For businesses that want to remain productive and operational in 2022, automating processes is necessary. With the shift toward remote working, business leaders must invest in more efficient work systems and automating manual, or labor-intensive processes is a key way to achieve this.
To successfully build an automated version of a process, however, you must first understand what that process is about. This is where process documentation comes in.
What is process documentation?
Process documentation, or workflow documentation, means taking a look at work processes and documenting the steps involved. For some processes, this might be a simple case of noting down a few (three of four) steps. But for those processes which require a longer-term commitment and greater number of tasks, process documentation becomes a necessity.
A document workflow process is also useful in cases without automation as the next step. It’s a good way for business leaders to analyze their processes and see where improvements could be made. If a process exists in a business that hasn’t been mapped, documented, or reviewed, it’s likely there will be steps in the process that could be revised. Many business leaders find that, when they actually sit down and document their processes, more efficient ways of doing things become apparent.
See a workflow documentation example
A good workflow documentation example exists in the process of employee onboarding. There is a general agreement between HR professionals that employee onboarding should last between three and six months. Some HR personnel even extend the onboarding process to a year, on the basis that it strengthens new recruits to do their roles. A six-month-to-a-year-long process is a costly undertaking for businesses and involves a number of different steps. These include:
- Pre-on-boarding: sending out contracts, start date information, documents for new hire to review
- First day/week on-boarding: IT setup, introductions, team lunch, training, orientation schedule, office supplies
- 3-6 month onboarding (up to a year): ongoing training, review period, career progression, and planning
Employee onboarding is a good workflow documentation example because it involves multiple steps that need to be carried out by multiple personnel over a long time. It also needs to be iterated for other new joiners, which can be complicated for HR professionals if each of the steps hasn’t been clearly identified and logged. Documenting the onboarding process creates visibility for HR professionals and ensures the best structure is carried out. It allows for the opportunity to revise tasks, or move them further down the timeline, add in additional steps, and ensure that accountability exists across the process.
The document workflow process: what steps are involved?
So, you have a process that you want to document. What are the steps involved? Here’s a quick summary:
Speak to the team
When we think about how to document workflows, the best first step is to speak to everyone involved. Hold a meeting and ask contributors whether they feel the process works for them. Most employees will be able to identify steps in a process that are slow or points where bottlenecks occur. This is the first step to refining the process.
Process mapping is a great way to establish total visibility across the cycle of a process. It is a way of visually documenting the process, using a flowchart model to track each step. For processes that involve sub-processes happening in tandem, it’s a better way to keep track of the process as a whole, rather than listing the individual steps (which only really works for a linear process).
Once you’ve mapped the process you have as it is, assess what changes could be made. If several employees have drawn attention to a bottleneck halfway through, think about how this could be refined. If one task in the process takes longer than everything else, think about whether it could be split into sub-tasks and delegated better, or whether automated tools could be a fast-track solution.
Once you’ve documented and revised a process, test it out to assess whether it’s been improved. Businesses that turn to automated solutions for their processes will discover a more efficient way of working, greater productivity, and reduced error. It’s the intuitive next step for most organizations, but even in cases where small changes have been made (creating more achievable sub-tasks for example), testing is a vital part of the document workflow process.
Rinse and repeat
The document workflow process is an ever-changing beast, and a process will be refined best by a few rounds of trial and error. Organizations that consistently review their processes will find themselves operating in a more efficient way. And those employees who undertake the documentation process, and are encouraged to make suggestions, will be more inclined to engage with that process down the line: ensuring it is healthy, productive, and successful.
For more information about how to document workflows contact the team at Nintex. We are experts in creating efficient work processes, using process mapping solutions and automated workflows.