Document Your Processes - It Pays!

By James K. Boomer, MCP

There are a number of tasks we do on a frequent basis that become so routine that we take for granted that “everyone in our organization knows how to do that!” This assumption is most likely untrue. More likely, a number of employees are sitting at their desks right this moment stumped about where to begin with this new project they have been assigned. Documented processes provide a perfect starting point for new projects.

The first step in documenting a process is identifying a repeatable process that is frequently used within the organization. Be careful to not take too narrow of a view. Many tasks we do have very similar steps that lead to very different outcomes. These tasks can be grouped together to make a single documented process built with enough flexibility that it can be applied to each specific task.

After you have identified your process, it is important to talk to representatives from all parties that play a direct or indirect role in this process. This step can be completed in a number of different ways.

  • Formal interviews
  • Informal face to face discussions
  • Sending out a questionnaire
  • Observing the process in progress

Once you have collected input from all parties involved, you can start to flush out key areas for improvement, consolidation of similar tasks that serve the same purpose, and eliminate unnecessary tasks. Another key area to look for is steps that your organization is currently completing in house that are not in line with your unique abilities. These steps are perfect candidates to be outsourced to a 3rd party that can complete the tasks more efficiently, reduce turn around time and cost. This information should be the basis of your documented process. Documentation of the process can be done with a combination of a process flow program, such as Microsoft Visio, and a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word.

Now that you have the process in writing, you are ready for the most important and most challenging step; getting your people to follow the process. By talking to people up front and collecting their input, you have a head start. Make sure that the documented process is distributed throughout your organization. In a larger organization, it might be helpful to take a phased role out approach. You can start with personnel in key management positions within your organization. Once these individuals understand and buy in to the process, they can distribute to the people that they work with.

Benefits to Documented Processes

  • Increased consistency of how work gets done within your organization
  • Decreased “ramp-up” time for new hires or existing employees transitioning to a new role
  • Provide a guide to creating new processes or selecting a new technology to use within your organization

A personal example – The Boomer Guide Creation Process

One of my first assignments after coming onboard with Boomer Consulting, Inc. was to formalize the process for creating Strategic Guides. We had already published the Guide to Strategic Planning and the Guide to Outsourcing which served as good templates but there was no formal documented process. With four new guides in the pipeline and different members of the Boomer Team assigned as authors for each of the guides, it became apparent that we needed a formal process. With our repeatable process identified, I set out to talk to the key people involved in the process.

Through interviews with internal Boomer personnel, representatives from our Marketing/Design firm, and representatives from other organizations that publish similar products on a regular basis, I was able to identify key areas for improvement, consolidate overlapping steps, and eliminate unnecessary tasks. Further, we identified some steps that we had been trying to complete in house that would be more efficiently completed by our Marketing/Design firm. We opted to leave all of the design to the 3rd party firm since it is not what we do. The information gathered during these interviews was the basis for documenting the process. The document included process flows, textual descriptions for steps that required further clarification including parties involved, and a timeline of when each step should be completed. Once we had our process in writing, it was presented in a staff meeting where we solicited feedback and suggested improvements. With everyone providing input, it was relatively easy to get buy in from the entire organization. We are now ready to put our process to use as we move forward with creating new guides on a quarterly basis.

You may like these other stories...

Clawback policies vary by company, industry: PwCAccording to a report issued to clients by PwC on April 17, companies have instituted a wide range of so-called clawback policies – with no two exactly alike – in...
For the first time in the five-year history of’s rankings of the top 50 accounting firms to work for in North America, a firm has held the top spot as best accounting employer for two consecutive years....
With tomorrow being Tax Day, you might see some procrastinators at your office filling out forms, printing out paperwork, or getting last-minute tax advice from their accountant so they can meet the IRS’s filing...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Apr 22
Is everyone at your organization meeting your client service expectations? Let client service expert, Kristen Rampe, CPA help you establish a reputation of top-tier service in every facet of your firm during this one hour webinar.
Apr 24
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA introduces you to a powerful but underutilized macro feature in Excel.
Apr 25
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations' revenues. It will include discussions of revenue recognition for cash and non-cash contributions as well as other revenues commonly received by non-profit organizations.
Apr 30
During the second session of a four-part series on Individual Leadership, the focus will be on time management- a critical success factor for effective leadership. Each person has 24 hours of time to spend each day; the key is making wise investments and knowing what investments yield the greatest return.