ED: Introduction to documentation

While improving business processes, it is essential that one document the process as well as any improvements made to it. Most consultants will document both the “As-Is Process” as well as the “To-Be Process”. While many think about it as customary and do it for the same reasons, there are other important reasons to document the process. Documenting helps the organization gain long term primary and secondary benefits which have been listed below:

Why Is It Important?

The following are the primary benefits that any organization seeks to gain by explicitly documenting their processes:

  • No Operational Ambiguity: The first and foremost reason for documenting any process is the fact that it reduces operational ambiguity. The next time there is a confusion regarding who is supposed to do what or what are the best practises following which a task needs to be performed, one can look at the detailer documentation and the dispute can be resolved. These documents act as the store of collective organizational knowledge regarding the processes and can be accessed by anyone in times of need.
  • Training Material: The documentation also acts as training material to help new resources move up the learning curve faster. Instead of making resources join on the job and learn tacitly, the documentation can be used to give new resources classroom lessons about the tasks that need to be performed. The documentation acts as the training manual and covers the syllabus as well as provides notes to educate the resources. This can be supplemented with on the job hands on floor visits for better and faster creation of efficient resources.
  • Marketing Use: Documentation can also be used by the marketing and sales department to truly understand what the capabilities of the organization are. This knowledge helps them to truly determine what they can promise the customer and what can be fulfilled. With the process knowledge, the marketing department will be able to make promises that the organization can deliver. There will be no need for over and/or under promising which causes heartburn and turmoil amongst the customers at a later stage.

Secondary Benefits

Apart from the apparent primary benefits which directly aid in the day to day operations of the firm, there are certain secondary benefits which help the firm analyse and improve its process continuously. Here is how documentation aids in this:

Available For Analysis:When process changes are documented in a detailed manner, they are available for analysis as and when required. This helps the management in understanding the knowledge that was used in designing the best practises that are currently followed. This also helps the management decide whether the best practises followed are indeed relevant in the environment they are operating in and saves them from expensive requirement gathering by consultants where they are billed for by the hour.

Can Be Compared Version To Version:With detailed documentation in place, process improvements can be tracked version to version. This means that the management will have the previous 3 to 4 processes and their performance along with the current process and performance. They can thus see them together and see what changes are producing what results. This will tell them what they are successful at and they can continue doing so.

Creating effective documentation can seem like a monumental task, and companies often don’t know where to get started, which is why we’ve created this article to walk you through it. Simply read on for everything you need to know on creating clear and concise documentation for your company.

Why Documentation is Important

First things first: You’re probably wondering exactly why you need to care about documentation in the first place. Most companies will pride themselves on the fact that their staff know how to do their jobs, and seem put off by the tedious process of jotting everything down.

While you may be right in saying that your team knows how to go about their tasks, you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to skip documenting. As we said earlier, effective documentation is the building block of team management and plenty of other tasks such as outsourcing, and plays a major role in streamlining your business practices. Here’s why:

Building Company Value

If one day in the future you were to sell your company, one of the things that gives it value is the processes and work attached to it. Documentation can help increase future share price, by making it easier to understand the processes of a company and determine its value.

Getting the Most Out of Your Team

Reviewing documentation can shed light on the processes your team uses, and potentially help you see places where those processes could be streamlined.

Collaboration

Documentation can make collaborating with people much easier, and cut down on meetings during the week. Particularly if you are using a tool such as Google Docs for your documents, you can easily document a process, share it with your team, and brainstorm ideas to improve it, all without wasting time.

Reduced Training Time

In addition to helping your existing staff optimize their processes, making sure everything your team does is clearly documented can also help train new hires quickly. Documentation can help get new hires up to speed without costing your existing staff valuable time and effort.

A Guide for Outsourcing Tasks

If and when you decide to outsource parts of your business, documentation becomes invaluable in making sure all of your outsourced employees know what they doing and what is expected of them. Depending on what tasks you outsource and where to, having clear and simple instructions for them to follow.

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Tips for Effective Documentation

Now that we’ve covered why documentation is important, it’s time to look at the how to get started, and what formats you can use.

Use an accessible and simple format

In order for your staff to be able to use your documentation, you need to create it in a format that is easy to use, edit and access. For example, myZone media uses Google Docs. This way your entire team can access the documents they need, edit a process if it’s been updated, and upload a new document easily, and you also don’t have to worry about duplicate copies of your documentation being created.

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Start from the top, work your way down

To organize your documentation, a good technique is to start from the most general and then work your way down to specific tasks. For example, write an overview of each department. What are their duties? What are their goals? Then, create sub categories for each department.

Let’s say your marketing department is in charge of writing your blog’s content, monitoring your social media presence, and promoting your clients. Create one document that overviews the department as a whole, then three separate sub-documents: one each for blog writing, social media, and client promoting. Then, make sure each of those sections are broken down into further sub-sections. This way you and your employees have a good idea of the big picture as well as the minutiae of each job.

Example:

Marketing Department: Overview>>Social Media: Overview>>Social Media: Facebook Goals>>How to: Post on Facebook.

Each document gets more and more specific, so that everything that needs to be done has a clear process, as you can see in the example below:

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Focus on clarity

You want anyone who reads your documentation to be able to understand it, even if they’ve never had to do the task described before. In order to achieve this, create documents that aren’t too wordy, and break everything down in numbered, step-by-step lists or bullet points. Imagine someone entirely new to your company; would they be able to understand what to do, based on the instruction given?

Standardize Your Documents

Whatever format you choose, make sure that each type of document is consistent: same fonts, same format, and same overall appearance. Think of Wikipedia: each page follows the same format and looks identical to all of the others, which makes the site easier to use as a whole. Make sure your documents link to each other, so that your reader can progress seamlessly from one step of the process to the next.

You can also create documents that deal specifically with how to create properly formatted documentation. This way, any time a new task comes up, your employees can refer to these documents in order to save time and stay consistent.

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Final Thoughts

Good communication is vital for any business in order to thrive, and effective documentation can help with that and save your employees time in the long run. Documentation can also insure that all of your company’s processes are running as smoothly and efficiently as they can be, and comes in super handy if/when you are considering expanding or outsourcing part of your team.

Remember, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions on how to document effectively!

 

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