Though the specifics can differ, professionals working in almost any modern industry will be asked to perform a large number of repeatable tasks.
From HR processes such as onboarding and performance evaluations to essential security and employee safety training procedures, businesses must consider how to perform core tasks effectively and efficiently.
By taking the time to document essential processes, management teams can improve the way that tasks are performed, minimize confusion among employees and analyze how staff approach their work with an eye to improving performance, so it’s vital that documentation is well-managed and properly secured.
To help teams to achieve this, here are some actionable tips and key considerations for managing and securing process documentation.
What is process documentation?
Process documentation involves the creation of clearly defined records outlining how to perform specific tasks.
Effective process documentation will be concise, informative and easy to understand for employees of all skill levels, acting as a reference for staff training.
The aim is to create a structured framework defining how to perform important tasks safely and effectively, ensuring businesses are operating with consistency, accuracy and efficiency.
How to manage process documentation
Select an appropriate format
Before considering how to manage and secure process documentation, teams must decide how best to format blank templates to make organizing completed documents easier.
Start by thinking about the nature of the process, for example, instructions outlining how to safely operate machinery may be best outlined using diagrams or other forms of visual formatting.
Step-by-step processes like documents describing how to close down a workspace will likely benefit from a checklist format, whilst complicated tasks may require larger sections of text. Essentially, selecting an appropriate format for each process at this stage will allow teams to file and organize each completed piece of testing documentation in a suitable manner later.
Define the scope of the process
With a suitable format chosen, the next step is to define the size and scope of the process to ensure the resulting document covers everything it needs to, consider the following factors:
- Objective - The main goal that the document should help the business to achieve
- Procedures - The specific steps staff must follow to safely perform the process
- Roles - The team members needed to help plan and create the finished document
- Resources - The specific information and tools required to perform the process
- Audience - How much prior knowledge is the audience expected to have?
- Time - How long should it take readers to understand and perform the process?
- Regulations - Any industry-specific rules that the audience must know and follow
Defining the scope of the process will make structuring and writing documentation much easier as teams can better focus on the specific information needed to define objectives.
Create a naming convention
A logical and consistent naming convention should be chosen so that filed and organized documents can be found with ease. Documents can be grouped by department, then by process name, department leader, creation date and document status (draft, approved, etc).
Additional factors can be included here, such as the format of the document as described earlier. This means if staff are looking for instructions outlining how to operate a card access control system, for example, they’ll know to structure their search as follows:
Security department > access control > current date > diagrams (or other approved format)
Choosing a consistent naming convention means that staff of any level or department can quickly search for relevant process documentation and assess whether the information is up-to-date or in need of review, ensuring that records remain easily accessible at all times.
Review & update documents
Core processes will likely change over time as new technologies are introduced and best practices are updated, meaning process documentation will need to be frequently reviewed. Choosing to include creation dates associated with each document as part of your naming convention will help with this procedure, as outdated documents can be easily searched for.
A policy should be implemented instructing relevant management staff to review documents owned by their departments every 6-12 months. If creation dates have been included in the file names for documents, staff can quickly identify outdated records for further assessment.
How to secure process documentation
Utilize access control
Physical documents should be kept in secure file storage rooms protected by commercial access control systems. Process documentation needed for common tasks may be secured behind basic employee credentials, though records containing personal information like onboarding forms and HR documents must be secured behind management credentials.
Centralize digital documents
Digital documents should be stored in a centralized location that’s easily accessible and reliably secure. It’s wise to create a cloud storage system with access secured behind staff-issued credentials, as employees and stakeholders will be able to search for and read documents remotely, as well as track revisions and backup or restore older documents.
Develop password protections
Alongside access control used to secure wider file storage systems, individual documents of importance should be secured behind additional password protections. Businesses should consider implementing a multi-factor authentication process to ensure that remote access to documents from laptops or smart devices requires additional levels of verification from staff.
Encrypt stored files
Whether files are stored in an on-premises or cloud-based server, teams should apply encryption to ensure documents remain unreadable without a valid password.
Establish a deletion policy
Older files may need to be deleted completely rather than updated or revised. It’s important that a deletion policy is in place to ensure files are not recoverable by hackers.
Configure all hard drives and storage systems to fully delete files rather than moving them to a “recycle” folder, and apply third-party shredding software to overwrite deleted files to prevent retrieval.
Creating detailed process documentation helps businesses to operate with accuracy and consistency, whilst also ensuring employees perform key tasks safely. Documents must be accessible to staff and secured from outside threats, so a management system is essential.
Store files in keeping with a predetermined naming convention, review documents regularly and apply password protections to reduce the risk of unauthorized access. By following the steps outlined in this guide, process documentation can be suitably managed and secured.
About the Author
Srushti Shah is an ambitious, passionate, and out-of-the-box thinking woman having vast exposure in Digital Marketing. Her key focus is to serve her clients with the latest innovation in her field leading to fast and effective results. Working beyond expectations and delivering the best possible results in her professional motto. Other than work, she loves traveling, exploring new things, and spending quality time with family. Reach out to Srushti Shah on Twitter or LinkedIn