An Introduction to Process Documentation
Multinational companies are facing the problem of knowledge management. Industries like software and ITES hire extremely skilled employees to work for them. However, they face several problems. This is because the skill lies in the employees minds and not in the system. As a result, if the employee goes on long leave or quits the organization, the company faces a knowledge crunch. The result is that the organization functions in silos. Obviously, this leads to loss of productivity as well as a lower level of service. These problems can be solved if companies have a centralized, interactive repository which is intuitive to understand and operate.
In this article, we will understand how such a repository can be created. This means that will have a closer look at the concept of process documentation.
What Is Process Documentation?
A process document is a document that describes the steps needed to perform certain tasks in the organization. The document describes at a granular level, the inputs required, the steps to be performed and the outputs that can be expected from the process. Since the same steps can be performed in many ways, organizations often choose the method that, best suits their requirement. It is important that this standardization is documented. The importance of process documentation is as follows:
Best Practices for Documentation
There are several tools available in the market, which allow efficient process documentation. However, these tools are intended for a large organization. For smaller organizations, easily accessible tools like PowerPoint and Word are more than sufficient to perform this task. The framework that is commonly followed by companies is as follows:
The input criteria for the process must be clearly defined. If a process needs qualified staff, that should be mentioned. If the execution of a process needs a particular tool from a particular vendor, that should also be mentioned. The trigger point for the process must be clearly explained. Whether the process begins automatically after certain criteria are met, or whether it needs to be manually triggered should be clearly mentioned. If any measurements or specifications need to be noted down before a process begins, that also needs to be clearly mentioned.
This is the heart of the entire process documentation exercise. A flow chart is often created using a swim lane methodology. A swim lane basically tells who is expected to perform a task. If the task is in the managers swim lane, then he/she will perform the task. If it is in the employees swim lane, then the employee needs to complete it.
This documentation helps ensure that the accountability of the tasks to be performed is clearly demarcated. Some tasks may span more than one swim lane. However, this is rare and detailed explanation can be provided in such a case.
It also needs to be understood that processes are present at different levels. Hence, it is important to first create a very high-level process flow. This high-level flow must then lead to nested lower level processes. This would make the design intuitive and easy to understand.
There are several methodologies available for process documentation. Companies must choose the one that fits their need based on the complexity of their process.
The termination of the process must also be clearly mentioned. It is important to demarcate the point at which one process is completed, and the other one begins. Once again, details like whether the process needs to be manually terminated need to be mentioned. It is important that the termination criteria be specific and measurable.
The tangible outcome or physical accomplishments of a process are known as deliverables. The documentation may include completed deliverables as well as intermediate products. The quality and quantity of the deliverable must be clearly mentioned in a way which is easy to understand and implement.
Quality records are secondary outputs of the process. These records act as evidence that a particular sequence of steps has indeed taken place. These records also quantify the efficiency with which these steps took place. These steps can then be verified for compatibility with the internal benchmarks that have been set up by the company.
To sum it up, it is essential that every company has a well-documented process. However, such documentation need not be expensive. Simple graphical and word processing tools ensure that even the smallest of companies can reap the benefit of standardization. Also, creating process documentation is not a one-time activity. It needs to be regularly maintained to ensure that it is up to date and usable.
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