Workflow Documentation — Benefits, Mistakes & How to Create It

Workflow documentation is the most overlooked aspect for most of the businesses. But not creating one can gradually contribute to inconsistency in work procedures. In this blog, we’re going all in about workflow documentation.


When you’re managing one or multiple teams within the organization, there are high chances your teams are interdependent on each other. 

And without predetermined workflow documentation, there is a high probability your team will face blockers anytime while working. 

This will lead to inconsistency in projects and deliverables. And, without proper documentation, it's a challenge for you to find out who or what caused it. 

In this blog, we’re talking all about workflow documentation, its benefits, and how you can create one that suits your needs.

What is workflow documentation?

A workflow is a sequence of operations or actions carried out to accomplish a specific goal. And the process of storing, tracking, and changing or editing the business documents that define your workflow is known as workflow documentation.

Here is a project documentation example, for you to understand it better. Let’s take the employee onboarding process as a great example of workflow documentation. 

This workflows will involve steps like:

  • Creating an employee file with details including — employee's name, job title, address, and contact details.
  • Sending a welcome email, setting up system access, and designating a mentor are the next steps in employee onboarding.
  • Next step is to develop a training program for the employee.
  • The last step is to arrange a meeting with the employee's management to review expectations and establish goals.

To make sure that everything goes successfully, the other departments engaged in an onboarding process, such as HR, IT and Accounting, would need to coordinate their actions and tasks.

Why do you need to create workflow documentation?

Workflow documentation acts as a guide for you to follow and without it, you’re lost. And without a set process for everyone to follow you’ll start to see inconsistencies with every project and deliverable. Here are four project documentation benefits you can’t miss out one:

1. Removes the confusion of employee onboarding

When a new employee joins in, they are already struggling with making the best first impression and ensuring they don’t make a blunder on their first day. Not having workflow documentation makes their job more complicated and confusing for them. Eventually, they’ll become more dependent on their team members and managers for every tiniest bit of information. 

And we bet you don’t want that. With workflow documentation in place they’ll feel empowered and confident enough to perform their tasks. 

2. Safeguards organizational knowledge

Whether any of your employees leave your organization or go on vacation for a few weeks, it's still important to know how to replicate their work methods and outcomes. Because as people leave your organization, well developed processes and systems go with them. 

You'll still need to have access to the organizational information they possess because you can't afford to let go of your well-developed process and systems with the employee leaving your company, and having workflow documentation helps you with it.

3. Helps you optimize the process better 

When trying to reach a particular goal, it's important to analyze each step to ensure you're heading in the right direction. 

“Documenting processes can also help uncover areas of improvement that may not have been apparent before." — Will Yang, Head of Growth, Instrumentl

Workflow documentation provides a clear picture of everything happening and helps you identify potential bottlenecks holding you back from achieving the desired outcomes.

4. Brings accountability to the table

Workflow documentation keeps your team accountable by helping them understand which tasks they're responsible for.

It's important because you might have a good idea of what you're responsible for in a workflow, but your team members might not be aware of the same.

“A well-documented workflow also increases the efficiency of an organization's processes by making it easier for employees to understand what their role is in the process, and how they can best contribute their expertise.” — Gauri Manglik, CEO & Co-founder, Instrumentl

The responsible people for each job are listed in the workflow documentation so if a step fails, you can have an effective conversation with the responsible person about what went wrong, what needs to be improved, and how you can help them.

Mistakes to avoid while creating workflow documentation

Following project documentation best practices but to do that you need to know the primary mistakes to avoid while creating one. Here are four mistakes you don’t want to make while setting up new workflow documentation:

1. Not spending enough time on research and analysis

Research and analysis are the first steps in a workflow documentation process, as they are the foundation upon which the rest of your workflow documentation will be built.

“You will not be able to learn and upgrade your working and documentation processes if you don't devote enough time to research and analysis. For example, we have guidelines on how to do guest posting in our marketing department. Having no previous experience, we researched how others did it by simply googling and reading from reputable industry sources, as well as speaking with specialists in our surroundings. Analyzed the collected information and made a decision based on that. This is how our first workflow documentation is created.” — Kristina, Localizely

2. Making it complex

Embrace simplicity! You shouldn't get distracted by the workflow's many bells and whistles. Don't waste time trying to make things perfect; if you find something that works, stick with it.

You can make any additions slowly and carefully because workflow glitches can result in accidents or increase the time frame for each process. 

3. Not training employees

Without sufficient training, your employees won't know where to look for information and understand how things work.

Workflow documentation training enables more effective communication between departments that adhere to the same regulatory procedures, making this an important step for the entire organization.

4. Not using the right software

Using the right software is crucial to your business. It helps you automate tasks and make your business more efficient. If you act in haste and choose the wrong software for your business—it will lead to more loss of time and resources. Because instead of getting things done, you’ll be busy figuring out the software.

However, creating workflow documentation through Scribe is super easy and we’re not saying this—our users are. So, can we call you, Scribe and better workflow documentation, a date?

workflow documentation. Scribe review.

How to create your workflow documentation?

Depending on the nature of the workflow, the purpose of documenting, and other factors, the actual process of the workflow documentation may vary.

However, considering you're using an ANSI (American National Standard Institute) flowchart, here's a step-by-step process that you can steal now!

1. Choose one workflow to document

Begin with one process before mapping and documenting the others so you can focus time and resources on ensuring accuracy.

It's an easy step if your company uses only one workflow—however, prioritizing a workflow might be difficult if you have multiple workflows to work on.

Generally, when choosing which workflows to prioritize, you can adopt these three approaches:

Reactive strategy: Choose a workflow that has clear problems, such as one that is ineffective so that you can address this "leakage" quickly.

Strategic approach: Decide on the workflow that increases your organization's revenue.

Customer-centric approach: Select a workflow that will directly affect user experience and/or customer satisfaction. For instance, a workflow when optimized, can reduce customers' wait times

2. Decide your purpose

Deciding the purpose of your workflow documentation is crucial since it helps you identify which information to prioritize.

For example, you don’t need to add a lot of information to the process documentation if your goal is to just have a well-documented workflow. But, if your goal is to analyze and improve the process in order to increase efficiency, you'll need to precisely and thoroughly document each step.

You can also select the people who’ll have access to the workflow documentation based on the purpose of the documentation.

Apart from that, avoid including sensitive company information in the documentation if you need to share it with third parties.

3. Collect required data

The next step is to collect as much data as you can about the workflow. For accurate workflow documentation, you need to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.

Data that can be quantified is referred to as quantitative data. It consists of information that can be measured, counted, and assigned a number.

For instance, if you have to record the workflow for assembling bikes, the quantitative information you would gather might be as follows:

  • What is the total number of assembled bicycles at any given time?
  • What is the total number of problems at any given time?
  • What is the ratio of bikes that are now accepted and rejected?

While the data that approximates and characterizes is referred to as qualitative data. Qualitative data can be observed and documented, and it’s non-numerical in nature, for example:

  • What are the workflow's beginning and ending triggers?
  • What activities are performed during each stage of the business process?
  • Who is in charge of a particular task?
  • What should be the timeline for the process?
  • What alternative execution paths could be used?

The quantitative information will be easily available. However, to collect qualitative data you’ll need to connect with experts and internal stakeholders to get more information.

You can ask them questions based on your requirements and use them in the next step of drafting workflow documentation.

4. Draft the workflow documentation

Once you have collected the required data for the workflow, start drafting your workflow map. Consider using workflow management software that will make it easier for you to see the workflow diagram and will help in the documentation process.

Since you are creating the diagram using the ANSI flowchart method, we would recommend starting by focusing on the various symbols and shapes while ignoring the arrows and connectors. You can add the arrows once you are confident about the positions and arrangement of the shapes.

5. Analyze & optimize

Now it’s time to determine any bottlenecks and inefficiencies by conducting an objective analysis of the workflow while considering the qualitative and quantitative data. Then, while optimizing the documentation, put these changes into action.

After modifications are put into place, you should re-involve stakeholders to determine whether the changes have a positive impact. Obtaining stakeholders' input will help ensure the workflow documentation's accuracy.

How Scribe pages can help you create better workflow documentation?

We at Scribe are always determined to make documentation simpler for you. So we introduced ‘Scribe Pages’ — a better alternative where you can include multiple Scribes and add videos for better visualization.

Here’s an example of how Scribe Pages can help you create improved workflow documentation.

Documenting workflows the right way!

Initially, creating workflow documentation does take some effort. But as soon as it's implemented, your team becomes much more cohesive and effective as everyone will be on the same page, working toward the same goals.

And, by adding (dare we say, gorgeous) tools like Scribe into your workflow documentation, you'll be able to increase your process documentation time by 15x! Click here to take advantage of this "fast" and "free" tool today.