A process document gives you an outline of the steps involved in completing a task. It answers the “how” of process implementation for people within an organization. Since process documentation provides the roadmap for all processes, you must focus on it with utmost priority.
We have compiled a list of best practices that can guide you in documenting your processes correctly to enhance efficiency and maximize your productivity.
10 process documentation best practices
Process documentation plays a critical role in the success of a business since it reduces complexity, makes processes more efficient and lowers business costs. For these reasons, you must focus on how you do it in your organization. Here’s a list of best practices that could guide you in implementing process documentation the right way.
1. Straightforward and to the point
The crucial aspect of your process documentation is to keep it clear and concise. It would be best if you wrote it in a way that is easy to digest. Since multiple people are likely to use the documentation you create, write it in a conversational tone. Reading the text aloud once you’ve written can help you understand whether it is conversational.
Here’s an example:
Instead of saying: Once you have identified the issues in the system, reach out to the IT administrator.
Say this: Found the issues? Contact IT admin.
This type of documentation makes it easy for anyone to follow. Also, use jargon judiciously and only when required. Use only words that are common knowledge in your team.
One of the significant causes of inefficiency is inconsistent documentation. When there is no standard format for your process documentation, everyone will likely use their own formats leading to confusion and time waste. Whenever there are similar procedures in the various process, you need to templatize your documentation to make it consistent across the organization.
You can create your own templates or get existing templates from a documentation solution and customize them to your requirements. Here is a list of benefits when you templatize your process documentation:
- Easy to document and use
- Decrease in errors caused by inconsistent content
- Reduction in the accidental omission of critical information
- Consistency and uniformity across all documents
- Lower time and money wasted
- Higher flexibility in documentation processes
3. Incorporate visuals
Most people are visual learners. Having plenty of visual aids can be an effective way to illustrate the complex information you wish to convey to your users. Research shows that users learn better and retain information longer when they learn through visuals.
You can use the following types of visuals in your process documentation:
- Diagrams: You can use a variety of diagrams and images to convey ideas that are difficult to express with words. Appealing diagrams can eliminate boredom when learning new things.
- Flowcharts: A flowchart provides you with a visual representation of a workflow. It also shows a clear hierarchy of your process steps and who is responsible for carrying them out.
- Videos: Well-created videos can provide the best explainer for all learners. For instance, you can use a how-to video to illustrate a step-by-step process and eliminate potential confusion from using words.
In addition to these, you may also use a range of other multimedia, such as screenshots, graphs and tables, to make information easier to digest.
4. Link to related documents
Documentation is all about improving efficiency in your processes. You can enhance efficiency only by bringing all the related information together so that all the information you need is readily available at your fingertips.
For instance, if you have a process that pertains to a specific location or server, you must link to that to ensure instant access to the location or server information. Instant access to related information makes information search a breeze.
To make the most out of your process documentation, you need to review your existing documentation and identify all the items that can be linked together. Once you make it a practice to link your documentation, adding new documents as you create them will be easy.
5. Review, revise and update
The most important requirement of process documentation is to keep it updated. In many organizations, outdated documentation is a serious concern. When you fail to review your documentation, your processes may evolve but your documentation remains outdated. As a result, users cannot get accurate information from their documentation.
When you regularly review your documentation, it will come in handy during the revision process since you can easily identify what is missing and what needs to be updated. As a result, your process documentation gets more efficient and accurate.
Here’s how you keep your process documentation updated:
- Create a plan on what you must document in your environment
- Establish a schedule for reviewing your process documentation
- Keep your documentation simple enough to make instant changes and edits
- Ensure easy sharing of the updated documentation with your team members
- Incorporate controls on who can make edits to your critical documents
- Track the changes made and keep a version history of all the modifications
6. Prioritize and segment
All processes are not the same. You need to prioritize their documentation and segment them based on their importance. When starting, you don’t have to create documentation for all your processes at once. Instead, focus on a single department or process applied to the entire organization.
Having one large document for all your documentation is not a good idea. It may create confusion when multiple people access, review and edit this document to make updates. When you have individual documents for different processes, you can easily avoid confusion by clearly defining the required information.
7. Involve stakeholders
Stakeholder engagement plays a vital role in the successful implementation of a process. As a part of your process documentation, you must identify your stakeholder interest and manage any conflicts that may arise during process implementation. To ensure seamless operations, you must involve all the people associated with the process.
You can involve stakeholders through the following steps:
- Identify internal and external stakeholders: Internal stakeholders may include employees, managers and executives. External stakeholders may include clients, suppliers, sponsors, third-party vendors and users. Make sure you identify them all before documenting your processes.
- Set expectations: In your documentation, define what your stakeholders can expect from the process. Since your stakeholders may have their input, it is essential to manage their expectations before the process gets implemented.
- Get feedback: Getting feedback is vital for improving your processes. The feedback you obtain from various stages may provide insights into the limitations and issues in a process. You can fix the issues with these inputs to ensure proper process implementation.
- Create new documentation: Your documentation needs to be updated based on the changes made to the process. Take the time to update these changes and keep your documentation accurate.
8. Storage and accessibility
Your process documents cannot be of much help to you if they are difficult to access. Storing your files locally on hard drives and computers will make sharing them with the stakeholders extremely difficult. You need a centralized storage repository that your stakeholders can access from anywhere.
A cloud-based documentation solution will come in handy during such requirements. Centralized access also allows your team to make changes to your process documents whenever required. Also, to prevent unauthorized access to your critical documents, you need a solution prioritizing security over all other things.
9. Security and backup
Data has become the backbone of any organization in today’s digital world. You must ramp up your security measures by incorporating the right documentation solutions to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands.
It would be best to have a solution with enterprise-grade security features such as multifactor authentication (MFA), access control, host-proof hosting, audit trails and single sign-on. In addition to ensuring security against outside threats, you must incorporate access control measures to provide access only to the right people in your organization.
Even with all the high-end security features, something unfortunate might happen to your documentation. This is where backup comes in. A backup of your process documentation will help you easily restore your operations when something inevitably goes wrong.
10. Utilize documentation tools
Considering the complexity of today’s IT environments, organizations cannot document their processes manually. You need a cloud-based tool that automates the documentation process and simplifies document sharing.
With a robust documentation tool, you don’t have to worry about backup, security, accessibility, related items, etc. Moreover, you can instantly review your documents whenever you want and make the necessary revisions to keep your process documentation up to date.
Most importantly, you need a tool that seamlessly integrates with other tools in your IT environment and captures information automatically. With the right tool, you can make your process documentation completely proactive.
Robust process documentation with IT Glue
IT Glue is a powerful documentation solution that comes with robust features. IT Glue can help you document your process effectively and make them accessible in a centralized database. This centralized access gives you a single source of truth and allows multiple stakeholders to work seamlessly on your documentation.
In addition, IT Glue also enhances efficiency by providing related documents readily available for your users. Our solution also comes packed with features like SSO, IP access control, host-proof hosting, MFA, audit trails and more within a SOC 2 Type II compliant solution.
To learn more about how you can manage process documentation with IT Glue, request a demo.