Process Documentation: How-to Guide & Examples

Writing process documentation is essential for any business. But, it can be difficult to know where to start. We've written this step-by-step guide to help you out.


In his book The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work, Michael Gerber states,

"Once you create your company's process documentation, it's easier to empower your low-skilled workers to easily complete tasks and tick off boxes on their checklists."

While we've come a long way with how businesses were conducted in the 80s and 90s since M. Gerber published his book, it's still mind-boggling to discover that only a few companies can boast about truly letting people do their work. 

Documenting processes is a big part of enabling employees to deliver high-quality work. 

For instance, highly-skilled professionals like surgeons and pilots still rely on process documentation to provide error-free service. For employees like these, process documentation can make or mar — it could result in life or death. This is why implementing checklists reduced mortality by 24 percent in Rwandan hospitals while also reducing major complications by 60 percent.

The examples above clearly show that process documentation gives your employees more time and energy to do their best work without sacrificing quality.

What is process documentation?

Process documentation gives employees a step-by-step breakdown of a process or workflow, enabling them to complete that action without errors or confusion. A process document outlines all the steps and resources required to complete a task properly. In other words, it explains the "how" of your business.

📌 Get our free step-by-step guide template and learn how to build your own.

When documenting how to perform business processes, team members use different documents and file types, such as:

  • Forms.
  • Tutorials
  • Policies.
  • Pictures. 
  • Templates.
  • Illustration.
  • Checklists.
  • Screenshots.
  • Process maps.
  • Business policies.
  • Linked web content.
  • Diagrams or flowcharts.
  • Videos, GIFs, or stickers.

By documenting a process, you automatically describe the standardized, ideal way of carrying out that task in the company. It’s also important to note that it’s not the same as documenting an entire project, as it likely consists of many different processes (that could be categorized as subsets).

So, what processes can you document? 

For example, a DevOps Manager can create effective process docs to:

  • Maintain an audit trail of edits and updates.
  • Enable your teams to update and maintain best practices as they change.
  • Document dependencies as you build out your CI/CD toolchains (which becomes handy, especially when you onboard new team members).
  • Document processes such as what a bug testing process looks like when you release a software update.
  • Document for automation runbooks, admin guides, etc. (and up to date) — which enables your team members to get automation working again regardless of when it breaks down.

Summarily, it helps you standardize best practices and sets up your team to capture and benchmark quality metrics.

5 Reasons why you need process documentation

There’s a reason why the likes of Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are known for always wearing the same type of clothes. Reducing the number of decisions they make makes it easier for them to lessen decision fatigue and focus on the most critical tasks.

Properly developed and implemented documented processes provide a reliable and audit-worthy record of how an organization or team performs different tasks — thereby establishing what is commonly known as a standard operating procedure (SOP). 

Let’s examine the importance of process documentation.

Reduces operational overload

Sometimes, when you're forced to document your team's processes, it helps you discover the unnecessary steps to the task at hand. Therefore, it leaves you no choice but to streamline your operations by cutting your processes down to the bare minimum. You could even decide that an entire process should be omitted, hence, giving your employees more time to focus on other productive tasks.

Record of protocols

Process documentation ensures that you have a record of the protocols your employees follow to guarantee regulatory compliance. Creating well-developed process documents and implementing your protocols is the first step to achieving consistency that results in excellent outcomes every time.

Achieving 30-50 percent productivity gains

Business Process Management, otherwise known as BPM, is a combination of methods used to manage a company's business processes — one is process documentation.

Adopted by many companies globally, process documentation has proven to be one of the biggest drivers for increasing employee productivity and reducing waste. Some of the important ways in which process documentation increases productivity include:

  • Reduces the time spent on repetitive tasks.
  • Ensures that the right people are doing the right jobs.
  • Allows for better team collaboration

Process documentation can significantly increase your company's productivity levels when implemented correctly. Forrester reports that BPM projects can deliver between 30-50 percent productivity gains for processes involving primarily back office and clerical staff and can typically deliver 15-30 percent productivity gains for processes involving knowledge workers.

Reduce distractions and the risk of operational damage

In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers led by Gloria Mark shadowed workers on the job, studying their productivity. Here's what study lead Gloria Mark told Fast Company about their research:

"You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it, and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were...We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here's the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task."

You might think 23 minutes isn’t much of a big deal until you realize that even if your team members get distracted a few times during the day, the amount of time they lose as they struggle to get back to their happy work mode should be taken seriously. Let me do the maths for you:

Let’s say you head a team of ten DevOps engineers…

If one of them gets distracted three times daily, they’re losing an hour of work.

If 10 of them get distracted three times daily, they’re losing 10 hours of work. 10 hours!

You might wonder, "How does this cause operational damage?" Good question!

Here’s an example.

As a DevOps manager, if your team doesn’t have process documentation for a bug testing process when your company releases a software update, your team members would most likely reach out to one another or even you — asking for tips on how to perform the task.

While waiting for answers, they might most likely be interrupted or even leave their desks completely to do something else. There’s also a high chance that they will make mistakes, resulting in costly operational damage since the answers they got were collated from “chats” and not a documented process.

Here’s my recommendation: When creating your process documentation, highlight the major areas where mistakes are commonly made so that your employees are aware and less likely to make them.

Effective employee training & education

With process documentation, you can easily train new hires on a company’s processes, systems and tools. Existing team members can also reference the same documents to perform certain tasks, take on new responsibilities, refresh their knowledge of their current roles or even ensure they know all of the steps of a specific task.

Not only does this ensure that everyone is on the same page, but it also improves overall team consistency, enhances collaboration and communication, and reduces the time spent on developing and implementing new processes.

Who is involved in process documentation?

Here are all the roles involved in documenting processes in any organization:

  • Process owners: those who manage the entire lifecycle of business process documentation. They are the starting point of this lifecycle, responsible for setting goals and overseeing resource allocation to ensure the results are aligned with overall expectations.
  • Subject matter experts: those who provide process knowledge, expert insights and other inputs to make the documentation process a success.
  • Technical writers: those who use templates and software to create the actual process document. They specialize in technical documentation and convert all the SME interviews and inputs into written content.
  • Quality assurance executives: those who review all the docs for errors, accuracy and impact. They validate every document to make the content compliant and reliable. 
  • Other stakeholders: this can depend on your team structure and job titles.

Bigger companies also work with a change management team to quickly document any modifications in a process or strategy. Overall, these roles contribute to process documentation. 

What are the benefits of process documentation?

Still wondering if procedure documentation is worth your efforts? Take a look at these benefits to understand the importance of setting up a documentation process:

  • Protect institutional knowledge and achieve business continuity when an employee leaves
  • Maximize compliance and consistency for every workflow with the right process document
  • Work with a seamless project management framework to prevent risks of inefficiency
  • Establish quality standards to streamline employee performance and outputs
  • Enhance teamwork by clearly designating each employee’s responsibility

Put simply, process documenting unlocks improvements on multiple fronts to fuel your progress and growth. It minimizes errors, offers timely guidance and encourages accountability. On top of that, it also simplifies the understanding of each process/procedure to improve your team’s effectiveness. 

How to document a process: An 8-step playbook

Ready to start documenting processes for your team? Follow these eight steps to write process documentation seamlessly.

1. Define your goal

Before writing process documentation, the first thing to do is to determine what you want to achieve. Is it...

  • To onboard new DevOps hires?
  • To reduce the time your DevOps team spends searching for information?
  • Is it to eliminate the guesswork for certain tasks
  • ‍OR do you want to enhance communication and collaboration?

Make your goals clear. Defining your objectives will help you determine which process to document first.

Gather your process documentation team

Process documentation should be a team activity. No one person can put together an entire organization’s processes. The same applies to teams. Rather, gather a team of documentation experts to lead your team’s process documentation. 

Here, you’ll need technical writers and editors versed in producing top-quality process documentation. Also, remember that the best person to document a process is someone who uses it daily — keep your mind open when deciding which stakeholders to involve in the project.

Design a template

You need to set up a template as the standard for all future documents. This ensures that irrespective of whoever handles technical documentation, you'll have a uniform standard and always achieve consistency. Process documentation templates should be simple and easy to follow and must contain all relevant information. 

Writing your process documentation

Step 1: Identify and name the process — Decide on your process documentation’s purpose, why and how the process will benefit the organization, and briefly describe the process.

Step 2: Outline the scope of the process — Briefly explain what would be included in the process and what is not.

Step 3: Establish process boundaries — Outline where the process starts and ends. List factors that indicate its beginning and those that signal its end.

Step 4: Incorporate the process inputs — Identify the resources needed to complete the process.

‍Step 5: Incorporate the process outputs — identify the outcome of the process once it’s completed.

‍Step 6: Collate the process steps — Jot down each step in the process, including what triggers the process or detailing the outcomes and working backward.

‍Step 7: Identify the stakeholders — Include everyone involved in the process documentation and describe their roles (plus titles).

Add visuals

After your process documentation has been written, spice it up by adding visual elements such as flowcharts, GIFs, pictures, diagrams, videos, screenshots, etc. These elements would help your employees easily understand the process and boost recall.

Peer review

Ensure your documentation undergoes a peer review process before it is published. It’s important to gather feedback from other necessary stakeholders who can gauge whether your process documentation is useful and if the processes are easy to follow.

Publish the document

Once the documentation is finalized, hit “publish” and make it available to your team and the rest of the organization (where applicable). A good process documentation software enables you to publish private documentation open to only your employees and some selected people within the organization while protecting your documentation from unwanted visitors.

Audit the document’s performance

Ask your employees or team members for feedback regarding whether they found the documentation helpful and use it to make appropriate changes.

Tools to supercharge your process documentation approach

Business process documentation can fail to achieve its intended impact without a flawless execution plan. You need a strong tech stack to get the best results and set your team up for long-term success in its documentation effort. 

Here are some must-have tools to eliminate inefficiencies from your documentation workflow:

  • Knowledge capture: You need tools to capture relevant materials about a process—whether through screenshots, videos, or other formats. Your SMEs and writers can use knowledge capture tools like Scribe to gather all the necessary insights.
  • Diagramming: Choose diagramming tools to organize and structure all the information properly.
  • Writing and delivering: Pick tools to write, visualize and present your documentation content neatly.

Overall, process documentation tools can make life easier for you by automating large parts of the procedure and improving collaboration at your workplace. 

4 Process documentation best practices

Whether you’re starting process documentation from scratch or looking to improve your implementation approach, these process documentation best practices will take you a long way ahead:

  1. Always identify documentation opportunities aligned with your business strategies and requirements. Look at your company roadmap and consider the need for documentation from both employees’ and users’ perspectives.
  2. Make sure you know the main audience for each document and write in their language for maximum understanding. Seek consistent feedback and iterate the content to enhance clarity.
  3. Go beyond your SMEs to get hands-on details about a process from employees directly involved in its execution. This will bring you more accurate ideas and insights.
  4. Build a centralized knowledge management platform to make it easy to find information. A single source of docs cuts the hassle of searching through multiple platforms to answer a question.

Using Scribe to document processes [+ free template]

Process documentation software like Scribe offers a centralized library of information that allows your DevOps team to store your process documentation and access it easily.


Some of Scribe’s intuitive features include:

  • Easy editing — allows the admin or editor to add flowcharts, videos, gifs and other visual elements.
  • AI-powered search — Scribe allows you to easily search for specific information without wasting time.
  • Sharing and collaboration — With Scribe, you can easily communicate and collaborate with team members on sharing documents and peer reviews. 
  • Organizing content — Process documents can easily be organized more clearly and filed under different, appropriate categories.
  • Document redaction — Scribe allows you to search for and remove text, images, and other content containing private, sensitive, or confidential information. 

Get started with Scribe for process documentation using this template

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