What is process documentation (and how can it help your team?)

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
 and 
  —  
December 18, 2023
A photo of two women standing in front of a whiteboard with a series of processes mapped out using paper charts and sticky notes

If you’ve ever tried to put together a piece of furniture without instructions, you already understand the importance of process documentation. You’re staring at a million different parts and pieces, and you have no idea how to put it together or even where to start. 

Process documentation gives your team clear instructions for any workflow, task, or process. Just as you rely on clear instructions to assemble furniture efficiently, your teams need documented processes to stay efficient, productive, and consistent. Strong document processes make sure every piece of work falls into place seamlessly, helping your business run as efficiently and effectively as possible.

What is process documentation?

Process documentation is a system that companies use to clearly define the various workflows, tasks, and procedures that guide their day-to-day operations. It serves as a solid foundation for improving efficiency, consistency, and overall productivity within your team. 

Process documentation isn’t specific to one department or industry. Everyone can make use of it to improve their team. 

For example, a marketing team may use process documentation to outline the step-by-step procedures for their marketing campaigns. Product teams use it to streamline the product development lifecycle, from idea generation to launch. And customer support teams use it to explain best practices to the entire team. 

Five common components of business process documentation

While it may vary from company to company, most organizations use the same few components in their process documentation. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Think of SOPs as a well-thought-out recipe, providing clear, step-by-step written instructions for a specific process. They make sure that all activities are done consistently, accurately, and in accordance with established standards and best practices. Just as a trusted recipe consistently results in a perfect cake, SOPs are the guiding hand that guarantees flawless task execution.

Guidelines

Guidelines are similar to SOPs but a bit less specific. SOPs leave little-to-no room for interpretation. Guidelines, on the other hand, provide a broader framework for a task or project and allow for more creativity and personalization in how tasks are approached. 

Flowcharts

Flowcharts are visual roadmaps for processes. Just as a map simplifies a complex journey, a flowchart clarifies the path of the process from start to finish. For example, a project management flowchart details the project timeline to show each task, dependency, and milestone in order.

Templates

Templates serve as ready-made blueprints for common tasks and projects. Think of them as pre-designed forms or documents, like a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. They’re designed to make tasks easier by giving your team a structured starting point, saving time, and ensuring consistency. 

Checklists

Checklists are the task trackers of your process, making sure everything is in place. These simple lists detail each step of a process and let you know if it’s been completed or not. For example, IT teams rely on checklists to guarantee that all security protocols and system updates are completed correctly.

Six benefits of process documentation for your team

Process documentation streamlines operations by providing that your team has clear guidance for every process. 

1. Preserves knowledge

Process documentation gathers and records valuable knowledge from individual team members within the organization. This includes insights, strategies, and step-by-step procedures related to various tasks and processes. 

Related: How to improve knowledge sharing among teams

Imagine if only one person knew how to do a specific task. For example, one of your marketing team members is the only one who knows how to sign in to your social accounts. 

Now imagine that person leaves the company. Who'll do that task for them? 

Instead of relying solely on people with specialized knowledge, process documentation makes this knowledge accessible to everyone. It ensures that no essential information remains locked in the minds of just a few employees.

2.  Cuts down on errors

When your team doesn’t have clear instructions to follow, they’re more apt to make mistakes. Thanks to process documentation, your team doesn’t have to guess at how a process works or repeatedly ask for help. Instead, every employee will know exactly how to do the process at hand, and they’ll do it right every time.

Errors are a costly use of your resources. For instance, a well-documented manufacturing process can prevent costly defects by making sure that each step is carried out accurately. Correctly performing tasks removes the need for corrections, saving both time and money that'd otherwise be spent fixing errors.

3. Reduces busywork

Process documentation clearly outlines the steps and tasks, ensuring team members don’t waste time on unnecessary, repetitive, or unclear activities. Teams can allocate their time and energy to more critical, strategic tasks that contribute to the team’s goals and success.

Consider a customer support team that deals with a high volume of inquiries. Without well-documented processes, team members may spend a lot of their time trying to figure out how to handle certain customer issues. With clear process documentation, they can reduce the time spent trying to find a solution and instead help more customers. 

4. Streamlines resource allocation 

Process documentation outlines every single task, step, and dependency within a process so that every employee in your company knows exactly what resources they need to complete it. Teams are less likely to over-allocate or use excessive resources. 

By specifying resource requirements for each process or task, process documentation helps teams avoid unnecessary resource waste. This makes sure that the right resources are available while also preventing wastage, reducing costs, and promoting resource efficiency.

5. Strengthens training effectiveness

Process documentation ensures that all trainees in your company receive the same knowledge and guidelines. It eliminates any inconsistencies that come from variations in training approaches, individual interpretations, or evolving personnel. 

Without process documentation, training approaches will vary from one trainer to another. This creates inconsistencies in what trainees learn. Documentation removes these variations so everyone learns the same processes and rules. Documented processes make sure that onboarding training is the same for all employees, so all new hires start with the same foundation of knowledge.

6. Improves team communication

Process documentation provides a shared reference for team members to consult when they have questions about how to perform tasks or processes. It also provides that team members use consistent terminology when discussing processes and tasks. This reduces misunderstandings and ambiguities in communication.

Effective communication leads to better collaboration among team members, where everyone works together more smoothly and efficiently. All team members are on the same page and share a common understanding of how tasks and projects are carried out. 

Process documentation facilitates team alignment and coordination

Process documentation is an indispensable solution for creating clarity and alignment within teams. It provides a structured framework for tasks and workflows, ensuring that every team member understands their role and responsibilities. 

A visual work platform will help you make decisions as a team. With Mural, you empower your team to work together effectively, streamline operations, and keep your best ideas organized in one place. You can call on other employees to join a working session and set a timer for each activity, so your team stays focused and on schedule. 

Learn more about how Mural can help your team stay aligned — sign up for free today. 

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.

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