How to document a process: 9 steps and best practices

Written by 
Katie Scheuer
Jen Butler
June 3, 2024
An illustration showing two figures standing on top of a series of colorful boxes, working to stack items together
How to document a process: 9 steps and best practices
Written by 
Katie Scheuer
Jen Butler
June 3, 2024

Here’s why process documentation is actually… fun

Ok, hear us out: Documentation is cool. Like, really cool. 

We never thought we’d be stoked to write a blog post about process documentation. It just sounds dull.

But we’re here to tell you: There is fun to be had, people. Here’s why.

For the past five years, we’ve been on global teams that prioritize written communication over meetings. And we absolutely rely on written process documentation to get our work done.

What is process documentation?

Process documentation is the creation of a written record that outlines procedures and tasks within an organization. Our favorite use is internal process documentation, but we’ll chat a bit more about customer-facing process docs in a sec.

Effective internal process documentation frameworks make sure all workflows and processes are documented, and stored centrally. Teams save time with standardization through templates, and articulated approaches for creating and maintaining documents. It’s one way knowledge workers can find freedom from the drudgery of meetings, and clarity in their work tasks.

Types of internal process documentation include: 

  • Onboarding documentation
  • Product development lifecycle
  • Marketing checklists

Types of external (customer-facing) process documentation include:

  • Customer support articles
  • API guides for developers to integrate with a product
Related: What is process documentation (and how can it help your team?)

Before you get into the weeds of writing long-form documentation that makes everyone’s eyes glaze over, let’s think about the why.

Why are we documenting processes? 

It’s important to maintain a single source of truth on how to clearly explain tasks in a written format. Successful process documentation offers clear expectations, increases alignment among team members, and offers clear step-by-step instruction on how to complete tasks. 

Getting right down to it — we can’t count the number of meetings we’ve been in over our careers where a smarty-pants facilitator has started spewing out highly technical jargon, as if everyone should just know what it means. This situation quickly becomes one person talking at the attendees rather than a fun or helpful exchange of energy. 

The chances of the attendees staying focused and retaining the information? Not great.

What would happen if we all stopped trying to sound so dang smart? We've already got the job; we don’t need to prove ourselves. We do need to communicate clearly, simply, and effectively.

The goal of process documentation is to communicate a technical topic in a digestible way so that the readers can complete the documented task.

External process documentation bridges the communication gap between the knowledge keeper (the smarty-pants expert) and the learners (end-users). Something else to keep in mind: If someone is at your help center reading support articles? They’re likely already frustrated or confused. So, let’s help reduce friction for them.

Did you know that the goal of technical documentation should be a readability level of 6th-8th grade? To put that into context: We’re aiming for readability along the lines of Harry Potter books. 

So, how can you (as a person who knows the product in and out) write steps in a simple, clear way? Here are a few of our favorite tricks for writing good — nay great — process documentation:

  • Play make-believe! Pretend you’re a newbie who’s never used the process or feature before. Keep track of any sticky points that might feel confusing, or go a different direction from what the feature requires. 
  • Document every darn step, from the beginning to the end! If you built a feature, workflow, or integration, you may think, “Oh, this part is easy – the end-user will just know how to do it.” False! Refuse to skip steps. Remember: You're not writing this for you. You’re writing this for an end-user who may be new or frazzled. Clear = kind.
  • Only use images, GIFs, or videos as sprinkles! Process docs should be complete and accurate without any added media. We want a process doc to be a delicious, flavorful cake with no missing ingredients. Only use images, GIFs, or videos to support steps that are already thorough and clear. 
  • Refuse to say “click here” for URLs! If you add a URL to text within your process doc, make sure to tell people what they’re clicking. This is an accessibility best practice to support those using a screen reader. For example:some text

Process documentation is more than “nice to have” – it’s essential. And, heck yea, it’s fun.

Process documentation is essential for effective async work

At its core, process documentation is effective asynchronous work. Written information sharing promotes transparency and collaboration. Instead of relying on team members' time – or waiting around for colleagues who are on vacation or in a different time zone – documentation increases efficiency on hybrid teams.

Without documentation of our processes, team members are left to their own devices, lots of time is wasted, and lots of questions are asked. Directing everyone to the same single source of truth that is an active, living document means clarifying questions can be answered async, and saves the time from long meetings or constant pings.

Related: 6 essential steps to build an async-first culture

What are some challenges of process documentation?

Information overload

Creating and reading documentation can feel tedious, dry, and overwhelming. Who wants to feel bored and stressed at the same time?

Not maintained

Documentation can help us feel connected, and give us access to info without relying on people. But, if not maintained properly, can be frustrating.


Your team might (or might not) see the benefits of effective process documentation, but the short-term effort of reading or writing can feel like a time suck.

What are some benefits of process documentation?

Process improvement

When a team takes the time to carefully describe their processes, extra steps or missing tasks become quickly evident. Take pains to make sure that every step of your process is included in your documentation and that any additional context necessary is available.

Autonomy for workers

Documentation of processes can be empowering. Quick access to information gives workers autonomy and freedom, instead of relying on the availability of others to share answers.

Centralized knowledge

Another time saver, centralizing your team’s collective knowledge and expertise in one place creates efficiency. Also, knowledge sharing improves collaboration and cohesion both within your team, and cross-functionally. 

Training and onboarding

It’s incredibly helpful for new hires to quickly learn the roles of internal processes, or to communicate changes to processes, if everything is articulated — and visualized.

Collaborative input

In an era of hybrid and remote work, collaboration on documents is async work; it’s a way to communicate and collaborate with your team, and allow for input and feedback.

What does good process documentation look like?

​​Good process documentation is essential for providing efficiency, consistency, and accountability in business operations. Here’s what effective process documentation typically looks like:

Clear and concise

Good documentation should be straightforward and easy to understand. It avoids jargon and overly technical language unless absolutely necessary, making it accessible to all intended users. Each step is clearly defined, leaving no room for ambiguity.


It covers all aspects of the process, from start to finish, including inputs, outputs, and the steps required to complete the process. It also identifies the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved, ensuring that each participant knows what's expected of them.

Visually organized

Incorporating visual elements such as flowcharts, diagrams, and tables can make the documentation easier to follow than blocks of text. Visual aids help in breaking down complex processes into understandable parts, making it easier for users to follow the workflow.

Related: 5 ways visual task management benefits your team

Easily accessible

The documentation should be easily accessible to all stakeholders involved in the process. This could be through a shared digital platform or physical copies in necessary areas. Accessibility ensures that everyone can refer to the document as needed to understand their role and responsibilities.

Regularly updated

Processes evolve, and so should their documentation. Good process documentation is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect any changes. This ensures that‌ your documentation remains relevant and useful, preventing outdated practices from persisting.


Effective documentation not only describes what needs to be done — but also how to do it. It includes step-by-step instructions that are actionable and practical. This helps in minimizing errors and increasing efficiency in executing the process.

Feedback mechanism

There should be a way for users to provide feedback on the process documentation itself. This could be through regular reviews or a feedback section in the document. Feedback helps identify areas for improvement and makes sure the documentation evolves to meet the needs of its users.

Compliance and standards

Good documentation adheres to relevant standards and complies with legal and regulatory requirements. This is crucial in industries that are heavily regulated, as non-compliance can lead to serious consequences.

Security and confidentiality

Processes that handle sensitive information should have documentation that respects and outlines necessary security measures and confidentiality protocols. This makes sure that sensitive data is handled appropriately and in compliance with privacy laws and regulations.

9 steps to document a process

1. Determine your goals

What process needs to be documented? What is the scope and level at which you are describing the process? Like any effective asynchronous collaboration, first it’s critical to set aside time to plan before you begin the creation process.

2. Identify stakeholders

Who'll contribute to the creation of the documentation, and who is the end reader? What knowledge do they currently possess, and what knowledge do they need to gain? At Mural, we leverage the DACI (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) framework to articulate stakeholders for especially complex process documentation.

3. Draft the process

Create an outline using basic tasks or steps. Allow space for additional input. Consider asking individuals who frequently complete process tasks to take notes in the flow of work. Jen suggests using numbered lists for process steps that must occur in a specific order. 

4. Gather initial feedback

While you can immediately jump into writing, an iterative approach means you include contributors early in the creation. Tag stakeholders in comments in a doc or a mural, or brainstorm live in a meeting. We recommend:

  • Having a few selected SMEs (subject matter experts) on each project. Too many “cooks in the kitchen” (too many opinions) can lead to ongoing back-and-forth rather than true progress. The DACI framework helps prevent this issue.
  • Setting a clear turnaround time for feedback. 

5. Write detailed instructions

Document every step, from beginning to end. Jen recommends the following best practices for technical writing: 

  • Know your audience. Assume no one knows what the hell you're talking about. Know your audience. Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this for?”
  • Keep it short. Multiple short sentences make content easier to digest. If you have to take a breath while reading a sentence aloud, you likely need to slice the sentence into two or three shorter sentences.
  • Spell out acronyms. Always spell out the first instance of acronyms. For example, “You might choose to integrate Mural with your company’s SSO (single sign-on) solution. SSO allows your employees to authenticate into Mural using their company SSO credentials."
  • Clarify general pronouns. Clarify general pronouns like it, that, they. Confusion arises when documentation refers to more than one feature or app, but then uses a pronoun like "it" without specifying which feature or app "it" refers to.

6. Add visuals

Visuals can make your documentation more engaging and provide helpful cues for your readers. But visuals should only be supplemental — ideally, documentation should be clear and complete without visuals. Remember! Visuals are just the extra sprinkles to add to an already finished, yummy process documentation cake.

7. Gather final feedback

Simple process documents might only require one round of feedback, but more complex processes might need multiple rounds of editing. Ask your stakeholders for feedback on the technical accuracy of the content. Then, make sure to proofread or have a copyeditor review for grammar, punctuation, and readability.

8. Share with your team

Make sure your process is documented in an accessible location, whether an accessible folder in Mural, or a shared documentation space. Consider how you communicate the documented process. Would it be better to offer a quick demo in a team meeting, or share a video walkthrough on key points?

9. Create a maintenance schedule

Pre-schedule recurring meetings or tasks to review and edit your documented process. You can also have annual or quarterly “documentation days.” Teams take inventory of all their internal process docs and work together to get everything updated. Make it fun - wear pjs, bring a beverage, or take laptops outside!

Improve your process documentation and level up your teamwork with Mural’s Professional Services 

The Mural Professional Services team offers decades of combined experience across process-building, workflows, and asynchronous collaboration.

Get in touch to see how we can tailor a solution that directly addresses your team’s needs today.  

About the authors

About the authors

Katie Scheuer

Katie Scheuer

Sr. Consultant, Professional Services
Katie D. Scheuer is a senior consultant and remote work expert on the Professional Services team at Mural, the leading visual work platform. She helps teams thrive in virtual and hybrid environments by guiding global organizations in new ways of working, helping them innovate, solve problems, and collaborate visually.
Jen Butler

Jen Butler

Technical Writing Manager
Jen is a Technical Writing Manager at Mural. When she's not writing for Mural, she's writing screenplays and doing improv.