Process Documentation: Making a Playbook for Your Business Operations

What is process documentation and how is it an asset within a business? In this chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Chase Bodor from Plastics Plus Technologies in California led a discussion about process documentation and the ways it can benefit a business.


What is Process Documentation and How Is It An Asset

The discussion began with participants giving their thoughts on what process documentation is and how it’s used as an asset in business. They shared their thoughts.

Gina Tabasso from MAGNET in Ohio said, “We don't use it but we are working to change that.”

Erin Courtenay from Earthling Interactive in Wisconsin said, “The wrong answer: it’s busy work and the right answer: it’s consistency to drive efficiency and results.”

Dave Meyer from BizzyWeb in Minnesota said, “We use process documentation a TON in our business - and we make it a point to share with our clients. Anything that needs to be done more than once goes to our wiki, and we try to do videos and link wherever possible.”

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “In our case, our project manager has the capability to add that is where we put our workflow. It is accessible to those we give access it to (team and client). The core practices per client or per project are stored there.”

male-desk-computer-studying-documentsSue Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois said, “I'm all about developing processes and documenting the procedure, accountability and transparency so I think I'm going to enjoy this today! But I enjoy every #USAMfgHour chat.”

Paul Kiesche from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “We use process documentation and are currently updating it. Not sure if it's the same as what you are referring to, but it certainly helps speed up processes, improves consistency and reduces issues.”

Dana Engelbert, a Marketing and Public Relations Specialist in Mississippi said, “Process documentation is simply noting how a process is done. This is necessary where there is a lot of turnover. Also good for my one-person biz so I don't reinvent the wheel for repeatable tasks.”

Ben Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois said, “I think of process documentation as something that takes place to streamline whatever process is being done. I think it can also help with accountability!”

David Crysler from The Crysler Club in Michigan said, “Process documentation... that's music to my ears!!”

He continued, “Process documentation helps the current team as well as new team members to know what the current best practice is when it comes to a particular process. Regular reviews and audits should be conducted to ensure nothing has changed that would impact that process.”

Matt Long from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “Process documentation is mapping out the steps needed to accurately and efficiently complete a task or project. It's very beneficial for learning, and onboarding new staff.”

VirtuDesk said, “Process documentation for us provides the necessary steps in order to complete a certain task. It makes you more organized. Never miss a step to produce high-quality output!”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Process documentation tells you how to execute a process. Establishing processes makes everything organized.”

Sam Gupta from ElevatQ in Canada said, “Process documentation is having the updated documentation of your core and repeatable operational and financial procedures. That is always updated and used for training new resources.”

Host, Bodor said, “Process documentation is the instruction manual for how your business works.” He added, “At Plastics Plus, we use process documentation in all sorts of ways: training, tracing, repeatability, record keeping, setting up workflows, solving corrective actions and more.”


Goals for Documenting Processes

The discussion continued with participants sharing why they documented process and what they hoped to achieve in doing so.

Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc. in Missouri said, “As a software publisher that implements a WMS solution for manufacturers & distributors, we can't preach enough how important documenting processes is for training new employees, ensuring quality control w/ operational procedures & ensuring knowledge is shared.”

Engelbert said, “For my small business, some of my repeatable tasks are infrequent and documentation means that I don't have to try to remember. I also can periodically review those processes to make improvements or streamline.”

Nigel Packer from PelaTis Online in Wales, UK said, “So true Dana. Even small companies should adopt process documentation. We call is SOP's Standard operating procedures.”

Ben Nordman said, “I think the end goal is the ability to trace everything back within whatever process. From there, you can look at the possibilities of better ways of performing and improving that.”

Rusine said, “Productivity is the end-goal. Huge time saver! We want to use saved time to tasks that add more value to the bottom line.”

She continued, “Documenting a process has many benefits to us. It can help ensure that the process is followed correctly, provide a record of what has been done in the past, help identify areas where the process could be improved, and provide a basis for training new employees.”

The team at Social Success Marketing added, “It increases efficiency, increases productivity, saves time and keeps data safe and organized.”

policies-binder-graphic-schematicTabasso said, “Repeatability, consistency, scalability, saves time.”

Tod Cordill from Moderno Strategies in Oregon said, “Yes! The average employment tenure has been trending downward for decades, exacerbated by the Great Resignation. Well defined and documented processes make it much faster for new team members to operate at a high level of quality and efficiency.”

Kati McDermith from Industry Net in Illinois said, “My goal to start would be to gather insight into a process from all the parties involved, those who actually are working in the process.”

Meyer said, “We have so many common processes, and we can't afford to waste time on rework and reinventing the wheel. As a bonus, it keeps our clients up-to-date and helps streamline social and biz processes for them.”

Sue Nordman said, “Organization, accountability, consistent flow, efficiency, and transparency.”

Crysler said, “It's the first step in ensuring consistency throughout your business. The second step is auditing... the third continuous improvement.”

Courtenay said, “Documentation means you are both a) confident enough in your process to put it to paper and b) humble enough to recognize that change is good and there may need to be adjustments.”

Stepanov said, “Reasons: - To be organized - Ensure everything is done accordingly - Easier to follow - Increases productivity.”

Dan Bigger from Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “To learn from the process and be able to enhance it and make it better and more productive, I'd hope.”

Packer said, “All business procedures follow a process. Our process documentation or Standard operating procedures ensure that all of our clients get the same high quality service from us.”

Gupta said, “Training, standards, consistency across processes, scalability of your processes, no disruption risks because of tribal knowledge, no more ego or information silos except for the sensitive information and procedures.”

Rusine said, “I agree with Sam. *updated* is key. It is organic. You can add or delete steps.”

Kiesche said, “Our goals for documenting processes are:

  1. Increase productivity
  2. Decrease redundancy
  3. Improve flow and communication
  4. Train staff faster
  5. Reduce wasted time
  6. Improve consistency
  7. Improve predictability

Long said, “The reason we document our processes is so future employees can have a "manual" to refer to when learning about our operations, and we can minimize inconsistent output from the beginning.”

Cordill said, “There are many reasons to document processes. They include: consistency / quality, process efficiency, facilitate training, and continuous improvement.”

Host, Bodor said, “Our goal is to facilitate a well-defined and monitored system we can use for standard operating procedures, training, traceability, feedback, and more. “


Competitive Advantages

Can process management give your organization a competitive advantage? The discussion continued with whether or not process management can provide a competitive advantage and how it can do so for a business.

Kiesche said, “If your company is improving in all the areas I mentioned in my last answer and theirs are not, well... Also, you can be more profitable, more competitive with pricing, more attractive to talent, more professional with clients, and have a better end product/service.”

Ben Nordman said, “I think a competitive advantage is streamlining. The faster a process gets done, the better for the customer, the bigger the competitive advantage.”

Crysler said, “Culture. Speed. Quality. Consistency.” He continued, “5 steps to nailing continuous improvement: Plan, Execute, Review, Revise, Repeat.”

Austin said, “What David said and also it helps your team grow without depending too much on one individual. You truly want to empower people quickly.”

Bigger said, “It is a distinct advantage. It is the process of daily enhancement. Many don't do this.”

Sue Nordman said, “Speed is the first thing that comes to mind. If you have documentation of what you did before, it should make the process much quicker the next time.”

Rusine said, “Yes, and I love speed here. So things have to be documented.” She continued, “Process management can help improve communication, coordination & cooperation between departments and can also help optimize resources. It can help to ensure that tasks are completed in a consistent and standardized manner, which can improve quality and efficiency.”

Gupta said, “Well, it's very hard to find the correlation but process documentation is the foundation of building kick-ass culture as most problems are because of siloed information, tribal knowledge, hidden and ad-hoc processes. And that's the best competitive advantage!”

Long said, “With everything written down, you should expect to quickly improve speed and accuracy with delivering client work which gives you obvious advantages over your competitors.”

Courtenay said, “Documentation can be an awesome source for content for proposals, grants, and even marketing content. if your marketing staff can access solid process descriptions they can use that to grow the business.”

Packer said, “By ensuring that the people who will be carrying out the procedures are fully involved in their creation. They must have full engagement or it will fail.”

Velavu Tech in Canada said, “Taking the time to learn/manage the ins + outs of your organization ALWAYS leads to insights you would never have otherwise; tightening up operations; reducing inefficiencies; remove bottlenecks; growth opportunities. Also shows an organization cares about each step in the business.”

Host Bodor said, “Good process management reduces risk and costs while also leading to higher productivity, customer/employee satisfaction, and measurable results.”


Solving Lack of Process Documentation

Participants were then asked how they would solve the problem of a "lack of process documentation" for an organization or department. There were a lot of opinions shared.

McDermith said, “Start.”

Bigger said, “Begin. Everything has to start somewhere.”

Gupta said, “Problem-->lack of process documentation. Solution-->document those processes!”

Kiesche said, “I found it best to involve key team players or directors when developing a process. That will help them get onboard and build in some accountability. Focus on the most important processes & do it in smaller chunks so it's quicker and actually gets done.”

Stepanov said, “We were so disorganized before. Identifying tasks and other important activities within that department can help in mapping out their systems.”

Ben Nordman said, “Just get started and stay consistent! Sounds easier than it is but I think just getting through the pains of starting is important and then staying up with it.”

Sue Nordman said, “I would think observation would be key.”

Austin said, “What an excellent suggestion. You can't document what you don't see.”

Long said, “In the past I've simply just written the documentation myself. It just depends on where you work and who is, or should be, responsible. But someone has to do it.”

hands-pointing-at-documentsCourtenay said, “Do an audit. There can be lots of reasons process isn't being documented. Is it culture? Is it too many tools? Are there approval bottlenecks? But first things first - it begins with leadership.”

Tabasso said, “A Six Sigma project or assign as we did in our quarterly goals. We use Scaling Up; so, we set a Rock.”

Crysler said, “Get started. If you're overwhelmed, pick 1 area/dept and 1 process. I like to start with customer or internal pain points. Once it's documented, move on to the next one. The other thing I love is video process documentation. It's faster and easier for the team.”

Rusine said, “Got tired of doing things over & over. That's how I started documenting our process. I looked at 2 immediate things: What are our repetitive tasks? What tools do I own that we can use?”

Packer said, “Bring in an outside specialist to facilitate the teams to create the process documentation. Test it, review and implement.”

VirtuDesk said, “Identify their tasks and other important activities. Then, start working on the step-by-step process.”

Host Bodor said, “Start with identifying your high-priority processes. Find out who the user of this process is. Then, create a plan and a set of goals around that process or person.”

He continued, “Monitor that process through job shadowing or observation. Visualize the process with mapping techniques. Review notes. Then implement & monitor your changes.”


Reasons for Failure

The discussion continued a participants discussed some of the reasons that business process management efforts sometimes fail.

McDermith said, “Thought... I can see how it would be time consuming and sometimes things like to be done how they've always been done.”

Bigger said, “I'm assuming it gets overwhelming and people give up and quit. The reason most things fail.”

Gupta said, “Because they are way harder and require very unique expertise in the glamorous world of #ERP. Just because you can write a paragraph, you don't become a writer. Just because you can draw a bunch of block diagrams, you don't become a business process consultant.”

Long said, “That depends on how stable the company environment is, and if the person/people responsible are given adequate time to see the process through to the end. Company restructures, staff turnover, and re-allocating priorities can all impede the process.”

Crysler said, “The only reason is lack of ownership from leadership. This applies even when it's "someone else's" responsibility. When we failed, it was my failure a leader.”

Rusine said, “Lack of consistency.”

John Buglino from Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “It is viewed as too time-consuming.”

Sue Nordman said, “In my opinion, it happens when everyone is not on the same page. When the team does not have the same agenda. I just had a meeting this morning and told my team that we cannot accomplish what we need to without working together."

Ben Nordman said, “Whenever I think of anything in business failing I always circle back to communication! Not being on the same page from the start could pose many issues.”

Rusine said, “There are many reasons that business process management efforts fail: -outdated -not properly documented -poorly understood by the employees who need to use -not properly implemented -no buy-in from the top.”

Kiesche said, “Some reasons that I found why process management fail: • Too complex • No involvement or buy-in from the key employees • If it adds to the time spent instead of decreases • If implementation is too difficult • If it's not enforced • If it's not checked.”

Host, Bodor shared some common reasons for failure:

Not customer/ user-focused

Did not seek input/ feedback

Did not get buy-in

Didn't know how to manage the process


Benefits to Documenting Business Processes

The chat concluded with a discussion about some of the benefits of documenting business processes. Participants shared their thoughts.

Rusine said, “It cuts down duplicative work and makes for efficient workflow.”

Bigger said, “Getting and keeping everyone on the same page from now and as it is updated over time forever. That is if it is done and kept up.”

Gupta said, “It's almost like self-realization why you exist in the world. It's the purpose of why you were born to make a difference. It's the clarity in thinking. It helps you figure out your path that you were born to be better than the rest.”

Crysler said, “They improve operations and help you grow... attract/retain top talent, reduce costs, increase margins and increase sales.”

Sue Nordman said, Oh I feel the advantages are nearly endless! The best way to sum it up would be TEAMWORK! Whoever follows me (or whoever) will keep the flow going.”

Tabasso said, “Easier onboarding for new hires. Training for less senior employees. Knowledge management.”

Host Bodor concluded the chat by sharing a list of benefits to documenting business processes.

  • Improve efficiency
  • Reduce mistakes
  • improve quality
  • Retain knowledge
  • Ensure compliance
  • Onboard employees faster
  • Increased safety
  • Improve scalability
  • Improve overall operational efficiency


Documenting business processes can be a valuable way to organize how a business runs and provide consistency for all who work within an organization. By setting up workflows and documenting processes and procedures, everyone in the organization has a clear roadmap for how the business works.



About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @DanBiggerUsaMfg, @DCSCinc, @SocialSMktg and @Radwell_Intl


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Pinterest Share by Email