You might think that process documentation—internally used, detailed descriptions with exact steps of how things are done—are complicated, time consuming, and unnecessary.
You have far more important things to worry about when running a remote business, after all.
Well, what if I told you that companies lose up to 30% in revenue, every year, due to inefficiencies? Yep, you heard that right—almost ⅓ of annual revenue.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s dive into the first instalment of this expert conversation. I sat down with Vinay Patankar, CEO of Process Street, to talk about why process documentation is important, best practices, and how to document processes rapidly.
In today’s post, we cover:
- Why processes are worth nothing without documentation
- Why every man and his dog needs to document their processes
Processes are worth nothing without documentation
“It’s just this super simple idea that you should write down the best way to do a task and then follow those instructions in the future, so that you do the task the best way every time. It’s not complicated.”
To take Vinay’s explanation further and help me prove the simplicity of process documentation, here’s another super simple explanation (if you want a detailed one, read this article or watch this video).
What is process documentation?
Process documentation is a detailed description of how to execute a given business process. It outlines all the tasks that are needed to complete the process, from start to finish.
That’s simple enough. But what sort of processes are we talking about?
“A process is a series of steps that need to be taken to achieve a result, right? So you need to have processes in place to achieve stuff. To achieve your goals. Whether you’re a big office-based organization or a 100% distributed start-up, like we were, without processes, you will lose track of your core business.”
To make sure that an organization is moving in the right direction, processes need to be at the center of all business operations. That’s especially true for remote teams.
“Without processes, things get missed, mistakes happen, you lose track of work, and your team is inefficient.”
Which process to start with?
In terms of which processes to document, you could create and document a process for anything that moves you and your remote business towards its key objectives.
For instance, if you’re a remote company, you might need to keep track of the hours your staff is working, and what they’re working on. So, why not create a process for them to follow, and include a time management tool like BeeBole, so they can easily record their time, holidays, and absences?
For a sales team, you could create a process for when they’re making a sale, or for the HR department, create one for when they’re onboarding a new employee.
“It’s all about accumulating efficiencies. Processes increase consistency, they ensure tasks are being completed to a certain standard, and they keep everyone moving towards the same end result.”
Although having processes in place is incredibly useful, they’re about as good as a chocolate teapot if they only exist in someone’s head. That’s why you need to document them.
Documenting processes gets everyone on the same page by providing a common view of the steps required. In lieu of in-person meetings to workshop these things, remote teams especially need to have their process documentation in place.
“If you have a structured, documented process to follow, your work might be, say, 20% better than if you didn’t have a process to follow.”
Why every man and his dog needs process documentation
“A lot of companies document their processes. I mean, public companies have to document their processes if they want to be on the stock exchange. But MBAs run these bigger companies. You know, they have teams of people that spend their days creating and improving processes. They understand how businesses are run.
It’s the smaller companies that tend to run into problems.
I mean a lot of SMBs are run by people that have never gone to business school. They’re run by specialists, not business experts. They don’t have the skillset, experience, or education to prioritize documenting processes. They don’t understand the importance or they don’t think they have time, or they don’t have the resources that the bigger companies do, to document processes.
I hear this a lot; ‘I’m too busy closing deals, I’m too busy servicing customers, I’m too busy putting out fires, I’m too busy with this project that I believe will make me more money than documenting processes will…’ but this is where they’re wrong.”
Why are they wrong?
Let’s find out by looking at three key benefits of process documentation within a remote business.
1. Increased visibility: Know where everything’s at
Has an employee ever called in sick? Gone on holiday without briefing the team on where they are with their tasks? Left the company without leaving handover notes? Or simply gone AWOL?
It can be a time of desperation and growing panic. It’s a mad scramble trying to piece together what this person was working on, how they were doing it, where their work is, who they were speaking to, and what needs to happen next.
It’s a stressful way to work, not to mention incredibly inefficient, time-consuming, and frustrating. And it’s only amplified on a distributed team.
“Documenting processes gives you visibility of where everything’s at. You don’t need to physically ask that person where they are with something, it’s there in black and white.
By documenting your current processes and saving them in a centralized, accessible location, you’ll save your blood, sweat, and tears trying to solve an unanswerable puzzle.
2. Improved efficiency: Save money by cutting unnecessary steps
Remember what I said about companies losing up to 30% in revenue, every year, due to inefficiencies? Inefficient processes play a major part in this statistic. In fact, poor processes cause 44% of all business inefficiencies.
Processes that have unnecessary steps or are overly complicated, hard to find, or out of date are typically misunderstood or ignored. This creates chaos and a huge amount of inefficiency within an organization.
If you document all of your processes, you’ll get valuable insight into each part of your business while spotting what works and doesn’t.
“If you document your most commonly recurring process, you’ll probably execute that process once a day. As that process is getting executed every day, people start to notice things. ‘Oh, this is wrong, this could be fixed, I could put a shortcut here, this step isn’t needed,’ so you make changes to speed things up. The process keeps getting more and more efficient. You’ll keep getting efficiency gains every time you run that process.”
3. Better training: Save time & effort with training processes
New hires can be a pain in the ass. Of course, you’d never say that to anyone, but they can be, can’t they?
Onboarding an employee is costly as they’re not trained enough to be providing value yet, and they’re also taking up your experienced employees’ time. Training remote employees amplifies this if not done in person.
It’s not their fault they’re a pain in the royal behind. No, it’s your fault.
“When you’re trying to tell someone what their new job is, you’re effectively saying ‘these are the processes we want you to follow.’ So having this set of processes for them to just pick up and run with is a really quick and easy way to get them up to speed with the company, their job, what’s expected of them, and they can start doing their actual job pretty much straight away.”
Process documentation can be used as a form of training. You can share key information, outline your expectations,highlight the correct procedures, and outline company policies and standards.
If done properly, documenting processes can save you time, money, and patience when onboarding or training staff.
So if you’d like to save your staff and company time, money, and patience, stay tuned. In the second half of this conversation, we’ll jump right into the two easiest ways to document processes, with a step-by-step guide to both.