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How To Document A Process

We have seen many different ways that companies document a process. Whether you decide to use flow charts, swim lane diagrams, standard operating procedures or Perigon Playbooks, manually, in Excel, or through automated software, the steps required to document a process should follow the same path. Here are the basic steps for how to document a process.


How to Document a Process


1. Select a Business System to Document.

Mapping a single process in isolation is a sure way to sub-optimize the solution. A good first step to documenting a process is to identify all of the processes within a Business System and then organize them into a single, integrated project that documents all process maps concurrently.


2. Establish Process Name, Boundaries, and Purpose.

Rationalizing process scope (customer/supplier boundaries) is often one the most difficult documentation activities. In general, the purpose of a process is to serve a loyal customer using minimum resources. A process demonstrates it’s useful purpose by converting supplier inputs into meaningful customer solutions at a value that exceeds cost.


3. Identify, Educate and Engage Process Owners.

Process and System Owners are essential for the successful study of a set of business processes and their improvement. Those who do the work should be integral to defining and improving the work.


4. Document the Current State Process.

A process map (or SOP) simply documents the sequence of inputs (and their suppliers), outputs (and their customers), and activities (tasks, events, and decisions) of a process. Process documentation should be built through a grooming process delivered through a series of facilitated Process Team meetings. Regardless of the method used, any process should be able to be documented to the 80-90% level within about a day of total time.


5. Document Knowledge Requirements.

A process transforms its inputs through a series of tasks (jobs, actions), events (meetings, training, etc.) and decisions (yes/no, go/no-go) that deliver a transformed output that solves its customers’ problems. Tasks access organizational knowledge, which includes a wide variety of content, such as work instructions, records, data, policies, standards, bills of materials, specifications, regulatory and patents. To fully document a process, knowledge must be attached to the appropriate task.


6. Determine Responsibilities.  

Responsibilities are typically defined through a RACI matrix, which identifies Responsible, Approver, Consulted, and Informed. A RACI matrix ensures that responsibilities and accountabilities are properly assigned to each task, event, and decision in a process


7. Perform a Value Assessment.

A process must provide an overall level of performance that satisfies customers’ needs. A Process Owner should know the customers of the process and their perception of value. The process must then provide a deliverable that solves customers’ problems in a timely way at an acceptable cost of ownership.


8. Assess Process Connectivity.

Process alignment is essential to the overall business process and system effectiveness. BEM conducts a War Room session on every Business System where we bring all Process Owners together (usually 8 -16 processes) to evaluate the customer-supplier relationships within the system. This leads Process Owners to find the gaps in connectivity between processes.


9. Identify Improvement Opportunities.

While documenting a process, the facilitator should capture in real time the known problems and improvement opportunities identified by the Process Team and users. In our experience, Process Teams typically surface somewhere between 25 and 50 improvement opportunities per process.


10. Develop Metrics.

Metrics are the criteria by which a process is monitored for performance assessment. Process measurement can take a variety of forms, including effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, quality, and response time. It is important to measure what is important to improve.


11. Assess Process Performance.

Most organizations desire to improve process performance for indicators such as cost, time, quality and customer service. Very few organizations actually consistently measure these characteristics, however. Establishing an early performance baseline is essential for comparing performance differences later.


12. Develop a Process Deployment & Improvement Plan.

The Process Deployment and Improvement Plan includes goals, improvement actions, responsibilities, and the implementation schedule to deploy, operate and continue to improve the newly documented process.


The Process Documentation Foundation

Business processes provide a powerful foundation for sustainably improving organization performance. Process documentation can serve as a very valuable enterprise asset in determining precisely how workflows and organizing that work into a set of aligned, efficient and effective value propositions. Behind every unhappy customer lays a broken process. The path to delighting external customers is to understand, align and delight well-defined and satisfied internal customers along the way.


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