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As a small business owner, you need to document your business processes to delegate and grow, but most of us just can’t squeeze any more work into the day. You may be your company’s operations, sales, marketing, human resources, accounting, and IT departments, all while having the same 24 hours as everyone else. You need help and whether you outsource business process documentation or DIY it in-house, capturing the workflows that keep your company running is essential to hiring and training new people.
In today’s video, ProcessDriven CEO and small business owner Layla Pomper shares why the documentation process is vital, the pros and cons of outsourcing process documentation versus doing it yourself, and offers a compromise for those looking for a happy middle ground.
What is Business Process Documentation? (timestamp 01:45)
Business process documentation is taking what you know works and recording it so it can be duplicated. One of the most valuable benefits of creating replicable workflows is that it allows us to hire and train people, giving us more time to allocate to other things. This documentation typically takes the form of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), a set of written instructions describing a step-by-step process that one must take to achieve specific results.
Process documentation is the difference between simply asking someone to make a cake and providing them with a recipe. Even if you work with a team of professional bakers, each cake will turn out differently. You might end up with a birthday cake and two wedding cakes. They could be different sizes, shapes, flavors, and consistencies. When everyone follows the same recipe, you work towards a shared goal and achieve consistent results.
Pro Tip: Additional documentation is vital even if you have a process map for your workflows. A process map shows the system; documentation answers the how and why to use it.
The Benefits of SOPs
A business consists of many different processes, each containing many SOPs. You may have an SOP for making daily deposits, onboarding a new client, or posting a blog. The more methods you document, the less frequently team members must rely on you for training and troubleshooting.
SOPs are all the recipes for your business, allowing you to record and transfer knowledge and create efficient workflows. Having thorough business process documentation ensures:
- Consistency – replicable processes ensure consistent results for team members and customers.
- Efficiency – process documentation can highlight problem areas for modification.
- Accuracy – workflow documentation reduces human error and creates automation possibilities.
- Clarity – team members know what is necessary and how to complete tasks.
- Improved Training – use SOPs to train employees on best practices quickly.
- Security – recover from unexpected events without starting over from scratch.
Although initially time-consuming to establish, the rewards of a comprehensive business process documentation library are well worth the resource investment.
The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Process Documentation
In the video, Layla tackles the myth that complexity makes outsourcing the best solution for small business owners to record their processes. In truth, there are benefits to both outsourcing and keeping things internal. There’s even a hybrid option that suits the needs of many entrepreneurs.
Let’s first look at a few reasons why you might want to outsource (timestamp 03:15):
Pro: Quality of Work
Suppose you are in a highly regulated industry or a business that requires firm quality control. In that case, you’ll achieve professional quality results much faster working with a process documentation expert than on your own. You benefit from the extensive knowledge and experience of someone whose entire business is process documentation. Returning to our delicious example, if a cake is the focal point of your big event, would you rather entrust it to a professional cake decorator or take a shot at piping rosettes yourself?
Pro: Expert Perspective
As a specialist, a process documentation professional draws on their use case experience. They often have firsthand knowledge of industry standards, common mistakes, and what works for similar companies and what doesn’t. Professional advice can be transformational for your business by challenging the status quo, looking at what you already do, and offering suggestions to make it better. In some cases, the efficiency boost is worth the steep cost of hiring a proper industry authority.
Although difficult, we’ve accepted that not everyone finds organizing their business processes and work efficiency as sexy as we do. We’re doing our best to change that. Until then, being accountable to someone and having them be responsible to you ensures your documentation project gets completed and not stuck in procrastination limbo.
Pro Tip: Save the content you create with TextExpander (affiliate link), a productivity tool that allows you to paste “snippets” of text with just an abbreviation. Copy SOP snippets to email, work management software, and presentations, or search the public content library for pre-made snippets instead of starting from scratch (timestamp 06:10).
Now let’s look at some reasons for keeping process documentation internal (timestamp 07:30):
When you hire an outside specialist to document your processes, they often provide packages that include services or products you don’t need. Keeping things in-house gives you complete oversight and control over the documentation process, allowing you to spend only the necessary time and resources without unnecessary add-ons.
Hiring an outside consultant to create a system and then asking teams to use and maintain it is like requiring them to touch up a Van Gogh periodically. They didn’t help paint the original, nor are they classical painters, but you’d like it refreshed from time to time. Business process documentation is an ongoing practice, a system intended to be created with you. Including your employees gives them a sense of ownership, keeps them invested, and provides the tools they need to use and maintain your SOPs.
If no documentation exists, team members may have their own, not necessarily efficient, ways of completing tasks. A consultant spends considerable time gathering information and determining which methods are best practices before beginning to organize and document. Internal process documentation allows you to transfer knowledge directly without the many extraction sessions a consultant needs to learn the ins and outs of your business.
A Happy Medium for Outsourcing Process Documentation (timestamp 13:00)
We don’t think that business process documentation is too complex for small business owners, but we believe many can benefit from an in-between approach, somewhere in the middle of DIY and done for you. Partnering with a consultant who acts as a coach can give you direction, accountability, and access to expert advice and tested methods. That’s what we aim for with our ProcessDriven Membership, where we give people the support, tools, and guidance they need to document their business processes in a way that works best for them and their teams.
Which path appeals most to you? Are you a business DIYer, or do you prefer outsourced process documentation? Somewhere in the middle?
If you want additional information on process documentation, how to do it, what software to use, and the best ways to work more efficiently, subscribe to the ProcessDriven YouTube Channel and get notified when we post new videos.
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