Workflow Documentation: How to Increase Efficiency, Reduce Error, & Focus On Impactful Tasks
Blog: The Process Street Blog
Workflow documentation could have saved me from drowning in paper.
I was in the process of presenting an English lesson. A mapped-out complex presentation. You will have given your fair share of presentations if you work in a team-driven business. You’ll know a plan is required to help you be efficient, avoid error, and be impactful. In short: optimized.
54% of companies believe mapping complex processes is challenging when automating workflows.
- What is workflow documentation?
- How to document a workflow
- Make things easy: Workflow documentation software
What is workflow documentation?
Let’s say you’re onboarding new hires. You’ll have lots of documents to go through, such as:
- Company policies
- Health and safety procedures
- Job contracts
- Tax documents
Within your workflow, you include the above documents and business processes. With an older document management system, such as filing cabinets, your workflow can take a lot of time. And making improvements to your processes becomes tedious and ineffective.
You already understand that a workflow is a set of tasks completed to achieve a process. If you’ve used paper forms to complete a daily checklist, you’ll know it’s time-consuming. As Japan has discovered, paperwork is also not pliable:
Furthermore, paper documents are not scalable. For example, when I worked in college admissions, we entered paper applications into a database. Every day involved hours of data entry and shredding confidential paper forms. Otherwise, our tiny office would have imploded with paperwork.
You can enjoy advanced solutions like workflow management software in the twenty-first century. Documenting actionable workflows has become much more accessible. It also provides a fix to being flooded by paperwork.
Solutions like this use automation to make repetitive data entry a process of the past. You can spend more of your time doing the work that matters. Workflow documentation assists this process by organizing your business processes and workflows.
How to document a workflow
You document a workflow by:
- Deciding what the purpose of your process is
- Creating a workflow diagram to outline the process from start to finish
- Determining who is responsible for each task in the process
Doing all of the above makes the process clear to team members. It also allows them to check for errors and tweak the process.
Managing the workflow
To manage a workflow:
- List the steps of a process
- Debate the workflow process
- Operate together to create the workflow.
As an illustration, I once prepared housing documentation for an audit. The documents were on paper in folders.
Using a workflow diagram
The tasks required to prepare for the audit were presented to me in a workflow diagram by a manager.
I was solely responsible for completing the preparation. My workflow began and ended in the five-step process below:
- Place all the folders in alphabetical order of property addresses.
- Make sure all rent receipts were in dated order.
- Ensure two copies of the tenancy agreement were in each folder. All of them had only one copy, which required additional photocopying.
- Log the address and the rent in a separate notebook.
- Add a file entry note for the auditor to understand the folder’s contents and explain if any paperwork was missing.
Completing the above tasks for our properties took three months of weekend work. By the end, we also needed to order more filing cabinets. Duplicating tenancy agreements had reduced our storage space.
When I began working for Process Street, I thought of jobs like the one above. I realized other companies had wasted time with inefficient processes. Formal process documentation, like the housing audit, is not actionable in the modern world.
Dusty old filing cabinets are effectively inaccessible in an era of remote work. Plus, they’re not the most effective way to document your company processes. The best alternative is to use a new and improved method such as workflow software.
Make things easy: Workflow documentation software
Workflow documentation software is an online service that allows you to create and document workflows efficiently. You’ve seen the pain of arranging paperwork for an audit. I want to let you in on the pleasure of how to make such jobs easier. Specifically by giving you an example of how Process Street does this in-house.
Ready? Okay, let’s go.
Easy to use
What do Canterbury and Madrid have in common? Not a great deal. For me, they are the locations where two content team members live. Those two members needed to collaborate on a new workflow. They also needed to do it quickly. Three ways they could have carried out their tasks – if they’d used paper documents – would have been:
- Oliver rides from Madrid to Canterbury on a scooter, carrying a filing cabinet
- Leks flies first class to Madrid and books an additional seat for a filing cabinet
- Both Oliver and Leks photocopy their work and waste time posting it to one another
Obviously, the above proposals are not actionable or affordable. With remote work increasing, paper documents are a thing of the past. Remote employees are unable to amend centralized paperwork. Particularly whenever they discover an error or tweak a process.
However, workflow management software can eliminate this problem. To see how your team can easily collaborate online, take a look at the video below:
At some point, you may need to edit your workflow. As your processes are online, they can be effortlessly updated. Your work will also never become obsolete. Process Street also provides a template gallery to help you use our product easily from day one.
The workflow Oliver and Leks built is scalable. Every content team member uses it. If the content were on paper and not online, no remote editor would be able to access it.
Leks and Oliver built a feasible online workflow as the process owners. Workloads are increasing due to market demands. A scalable workflow can efficiently record work as it grows over time. Each reusable workflow template can:
- Monitor every time an employee begins a workflow run.
- Record the progress the employee has made in their workflow run.
- Analyze the number of times employees run a workflow. Making refining and streamlining processes easy.
Workflow software enabled Leks and Oliver to build an efficient workflow template. The content team can use that template to scale operations efficiently to infinity. By using a digital document management system, the content team has enjoyed benefits such as:
- Increased efficiency with our processes
- Streamlined workflows that reduce error
- A focus on impactful tasks such as collaborative teamwork
Focusing on the process can benefit the result more than project management. For an example of where project management overlooks the process, see the video below on why Starbucks failed in Australia.
Tracking the process of bug tracking
Workflow documentation can reduce the challenge of bug tracking. A workflow is ideal for collating all tasks involved in a process. It can also check they are on track. Working through such a process is more impactful when you can:
- Easily track the programmers responsible for the bug
- Keep a record of who noticed the bug and how they spotted it
- Have an outline of the project’s tasks to evaluate a solution
The process is also collaborative. A team can use good soft skills to work more effectively. In each workflow task, a team member can leave comments giving their opinions or pointing out bottlenecks. Employee comments, and their date and time, are stored online in the workflow.
By managing a process, team-driven work can be far more effective than solely relying on project management. TechMD, an IT company, explains in the video below how Process Street enables them to manage their processes when initiating a project:
Good software will always have new features on the horizon to keep up with ever-changing processes. That makes a good support team essential. A solid support team will help you to get the most out of the tool. Ensuring new software has excellent support is the smart move. A time saver is to have a dedicated team of experts.
For example, at Process Street, we include:
- A chat service on Facebook
- Chat boxes to answer questions rapidly
- Email support
- Help that is available inside our software
How workflow documentation improved my lessons
I previously mentioned that I needed to reduce the amount of paperwork when I taught English.
Using workflow documentation, I considered my process step-by-step. The first thing I decided to do was have a plan for each class. I started by using a story structure in every lesson:
- Beginning: Tell my audience what I was about to tell them
- Middle: Tell the audience what I had to say to them
- End: Tell the audience what I had told them
The next thing to do was make every lesson impactful. That meant addressing my presenting flaws:
- Increase efficiency: I placed my leaflets on each seat in the room before the students arrived, leaving my desk clear.
- Reduce error: I avoided the mistake of forgetting names by creating small paper signs – one for each student.
- Focus on impactful tasks: I started to create workflows for each lesson. My laptop was far more portable than a large box of paper. It also connected quickly to a projector.
Please tell us your opinions on workflow documentation. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on presentations. Let us know in the comments box below!
The post Blog first appeared on Process Street | Checklist, Workflow and SOP Software.