How To Document a Business Process in 9 Steps

By
Joy D'Cruz
October 27, 2022
min read
Updated
September 19, 2023
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Your step-by-step guide to creating actionable process documents backed by examples and templates.
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Introduction

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So, if you want to scale up your business, learn how to document a business process. Once you log the steps, no one no longer needs to waste time wondering how to do things. Seventy-two percent of people noticed improvements due to process management practices.

Now, the question is: where to start?

With this article. We'll walk you through the entire process to document your business process. The article has all the necessary steps you need.

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Let’s dive in.

TL;DR:

  • Proper documentation simplifies complex processes, enhances productivity, helps to maintain operational consistency, improves communication and prevents knowledge loss.
  • Business process documentation comes in different formats, from flowcharts to video tutorials.
  • The process of documenting a business process involves choosing a process, defining boundaries, identifying resources, connecting steps in sequence, assigning roles, visualizing the process, testing and tweaking, bringing all the pieces together and creating a consistent framework for everyone to follow.
  • Scribe automatically captures business processes, allowing to create comprehensive documentation fast.
  • Following a process document template (see attached) is best to keep your documentation consistent.

Why is business process documentation important?

Do you know about the incident with NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO)? From back 1998-99? Well, after nine months of its departure from earth, MCO disappeared into the Martian atmosphere. It crashed because of a conversion error. Yes, conversion error.

Now, what does this incident have to do about business process documentation?

A lot, actually. If only NASA had documented checks and validation procedures, the disaster could have been avoided. That’s the power of documenting. Process documentation helps in streamlining business processes.

Here are a few benefits of implementing rational documentation:

  • simplifies complex processes.
  • makes business operations efficient.
  • ensures consistency in processes.
  • improves communication among the team.
  • prevents knowledge loss.

‎‎What are the types of business process documentation?

You can categorize business development process flow into the following types:

  • Process Flowcharts: sequential and visual representations of the process flows.
  • Visual Process Maps: synonymous with flowcharts, but they’re more detailed.
  • Organizational Charts: show the different roles and responsibilities in a team.
  • Onboarding Documents: help new hires navigate the employee onboarding process.
  • Reference Guides: training manuals to help employees understand their work.
  • White Papers: company documents detailing the features of products and services.
  • Video Tutorials: Educate employees about the essential practices and standards.
  • Documentation Templates: Standardize the process of documenting and reporting.
  • Process Checklists: Verification checklists of the tasks to be executed for a process.
  • Process Library: A database of all the business process documentation.

All business documentation should be available to employees at all times. They should be accessible from any system and anywhere through a central (and secure) server.

Scribe can document your processes and build your centralized knowledge space. It’s probably the best way to document a business process and create reference guides.

How to document a business process

Here’s how to document a business process step-by-step. Follow these, and you’ll have your process flows captured in the most efficient way possible.

1. Choose a process to document

The first step to compiling business process flows is to pick a process. Each documentation is a project in itself. Even the simplest ones can have 23 steps to follow. We simply don’t recognize them because we’re habituated. But it’s not the same for new employees. New hires can take six months or longer to understand the work.

So, start with the most important processes. And then, move a level down as you complete them.

2. Define the process boundaries

Many processes overlap across divisions. And documenting them, you would enter a rabbit hole, rather a tunnel, wondering which way next. The boundaries (process scope) keep you on track and your resources under your control.

In process scope, you can include essential information such as due dates, key stakeholders and success metrics. These factors keep your documentation focused on the process objectives.

3. Identify resources & expected results

Next, collect all the information you need for that particular process. It takes time. And it would be best to let it run to completion. By the end, you’ll know everything about the process: people and skills, tools used and process results.

For small teams, it’s best to have the team lead collect all raw data as the process progresses. Similarly, they can zero in on the end goal/output gradually.

4. Connect the steps in sequence

This is the step where your documentation starts taking its initial shape. Take the list you’ve come up with and organize the key steps sequentially. You’ll be able to build business process flows that work out for you.

Put all the steps in chronological order. You know, like flatten the dough, spread sauce and toppings, and bake it for a piping hot pizza. That’s it.

Properly laid out process flows also make it easy to automate business process later.

5. Assign roles to team members

When you’re done organizing the steps, put the ownership roles against them. Mention the departments in control of the various tasks, and describe everyone who needs to be involved. It’s probably the easiest of the documentation steps. Organizational charts will come in handy.

6. Visualize the entire process

Next, chart everything for a visual representation. You can create simple process flowcharts or more detailed process maps. It’s fun either way. Pick a business process modeling tool that suits you the best and get going.

Some of the visualization tools you can try are:

  • Process flow tools like Scribe.
  • Mind-mapping tools like XMind.
  • Whiteboarding tools like Miro.

Process map by Miro
Process mapping by Miro

‎7. Test and tweak the process flow

Now, it's time for testing the process. You don’t want project management risks to creep in. They can derail the entire flow.

So, use checklists to ensure things are working as planned. Take team feedback, identify new issues (if any) and correct everything. Check if everything is in order. Make necessary changes for smooth functioning. It’s time for business process optimization.

8. Finalize the best fit & document

You can finally collect all the bits and pieces, charts and maps, and feedback and suggestions. Put them together to design training documents, reference guides or whatever else you want. Just make sure they’re easily accessible.

You can use Scribe to create a process document fast. Whether a tap on the keyboard or a click on the mouse, Scribe records everything and lays them down in a document. It saves you plenty of precious minutes.

Check this step-by-step guide template to accelerate your documentation.

9. Create a consistent framework

When you've finished, create a consistent framework for documenting the subsequent processes. This framework provides structure and clarity to your documentation, making it easier for different creators to keep it consistent.

Consider the following elements when establishing your framework:

  • Process title and description: Each document should include a clear title and description.
  • Process steps: Break down the process into individual steps. Each step should be concise and action-oriented. Use a numbering or bullet-point format to maintain clarity.
  • Inputs and outputs: Specify what inputs are required for each step and what outputs are expected. This could include documents, information, tools, or other resources.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Leave space to indicate the roles responsible for each step.
  • Decision points: Identify key decision points or critical junctures within the process. These are moments where specific choices need to be made or conditions need to be met before proceeding.
  • Visual aids: Consider using visual aids like diagrams, flowcharts, or process maps to illustrate the flow of the process.
  • Templates and examples: If applicable, provide templates or examples for specific steps.

By creating a consistent framework, you ensure that your process documentation is organized, easy to follow and accessible to team members. This framework can be used as a template for documenting other processes in your organization, promoting standardization and clarity across different workflows.

What is a good example of a process document?

A good process document is complete with screenshots and examples that help to visualize the workflow.

Every process document by Scribe includes automatically captured screenshots that help end-users navigate the process effortlessly.

What is a business process template?

A business process template is a pre-designed document that outlines the structure for repetitive processes. It serves as a guide for documenting and standardizing the procedures and workflows within an organization.

Scribe offers a rich selection of business process templates for (almost) any use case. The following template offers a framework for documenting customer onboarding flows:

Examples of business process documentation

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for creating great process documentation. Each of these use cases will require a slightly different approach in creation and distribution to achieve a maximum impact on the end user:

  • Business-wide processes.
  • New-hire training manual.
  • Payroll process documentation.
  • Customer support guides.
  • Employee onboarding checklists.
  • Software documentation.
  • Quick reference guides.
  • In-app employee guidance (to foster business software adoption).

What are the various process documentation challenges?

Among the most common challenges with process documentation are the following:

1. Complicated update procedure

Maintaining and documenting processes is a complex maze of activities with each business upgrade. As your business grows, things inevitably become complex. With each business process improvement, previous documentation becomes obsolete.

Northern Trust had been struggling to maintain an up-to-date record of all the internal procedures before they implemented automatic documentation software, namely Scribe:

With Scribe our team has been able to create the detailed step-by-step process guides we need in so much less time.”— Michelle Jamison, Manager Depositary Operations  

2. Multiple document copy

Many times, individual processes overlap across departments. HR might be using a document to onboard new employees, the team lead will be using it for training, and IT; for maintenance. It creates repetition. And, of course, waste of time, effort and resources.

3. Inconsistent style and standard

With each team having its own documentation, inconsistencies arise. No two people will create documentation in the same style, to the same standard. They’ve different levels of experience. And the resultant documentation is all over the place.

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4. Lack of collaboration

Process documents often need to go through multiple iterations. You have to go back and forth between different team members. Without collaborative tools, it might take weeks (if not months) to finalize even the first version of the documentation.

5. No single source of truth

Too often, internal documentation is scattered across multiple platforms. The lack of a single online documentation source is another challenge in business models. The absence of accessible documentation makes employees less productive. Especially in remote work, it’s a roadblock to fruitful teamwork. Fifty-six percent of employees said they needed to ask more than one person for help.

What are process documentation best practices to follow?

Keeping best practices and standards in mind can help you create adequate documentation of all business processes. Here are a bunch of them.

  • Keep your process documents simple and concise.
  • Use appropriate content formats for easy comprehension.
  • Store process documents in an internal wiki or knowledge base.
  • Revisit and review your processes regularly.
  • Set rules for clear and consistent updating procedures.
  • Build a system for collective knowledge sharing.
  • Choose automated software solutions like Scribe or Lucidchart.

Try Scribe Pages to build your online documentation directory. You can insert screenshots and videos, link to docs and add text instructions. It also integrates with business tools like Miro and HubSpot. So, you can create guides effortlessly and improve business processes.

Speed up your business process documentation with Scribe

Business process documentation paves the way to process optimization and continuous improvement. Quality documentation removes bottlenecks and smoothens your process flows. And now that you know how to document a business process, prepare yourself for more efficient processes.

Document your internal processes and save hours with Scribe.

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