Learning how to document processes and procedures has a number of benefits. It will save you time as you won’t need to think about what to do when carrying out regular business functions. Your work will become more consistent as you will always be following the same steps every time you perform a task. Quality will improve as you won’t miss out on any steps, and you’re less likely to make a mistake.
What are processes and procedures?
So, what’s the difference between a process and a procedure? The two terms are often used interchangeably in business, but the definition of each is:
- A process consists of the steps or actions required to complete a task.
- A procedure describes who does each step and how it’s done.
So, in short, a process is the ‘what’ and a procedure is the ‘how’.
Depending on the size of the task at hand, you can choose to document processes and procedures separately or combine them into one diagram.
A process diagram usually consists of the inputs to a task, the outputs, and the steps to get from one to the other.
A procedure is often more descriptive, including who does each step and how they achieve it.
How to analyse your processes
Before documenting your processes and procedures you should analyse them. This involves listing all your processes, including the purpose of each one, and then brainstorming the steps required to undertake each task.
The best way to do this is by using a flipchart, a whiteboard, or sticky notes. You can get ‘magic’ paper that sticks to walls (available on Amazon here) which works really well when you don’t have a whiteboard or flipchart. If you are working remotely then there are digital whiteboard apps such as Miro or Mural.
You should make a note of which department is responsible for each step, bearing in mind that some may cross over into more than one. You should also list all the apps or tools you use to complete each task, and what their function is. If you are considering replacing a tool then make a note of this.
How to document your processes and procedures
Once you have a list of processes then you can document them. There are a number of tools you can use to do this, many of which are free.
The first tool for documenting processes and procedures is a simple spreadsheet. This works for many businesses and you can create a different sheet for each process. You can use separate columns to include the following information (using the 5W1H method):
- Where does the task occur?
- How is the task accomplished?
- What steps are required? What data, or apps are needed?
- Who is involved? Which team do they belong to, or is it a customer, or supplier?
- When does this task occur? Is it time-critical?
- Why is this step or task important?
If you’d rather create a more visual representation of the process then you could use a flowchart tool such as Visio or Draw.io. Flowcharts provide clarity and understanding of the sequence of actions, and it is often an easier way to identify unnecessary steps. You can colour-code steps based on which team does them, or other criteria. You can also use the standard symbols for data, forms and other media to give instant visual analysis of a process.
And when you’re ready to document the process in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), you can capture the finer details by asking the person responsible for the process to digitally document it. You could use an app like Scribe that helps you to easily record a work-through of a process and then captures, videos, screenshots and transcibes the text automatically – it’s pretty clever. It makes the whole process documentation and SOP writing process much easier.
There are also checklist-style apps which have been developed specifically for documenting processes. These include Process Street, which are a great way of creating SOPs. They are cloud-based solutions which can also integrate with other apps including Zapier to automate tasks.
Courtesy of Process Street
Or you could simply stick with Miro or Mural, which have flowcharting templates as well as sticky notes and customer journey maps.
Once you have documented your processes then you can think about automating them. We have written a blog post about the benefits of automating processes which is a great starting point, and we also have some free resources:
- Our free e-book is the perfect introduction to business automation.
- The Solvaa YouTube channel includes demos of how Zapier can be used to automate common business processes.
- Our Zapier functions cheat sheet delves into the powerful inbuilt helper apps which can supercharge your automations.
Our founder, Kelly’s new book, Automate It with Zapier, is out now and is the most comprehensive Zapier guide on the market. You can buy a copy from Amazon: here are links to Amazon (.co.uk) and Amazon (.com) to get yours now.
Check out our automation training programme
And finally, if you’re really keen to transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.
It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too!
Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.
Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘.
Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.
Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.
Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors.
Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.