Process Documentation: Examples and Templates

Document your internal processes and workflows, ensuring that your organization always runs smoothly.

As your business grows, things inevitably become complex. There are more people, more tasks, and more steps, all of which need to be arranged in the most efficient way possible. Assuming things will naturally fall into place and procedures will work themselves out is why many startups and companies lose momentum as soon as they expand their team.

Maintaining accurate and well-organized process documentation is considered to be one of the best ways to avoid chaos and keep things efficient and consistent.

Let's dive deeper into what process documentation is and why you should care.

What is process documentation?

Process documentation is a step-by-step description of how to execute a process from start to finish. Processes can be documented in the form of policies, checklists, tutorials, forms, screenshots, and so on – anything that describes how a process should be executed.

Process document template

Think of process documentation as your team's cookbook. Recipes are written down because they’re the easiest way to duplicate a tested process. Similarly, any task that is done more than once or completed by multiple people needs to be documented.

Process documentation examples

A common process documentation example is a standard operating procedure (SOP) document.

Here's an SOP example created in Nuclino. Nuclino is a unified workspace where you can collaborate on internal documentation, manage projects, onboard new employees, take meeting minutes, collaborate on documents, and bring all your team's work together.

Process documentation example in Nuclino

An SOP example (created in Nuclino)

Other examples of business processes that are typically documented include:

The specific processes that need to be documented can vary significantly from one company to another. For instance, an online business dealing with multiple vendors and complex supply chains needs to have a well-documented e-commerce workflow that covers order processing, inventory management, payment handling, shipping procedures, and more.

Benefits of process documentation

Let's face it – process documentation sounds tedious and boring. Some businesses perform it only because they think it’s what they are “supposed” to do. Others avoid process documentation entirely, feeling that it's a complete waste of time and money. Most companies feel a push and pull between trying to do the right thing by documenting and trying not to waste resources by documenting.

The reasons many companies cite as excuses for avoiding documentation are countless:

Sounds familiar? If so, you're certainly not alone. To understand why process documentation is worth your time, it's helpful to look back at one of the world’s most influential business process improvement examples.

Ford assembly line process

Workers on the assembly line at Ford Motor plant in Long Beach (April 21, 1930)

Henry Ford did not invent the car – he invented a process. His novel approach to manufacturing allowed him to create America’s first mass-produced affordable car, transforming the automotive industry and the business world as we know it.

The idea was simple: instead of one artisan creating a product alone, everyone was taught to do one of 84 simple, repetitive jobs. The introduction of the assembly line cut the manufacturing time of the Model T down from 12.5 hours to 2.5 hours!

At the end of the day, any business is essentially a group of interrelated and often repetitive tasks and processes. But it's only when you formalize them, that you are forced to think about the workflow with productivity in mind.

Documenting processes can help you achieve five key things:

In summary, the biggest value of process documentation is standardizing and scaling the things that already work for you, identifying ways to optimize the things that don't, and sharing that information with others on your team. It's a core part of business process management.

Of course, process standardization is only effective if you have validated processes to standardize. That means that if you are a startup that hasn't yet laid a solid foundation, documentation will be a waste of time. However, as soon as your business begins to mature, diligent process documentation starts to play a critical role.

How to create process documentation

Let’s assume that you have absolutely zero process documentation in your organization and are starting with a blank slate. You have to go through what is called process discovery. Try to involve everybody who is part of the process and follow these steps:

Step 1: Define the process and its scope

Decide which process you are going to document. Determine its purpose and scope – why and how the process will benefit the organization. Establish what should be the desired outcome of the process and list down what resources are necessary to carry out each of the steps.

Step 2: Organize the steps

Gather all information on process steps from start to finish and identify the starting point or whatever triggers the process. Once you have established that, the rest is simply a matter of asking questions. What happens next? Who does this? And how do you know when it’s done?

Step 3: Describe who is involved

Decide each individual who will be responsible for the process tasks. Define their roles. Keep in mind to mention their job title rather than their name.

Step 4: Note down exceptions to the normal process flow

A business process may not always follow the same flow due to various reasons. Mention these exceptions and what steps will be taken to address them.

Step 5: Add control points

Identify where risks could occur in the process and add control points to help monitor the process. Establish measurements to determine its effectiveness and possibly improve it.

Step 6: Review and test the process

Gather everyone involved and review the process you’ve documented. Once done, test the process and see if you’ve missed anything.

Process documentation template

It's important to keep your documentation consistent in style, format, and level of detail. Most companies use the same process documentation template for every workflow they document. Here is an example of what such a template could look like.

Process documentation template

Process documentation template (created in Nuclino)

Process documentation people will actually read

Part of what makes process documentation seem so frustrating is that the finished documents are never read or updated, becoming a relic of some long-forgotten meeting decision. There are a few ways to ensure that the time you invest in documenting processes is not wasted and creates real value for your business.

Process documentation SOP example
Standard operating procedure example with comment
Visual process documentation

Process documentation can be a boring and tedious chore. It can also be a great way of empowering your team to do more, faster – if done right. If your company documents are inaccessible, outdated, or confusing, they’ll be a source of frustration, if they are read at all. On the other hand, if they're succinct, informative, and up-to-date, they can enable your employees to be efficient and independent, and help create a culture of transparency at your company.

If you decide to invest time into process documentation, make your time and efforts count and treat it as an asset rather than a chore to cross off your to-do list.

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