all key decisions in the process.
  9. Review the activities to ensure they align with your start and end points.
  10. Select the roles or specific team members involved in the process.
  11. Create a flowchart to share with the relevant stakeholders.
  12. Get all stakeholders to review and approve the process flow.

What are some best practices for creating business process documentation?

When going through these steps, there are some important points you’ll want to follow. This is to make sure your documents are as thorough as possible to help you improve your workflows and realize more benefits sooner.

Find collaborative tools

Documenting a process involves a lot of people. Having a collaborative process documentation tool to facilitate reviews and comment recording enhances communication and helps you establish the best documentation possible.

Establish governance rules

Along with allowing collaboration between the relevant stakeholders, you’ll need to set up rules on how people can look at and change these process documents to ensure you maintain the highest standards and nothing gets accidentally missed or deleted. Set up access permissions and what types of changes or comments are allowed.

Continuously review and improve

You should review your process documents regularly to ensure they’re up-to-date, and any inefficiencies have been addressed. You want these resources to be useful for existing and new employees.

Documentation Is Key

In any workplace, we all know that getting things done relies on following certain steps. These steps, or processes, keep everything running smoothly. But here’s the thing: sometimes we create these processes without really thinking about how they fit into the bigger picture of what the company’s trying to do. That can lead to some inefficiencies and confusion down the road. Business process documentation should help keep your teams on track and find new ways to improve your processes while aligning with your overall business goals.

The best part? These days, process documentation is far from manual. There are plenty of tools and software out there to help you get accurate documentation with real-time, data-driven insights.

To find out more, explore what SS&C Blue Prism Chorus BPM can do to help you achieve consistent, quality results for your organization.