As your business grows, the pace of your workflow is only going to speed up as time goes on. To keep up, upgrading your technological infrastructure is a must to meet consumer needs and marketing trends at the very least. However, there is a huge roadblock that comes with that tech upgrade: understanding it and bonding it to your workflow.
Fortunately, the answer is easy, and it’s something that you do every day when you send an email or a text message. Process documentation is your key to the kingdom. It’s a pure communication of ideas that can be easily distributed to multiple individuals quickly and efficiently, and in today’s modern business model it’s extremely easy to implement.
Efficient Solutions at Your Fingertips
If there’s anything an employer wants from their employees, it’s that they be efficient. From personal experience, nothing is less efficient than a single resource that’s stretched too thin, and so other work suffers. Documentation can help solve this problem quickly at the source, by quickly distributing the knowledge on a single individual to multiple people at once.
Let’s jump into an example of just how effective process documentation can be:
- Your office has acquired a new printer that does it all. It scans, it prints, it does everything you want (except make coffee). It’s a GREAT printer. There’s just one problem. You can’t get it to print from your computer. The solution you might normally rely on is to call your IT guy, Greg, and have him set it up for you. But he’s on a project schedule and has to set up the printer for everybody else in the office as well. Greg’s great but he can’t be everywhere all at once.
- By far the more efficient solution is to coordinate with Greg, acquire the steps to install the printer on your PC, and then distribute those steps in a document around the office. That way you and your department can solve your problem immediately, Greg can make huge headway on his project, and that amazing printer can start doing what you paid for (coffee maker attachment pending). Not to mention when a new hire joins the team, you can hand them the setup document and they can begin work right away.
From the example we’re able to see the immediate effects of documenting even a simple procedure. By applying this process documentation to the rest of your internal policies/tech, we see an instant upswing in efficiency.
Delving Process Documentation Potential: Documentation Culture
So now that we’re documenting our procedures, what comes next? Is documentation just made to be a patch for any new procedure that comes in and we just leave it at that? Unfortunately, this is where a lot of companies stop on their documentation journey, as they become complacent that the problem is solved. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s up to everybody in the company to use documentation as a chance to improve. That opportunity is the cultivation of a healthy documentation culture within the company.
We’ll go to another example to illustrate this:
- IT Director Frank writes a procedure for a new handheld scanner that his front desk clerk can use to check in packages. After about a day, he sees on his monitoring software that the scanner isn’t being used! The kneejerk reaction is to go to the clerk and ask what they did wrong. But Frank has been writing these procedures since he started, and his other procedures have gone off without a hitch.
- So instead, Frank pauses and quickly analyzes his procedures first. By doing so he is analyzing not only his writing process, but the entire avenue of communication from him to the front desk. He finds that a crucial step is poorly written in this documentation, so the front desk may not even realize they are doing something wrong.
Frank then takes his findings to the front desk clerk to analyze the procedure together, correcting it and finding a solution to streamline the process.
Let’s list the benefits of what just occurred:
- Effective Problem Solving: Frank saw that a problem had occurred, and instead of looking for someone to blame, his first instinct was to hold the process accountable and identify the breakdown in communication. When he went to the clerk, he was able to bring solutions to the table, not just a problem. If he had never written the process, he would just be demanding what went wrong from the clerk, who had to memorize those data entry steps without the documentation.
- Fostering of Communication: Every conversation is an opportunity. The writing of the documentation created the opportunity to improve a working relationship. Now that Frank has solved a problem with the clerk, he has established an avenue of communication, that is now familiar to them both. Ideally, they should be able to work together more effectively in the future as the experience was a positive one.
- Accountability: Someone failed in their communication along this procedure workflow. In this case, it was Frank. Frank failed to provide clear directions the first time. However, this is an AMAZING opportunity for both parties. Frank will now be more careful about his writing habits in the future, and the clerk will critically analyze any other documentation they receive. The process of documentation allows both of them to isolate the issue and hold the responsible parties accountable. It was free training for both of them, they both benefitted from it, and all before it got out of hand.
The Endless Options
The news only gets better with time. The previous examples are only the tip of the iceberg for what documentation can do for your infrastructure. Documentation can also provide:
- Marketable procedures to your customers
- Building of self-sufficient habits and training
- Easy to fill in templates for ticketing systems, emails, letterheads, procedure structures, etc.
- Professional formatting of internal documents
- Tech infrastructure diagrams. Have you ever wanted to see what your network looks like?
- The fostering of communication between departments
- Monthly newsletters to keep your workforce up to date
- The preservation of procedures with a documentation platform
- Peace of mind that if something goes wrong, there’s a documented fallback response
- Audit preparation
- The list goes on!
Documentation Does So Much, Where Do I Begin?
Truly, the first step to making documentation starts with an individual’s perception of documentation as a concept. Adding documentation to your infrastructure shouldn’t be seen as a chore but an ever-evolving opportunity. The chance to communicate with your co-workers or clientele and collaborate on a project to improve their efficiency is gold in this day and age. Who doesn’t want their employees to be efficient? Who doesn’t want their procedures to be organized and referenceable? Make your job easier!
“But I don’t know how to document! Where do I even start writing?” The honest answer is that everybody starts somewhere. The improvement on that answer is that in this age of information, you don’t have to start at square one!
There are many tools you can use online that you can reference to create documentation content:
- Manufacturer Manuals: Every piece of hardware or software that you implement typically has an online manufacturer manual. These are great resources to have on-hand should you need troubleshooting steps etc.
- Using AI: With the release of AI programs like ChatGPT and Bard, these applications can basically write documentation for you. However, these programs should be taken with a grain of salt as they do come with some risks and limitations. We at BIT recommend proofing and editing AI generated articles for content accuracy. For more information about AI and the risks involved, reference our article.
- Documentation Platforms: Many online documentation platforms to organize and publish your company’s procedures are available today. Though they typically require a subscription fee, the cost is generally well worth the results. Confluence by Atlassian, IT Glue, and Microsoft Sharepoint, are great examples of easily implemented options for your documentation needs.
Being able to reference an expert in the field is invaluable no matter the industry. Documentation is no different. Whether you bring an individual onto your team to manage documentation for you, or you outsource to another company, having someone who can streamline your processes, enforce your formatting and document organization needs, and customize documents for you as needed is a huge step to upgrading your company’s efficiency.
Documentation, at the end of the day, should provide you with peace of mind. It really is an all-in-one tool! Once a culture of documentation has been bonded to your workflow you should see an upswing in communication, organization, efficiency, training, and accountability in your workspace. We promote documentation because we’ve seen it work, and if you would like to know more, Bridgehead IT is prepared to help you get started. Contact us here!