Small Business Process Documentation

You don’t find a lot of small businesses documenting their processes.

This is simply because they don’t find any reason to. You see, in the early stages of a small business; your employees are few, your processes are simple and mostly handled by a single person, you can easily choose to ignore documenting your business processes and suffer no harm.

But, as your business begins to grow; your client list expands rapidly, you’re recruiting more talent, your business processes begin to rely on several activities by more people to complete, then choosing to ignore process documentation would hinder your business from serving your customers efficiently among other problems.

Business Process documentation is a detailed description of how to execute a process. It entails the recording of every step, document and resource that is needed to completely execute a task.

At the end, the business process document should provide a detailed enough description of activities and resources to allow anyone without prior idea of the business process to be able to perform that process from beginning to end.

Why It Matters – Importance of Business Process Documentation

Why should a small business owner care enough to document their business processes?

Well, here are a few things a growing small business would benefit from documenting their business processes:

  1. Efficiency – The goal of process documentation is to improve process performance. By documenting your business processes, your team can easily identify bottlenecks and areas of inefficiencies in specific business processes which can be corrected to create a more efficient standardize process.
  2. Knowledge Base – When a key employee leaves, many businesses suffer because it is likely they left with essential knowledge of processes valuable without transferring that knowledge to someone else. This creates a vacuum that makes business processes to break down and hard to fill after an employee’s exit. Business process documentation makes this scenario less likely. It also makes it easy to train new employees to carry out business processes.
  3. Consistency – Business process documentation enables operational consistency as it relies on a formalize manual to carry out processes instead of rely on personal discretion and off-heart knowledge that leads to inconsistency in process execution and final product.
  4. Cost Reduction – From the 3 benefits discussed above you can see the various cost savings a business can enjoy from business process documentation. First through improved process performance, then through easier training for new employees, and then operational consistency. With more process efficiency comes more results and lower prices. If you ask me, that’s a triple win.

Now, that we’ve demonstrated four critical benefits of business process documentation, it is time to outline the steps in documenting a business process.

Steps to Documenting Your Business Process

Small businesses looking to document their processes can utilize these easy steps to get it done:

  1. Identify & Name The Process – You begin your business process documentation by choosing a process to document. After you’ve identified a process, you have to choose a name that appropriately describes that process (you can choose to name the process after you have defined the scope).
  • Tip – It is tempting to want to start by documenting every process in your business but start with a simple process and choose a brief name that is specific enough to describe the chosen process.
  1. Define The Scope – Process scope definition means that you have to outline the activities the process covers and what it does not cover. It is also essential that you define the beginning and end of the process, what triggers it to start and end, a description of the steps necessary to complete the process, the roles involved, etc.
  2. Define The Resources – Various resources would be needed to successfully implement your business process. What inputs are the inputs needed? Outline the inputs needed for your project, indicating the different steps in your process where they would be needed. Also, describe the final product of this process. What would be the deliverable or deliverables at the end of the process?
  3. Gather Process Information – In this step, the business needs to collect as much information as it can on the process from employees involved in the process, subject matter experts, etc. Be sure to get your information from every one involved in your chosen process. A few techniques you can use to get the information you need include; Direct observation, interviews and questionnaires.
  4. Organize Process Information – After you must have gathered sufficient information on the process, it is time to organize that information to create a process flow. This should be done in an easy to understand and sequential manner.
  • Tip – outline the roles responsible for carrying out each task in a way that is easy for your audience to understand.
  1. Visualize The Process – Visualizing your documented process in a flowchart makes it easier for new and existing employees to quickly grasp information on the flowchart.
  2. Collect and Review Feedback – It may feel like your work is done, but we’ve only come have way. The next step involves sharing the business process document with stakeholders of the process and get feedback on areas for improvement. Review the feedback and make necessary improvements.
  3. Distribute – Without this step the benefits of documenting your business process would not be fully achieved. After you’ve reviewed your business process document and flowchart, the final step is to make it available to stakeholders.
  • Tip –  Distribute the business process flowchart and documents in a way that is easily accessible to your stakeholders. We recommend using a digital distribution channel like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Yes, I know I said the distribution step was the last but it is just the last- for now. You should always plan to review your business process to unlock more efficiency – this can be an annual process.

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