Process Documentation Best Practices: 16 Expert Tips

Lauren Funaro
May 18, 2022
min read
December 19, 2023
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Scale your organization with these 16 proven process documentation best practices. See how growing companies streamline operations, improve onboarding, and optimize business process flows.


A map isn’t handy for navigating to a new location if you don’t know your starting point, and you can’t improve a process when you don’t know what it currently is.

While process documentation may seem like a nice to have — in the unlikely event there’s time to do it — in reality, it’s critical for scaling companies looking to streamline their operations. With people quitting their jobs at record rates, employers are experiencing unprecedented turnover, and they need to be able to onboard new hires quickly.

We asked leaders of several growing companies for their process documentation best practices. Their suggestions for effectively documenting workflows will help your teams improve quality, efficiency and customer satisfaction while your company scales.

TL;DR: Process documentation best practices

  • Business process documentation is critical for scaling companies to streamline operations and onboard new hires quickly.
  • Align your process with company objectives to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  • Don't get bogged down in details — find the right level of detail for effective documentation.
  • Give employees enough time to document processes to avoid subpar documentation.
  • Involve the end users in the documentation process for ownership and buy-in.
  • Store process documents in a central location for easy accessibility and consistency.
  • Revisit and update documentation regularly to keep up with changing processes.
  • Use AI-powered process documentation tools like Scribe to streamline the documentation process.

6 process documentation best practices from the experts

Process documentation is crucial for business success, as it reduces complexity, improves efficiency and lowers business costs. Our experts share the best practices they've used to implement process documentation the right way.

1. Align your process with company objectives

Before you send anyone on a documenting expedition, they must understand the process’s purpose and place in the value chain. Otherwise, their process documentation can divert focus from the company’s larger goals, wasting time and resources.

Adam Wood, Co-Founder of Revenue Geeks, says when a company lacks an understanding of the value chain, its BPM (business process management) focuses on specific work areas rather than the big picture. That’s not the goal of process documentation.

Gerrid Smith, Founder and CEO of Property Tax Loan Pros, agrees: “Remember, at the conclusion of the value chain, you want to produce a product the customer values more than all of the time and effort you put into it.” That means you need standard operating procedures (SOPs) that serve as a roadmap for the organization and enable your teams to work as efficiently as possible.

Bridget Chebo, Director of Customer Success at We are Working, says one way to do this is to include the objectives or process outputs at the very top of the document. “This saves a ton of time searching through a document only to find out it wasn't the SOP (standard operating procedure) you need.”

2. Don’t get bogged down in details

Effective business process documentation exists in a happy medium — it’s not too short or long. It’s not too complex and not oversimplified. Identifying the right level of detail required starts with understanding the end user and how much they already know about the process.

Todd Ramlin, Manager of Cable Compare, says the most effective process documentation conveys the message clearly in as few words as possible. "My tip is to put yourself in the place of the person who will have to read the document and cut it down as much as possible while still being effective."

Champion Leadership Group CEO Jeff Mains advises people to be cautious about overdoing documentation: “By being as brief as possible, your process documentation will be more effective, and your effort will be more appreciated.”

Remember that some process knowledge is already required on the end user's part, and restating that information within the process steps makes the documentation “redundant.”

"By respecting other people’s time by being as brief as possible, your process documentation will be more effective, and your effort will be more appreciated,” said Cable Compare’s Ramlin. That might mean changing your SOPs from text docs to process models, flowcharts, screenshots, or other visual formats. Other examples of process documentation, like ‎step-by-step guides, how-to guides or checklists, might also work better for the needs of your team.

If you're worried your SOP is too long, Chebo suggests breaking it up into several different processes. The goal, she says, is to keep your SOPs simple and easy to digest for stakeholders.

3. Give employees enough time to document processes

When it comes to documenting processes, timing is everything. If you don't make the time to write your SOPs properly, you're setting yourself up for failure. Workpuls COO Ryan Fyfe says, "This is a huge problem because, without documented SOPs, it’s difficult to train new employees on what they need to know and do."

You don’t want to pull employees away from their core jobs for too long when your teams are already challenged to keep up with demand, but if you don’t give them adequate time to complete the project, you’ll end up with subpar documentation. Wait too long and risk losing organizational knowledge to turnover before it’s captured.

“I always felt like [process documentation] was a burden because it took a lot of time to do, and we were never sure what the value of it was,” said Kamyar Shah, founder of World Consulting Group. But he began to understand as his company grew.

Shah designated a group of staff members who would be the process owners responsible for different areas of documentation. “We knew that not everyone could be responsible for everything, so we divided up the work based on our expertise,” he says. “It wasn't long before we had hundreds of pages of documents that covered all aspects of running a business.”

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4. Don’t focus on input from managers

Your team leaders should be involved in the documentation process, but don’t look to them for information on how tasks are executed — they probably don’t really know. Discovery requires talking to the people who are actually doing the work.

Without consulting the end user, you can end up with fantasy processes rather than documentation that reflects reality. The process doers know how the task gets done, shortcuts, and ways to work around roadblocks.

Including the end user also gives them a sense of ownership. Alex Mastin, Founder and CEO of Home Grounds, says, “As with any project that involves a process change, one of the most important steps is to get buy-in from your team.”

The best way to do this, says Mastin, is to involve them in the process early. "It's much less disruptive to their day-to-day work if they're doing the documentation themselves. Plus, they'll be more invested in the final outcome and will hopefully create a stronger ROI for you!"

Sarah Archer, Head of Content Strategy at Kona, says every team member should be part of the process and be a "documentarian at heart." And "directors and managers should be role models for that by referencing, linking and reminding when it comes to documentation.”

5. Store process documents in a central location

Process documentation isn’t helpful if it isn’t accessible. All documentation should be stored in a centralized knowledge base where anyone can view it. This encourages consistency across teams, especially those working in a remote or hybrid model and who don’t have in-person training and support.

Often, employees brainstorm, share research, and have other essential conversations across multiple platforms — in project management systems or Slack, for example — and employees waste hours every week looking for the information they need. Keeping it all in one hub will prevent that.

It might sound simple, but Sarah Ohanesian of productivity coaching firm SO Productive, said, “It's amazing how many organizations I work with who do have documents but they aren't being properly used, as employees don't know where to find them!”

Athlete Desk Founder Darryl Higgins also suggests creating process documentation templates for your team members, which you can store in the same repository. That way, people in your organization can document new processes when its convenient, and it will be consistent with existing documentation.

6. Revisit and update your documentation

Processes are constantly changing as new tools are introduced and better ways of doing things are discovered. Documents can become quickly outdated, especially for rapidly scaling companies. Managing and securing process documentation in a knowledge base and using collaborative documentation tools are two ways to remove barriers to revising and updating process documents.

Mario Cacciottolo, PR & Branding Manager at SBO, says it’s important to understand that the job of process documentation is never really done. “We live in a world that feels like it’s always changing and developing, and [there is] no more obvious example than the last two years to show just how much things can change and how quickly.”

Cacciottolo suggests making it a quarterly task for managers to review their teams’ documentation to ensure it still applies to current processes — and if it doesn’t, make sure it gets updated.

"And processes don’t have to be perfect to be recorded, added Kona’s Archer. “Iterate, iterate, iterate. It’s OK to document a half-baked idea or a concept that changes tomorrow.”

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10 process documentation tips

Documentation can be time-consuming, but it's essential for keeping your team on track and your operations smooth. Here are the top ‎‎tips and best practices for process documentation‎ to make it painless:

1. Know your audience

Tailor your language and level of detail to who will use it. Newbies need step-by-step instructions, while experts might skim for crucial info.

2. Define the process scope

Outline the exact process you're documenting. Do you want to create new processes or refine existing ones? Is it the whole onboarding flow or the final approval step? Clarity is key.

3. Choose the right process documentation tool

Scribe is the best process documentation tool - Process documentation best practices

‎‎Automating documentation efforts can save your team countless hours. Automate process documentation with Scribe — simply turn on the Chrome extension or desktop app and go through your process. Scribe automatically generates a step-by-step visual guide — complete with instructions and screenshots.

Organize multiple process guides for the same tool, project or procedure into a comprehensive process doc. Add text, videos, screenshots and links — or have AI write process documentation for you!

Use AI to write process documentation - Process documentation best practices

Share documentation with teammates or clients via a link, add your team to your Scribe workspace, or export to PDF, HTML or Markdown. You can also easily embed Scribes in thousands of tools you and your customers already use, like knowledge bases, wikis, LMS platforms, and more.

Automate your process documentation with Scribe ➜

4. Use a consistent format

Templates are your friend! A standard layout with designated sections for things like inputs, outputs and common roadblocks makes it familiar and easy to navigate.

Get started with Scribe's free process documentation template. You can easily customize it to meet your specific needs:

5. Embrace visuals

Flowcharts, screenshots and diagrams can break down text and complex steps, making it easier to grasp the process at a glance.

6. Get granular when needed

Add sub-steps in sequential order or detailed explanations for tricky sections. But remember, keep it focused and avoid information overload.

7. Assign roles and responsibilities

Who does what? Make it clear who's accountable for each step to avoid confusion.

8. Don't be afraid of white space

Ample breaks in text and clear headings make your document easy to read and scannable.

9. Version control is critical

Processes evolve, so use a system to track changes, revisions and who made them. This helps maintain historical context and avoids confusion.

10. Gather feedback and iterate

Encourage feedback, incorporate suggestions and keep your documentation updated with changes to processes. Focus on continuous improvement or making small, ongoing changes to improve efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance.


What are the process documentation standards?

Process documentation standards refer to the guidelines and best practices for creating, maintaining and updating process documents:

  1. Consistency: Follow a consistent format and structure to ensure clarity and ease of understanding.
  2. Clear and concise language: Aim for simple, direct language that anyone can understand.
  3. Visual aids such as flowcharts, diagrams, or screenshots enhance understanding and visually represent the process.
  4. Version control: Maintain a version control system to track changes and updates made to the process documents. This helps ensure that the most up-to-date version is always accessible.
  5. Accessibility: Make the process documents easily accessible to relevant stakeholders, such as employees, managers or auditors. This can be done through a centralized knowledge management system or an online platform.
  6. Regular updates: Process documents should be reviewed and updated to reflect any changes in the process or incorporate improvements or feedback from stakeholders.
  7. Standardized naming conventions: Use standardized naming conventions for process documents to ensure consistency and ease of retrieval.
  8. Cross-referencing: Include cross-references to related documents or resources, such as policies, procedures or training materials, to provide additional context and support.

What is the standard format for process documentation?

When it comes to documenting procedures and policies, there are several best practice processes you can follow to ensure clarity and effectiveness:

  1. Start with the initial scope: Clearly define your purpose and process objectives.
  2. Define process boundaries: Identify the start and end points of the process, as well as any specific criteria or conditions that apply.
  3. Determine process inputs and outputs: Document the inputs required for the process to start and the outputs that are produced as a result.
  4. Identify process steps: Turn your workflow into a step-by-step process, breaking down individual steps or tasks to ensure that each step is clearly defined and sequenced.
  5. Connect with project stakeholders: Collaborate with relevant stakeholders to gather their input and insights on the process.
  6. Construct a process map or process flow chart: Create process flow visuals like flowcharts using symbols and arrows to illustrate the sequence of steps.
  7. Note process flow exceptions: Identify any exceptions or variations that may occur during the process and document how they should be handled.
  8. Test the process: Validate the documented process by running test scenarios and ensuring the desired outcomes are achieved.

Conclusion: Process documentation best practices

Documenting SOPs is critical for effective employee onboarding and sets the stage for continual process improvements. You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are, and you can't improve processes if you don't know what they are.

With these process documentation best practices in place, your teams can identify bottlenecks and begin optimizing process workflows so you can grow your company even in times of record turnover. Sign up with Scribe and start creating effective process documentation today!

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