Process Documentation: Lifeline for Business Operations
As organizations compete and pursue ways to conduct their businesses with enhanced efficiencies and vigor, there is an exponential shift from a traditional person-dependent set-up to a process-driven approach.
This shift is also essential in terms of managing the people risk and ensuring business continuity in line with the concept of ‘going concern’. An organization with no documented processes may still be performing well because of a good pool of resources, who are adept in their respective areas of work. But the problem arises when any one from this pool, leaves the organization taking along with them, the processes and procedures, that were followed for efficient performance of their tasks and activities. In the absence of documented processes, the organization is suddenly, left in the lurch!
Under such circumstances, a well-defined process document comes to the rescue as it can be referred by the existing employees in executing those tasks in the same manner and with same efficiency as was earlier performed by the exiting resource. In the present world, process documents have become a necessity in ensuring the smooth functioning of business operations.
What is a process document?
A process document also known as a standard operating procedure document, or SOP, is a set of clearly defined instructions to carry out a routine operation or an activity. In simple terms, out of several ways of performing an activity, SOP provides the best possible and most efficient way of conducting such activity.
Need for having documented processes
Processes form the core of business operations, and thus documenting them is important for many reasons including the following:
- Standardization: A SOP brings in consistency and standardization in the execution of each activity of a function, thereby making the processes more efficient and effective.
- Defining Roles & Responsibilities: It helps in outlining and clearly stating both the individual and team roles & responsibilities which further helps in appropriate allocation of delegated authorities.
- Establishing Interfaces & Timelines: It contains well-defined inter-departmental/ system interfaces with clearly stated timelines for performing the activities. This enables documentation of SLAs between inter-facing departments.
- Process Understanding: It acts as a guiding document for less experienced individuals to understand their roles properly and become a productive member of the team. It also becomes training manual for the new joiners.
- Enhanced Process Efficiency: An SOP, containing best industry practices, ensures optimal performance in terms of process efficiency and turnaround time.
- Control by Exception: Clearly written procedures allow managers to exercise control by exception rather than ‘micro-manage’ their staff.
It would also be worthwhile to note that an SOP should be developed keeping in mind the inherent risks associated with the processes and should also be aligned with the industry best practices. Once the SOP is implemented, it should be periodically monitored to ensure its compliance and timely reviewed and updated to ensure that the document remains aligned to the existing business operations and leading practices.
Risk of not having a well-defined and documented processes
If an organization tries to run its operations without carefully created and well-documented processes and procedures, it results in a culture of disorganization. Below are some of the key challenges encountered by the business lines and the overall organization per se, in the absence of properly documented procedures:
To summarize, organizations lacking documented processes, are bound to be inefficient and lagging their competitors who have defined, standardized and documented processes and procedures in place for performing their business operations. Having an appropriate SOP in place is also essential from the point of view that in its absence, employees may create unique and multiple ways to accomplish day-to-day tasks which may not be efficient and effective and result in one or more redundancies. Thus, to ensure consistency in the organizational outputs, it is imperative to have standardized process documents that can internally be regarded as a single point of reference by all employees for performance of their tasks and duties.