Have you ever been asked to train a colleague or even just teach them something new?
Whether there’s a new hire at your organization or a coworker who is unfamiliar with a particular task, you’ve likely needed to share your knowledge at some point.
If you’re a process owner, creating and maintaining process documentation is helpful for a variety of reasons.
Not only can documenting a process save time, but it also helps ensure that tasks get done correctly by outlining a consistent set of directions. It can also help prevent bottlenecks in day-to-day operations by spreading knowledge throughout a team instead of funneling all tasks through one person.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics of process documentation, provide some best practices, and share a step-by-step guide that will help you document a process in just a few clicks!
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is process documentation?
- Why do we document processes?
- Best practices for effective process documentation.
- How to document a process easily with screenshots.
- Supplement your process documentation with a screencast video.
What is process documentation?
Process documentation is written content with screenshots, illustrations, diagrams, or other imagery (video works as well) that conveys each step throughout a process to successfully complete a task.
You can think of it as similar to a how-to guide or set of instructions.
Benefits of process documentation
Process documentation isn’t exclusively used for directions or helping coworkers. It can also be used to:
Train new hires
Process documentation helps train new hires. Offering clear instructions to your new teammates enables them to help themselves through their onboarding process rather than being completely dependent on their trainer.
Additionally, team vacancies often mean other members may have to pick up the slack and might not have the time to train someone new. Having documented processes available can help alleviate that problem.
It’s a win-win. Your new employee can start their job with confidence, and you don’t have to spend precious time away from other duties.
Prepare for the unexpected
Often, when a new employee joins the team, they are filling a vacancy. As noted above, having a vacancy can mean that other team members have to pick up work.
If the processes for completing that work haven’t been documented, that can lead to confusion, missed deadlines, and decreased productivity — not to mention lower team morale.
Imagine a scenario where your payroll person is out for a week, month, or even longer. Your employees might not like missed paychecks simply because no one else knows how to use the payroll software.
Documenting processes before it becomes absolutely necessary means less stress and pressure when staff members may already be stretched thin. Of course, you can still create process documentation when you have an immediate need to train a colleague, too!
Provide process transparency
Additionally, documenting processes helps maintain transparency within an organization. It allows employees who aren’t close to a particular area of the business some insight into tasks outside their immediate team and/or department.
In turn, this can lead to workflow improvements, such as eliminating duplicate steps or tasks. It can also highlight pain points, which can result in action items. Awareness of sticking points in a process may be all that it takes to get resources allocated to make incremental improvements.
Best practices for effective process documentation
Before diving into creation, let’s cover some best practices for process documentation. Below are a few things to keep in mind as you plan, create, and maintain process documentation.
Make it visual
Research shows that 67% of people understand information better when it’s communicated visually.
Including screenshots in your documentation is one of the fastest, most effective ways to show colleagues how to do something. Our favorite tool to use for process documentation is Snagit.
Snagit allows you to easily capture screenshots and add text callouts, numbered steps, and other customizable annotations to draw attention to a particular area to convey information.
Keep it simple
Be mindful of your audience’s cognitive load – eliminate unnecessary distractions from your content so that your audience can focus on what is important. There are several ways to do this, but in general, your guiding principle should be to boil down the communication to the essentials.
With screenshots that you capture for use in your documentation, one way to highlight a particular action is to use the Simply tool in Snagit to create simplified user interface (SUI) graphics. This allows you to cover up unnecessary sections to eliminate distraction.
Aim for evergreen
As you plan and work through documenting a process, try to avoid examples and text which will quickly become outdated. For example, try not to use version numbers in software, dates, or references that could quickly become irrelevant. Being mindful with your approach can help you keep your content up-to-date longer.
Simplified User Interface graphics are great for this application as well. They allow you to avoid frequent updates to your content, such as cases when buttons move around in software applications.
While we want our content to be evergreen, even the best content will eventually require updates.
When this happens, try to edit your existing screenshots instead of a total re-do. Snagit’s library keeps a handy record of past screenshots, which means you can open and edit them as necessary.
Don’t have your original files? No problem! Just take a screenshot of your screenshot! Snagit has some great options for editing screenshots, such as Smart Move and Replace Text, that will save valuable time.
Schedule regular check-ins, even if they are only once a year. This will ensure that your content stays up-to-date and has all the necessary steps, even as systems and other variables change. Be sure to get feedback from relevant people in your organization. Others may have valuable insights to share.
How to document a process easily with screenshots
Let’s walk through the screenshot documentation process using Snagit.
Step 1: Consider your process
Think through the process you will document, and write down each step of the workflow that you will include in your documentation. This will ensure you don’t skip over anything, and it can act as an outline as you document the task.
If you’re working with someone else to document their process, make sure they’re involved in the planning.
Step 2: Prepare your desktop
Using your plan as a guide, pull up all of the software applications that you will need to capture screenshots from. To eliminate distractions on your screen, you may wish to tidy up your desktop as well, and close any applications that aren’t necessary to your process.
Step 3: Capture your screenshots
Now, it’s time to capture screenshots of each step in your process.
Note that it’s better to capture a larger section of your screen versus a smaller section if you haven’t yet drafted accompanying text, because you can always resize or trim your screenshot later. All of your screen captures will automatically show up in the Snagit editor.
Step 4: Customize your screenshots
Now that you’ve captured all of the screenshots you need, you can customize them. Try out the Simplify option to remove distractions, or use callouts to add shapes, numbered steps using the step tool, text annotations – whatever makes sense to highlight important aspects of your process.
You can even create a custom theme in Snagit with colors and other styles so that your screenshots have a consistent look throughout your documentation.
Want to show the steps in a process?
Use the Snagit’s Step Tool. You can add numbered or lettered step notations with just a click. Snagit automatically adds the correct number or letter as you go. Check out this video to see it in action!
Step 5: Package and deliver with templates
Now, the only thing left to do is to package up your screenshots so they’re ready to deliver in whatever format you choose. With Snagit, you can combine your screenshots into a single image using templates.
First, click the Create button and choose Image from Template or select images from the Recent Captures tray, then right click and choose combine in template. You can select whichever templates best suit the needs of your job aid.
Then, simply drag and drop your images and adjust them within the template. It’s that easy!
Snagit can also share directly to Word in addition to a number of other popular software apps, including PowerPoint, Outlook, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, TechSmith Camtasia, and more.
Once everything is just right, you can deliver to your audience or upload somewhere else, such as a company SharePoint page, so that your process documentation is available on-demand.
Supplement your process documentation with a screencast video
Alongside your process documentation, consider including a supplemental screencast video.
A video can show coworkers the process in action, and you can add narration as you go to help clarify even further. If anything is unclear to your recipients from your process document, they can turn to the video to learn more.
You can use Snagit to record all of or a portion of your screen in addition to capturing your screenshots. When you’re finished recording, Snagit allows you to trim out any parts of the video you wish to remove.
Your screencast doesn’t need to be formal, though. Remember that perfect is the enemy of good. Simply walk through the process on your computer as you record your screen. You can talk through what is happening as well.
The video can supplement your process documentation and provide just a bit more assistance to anyone who wants it.
Check out the video below for a great walkthrough of using video for process documentation:
You’re ready to make excellent process documentation!
That’s all there is to it! You’re ready to share your knowledge with coworkers and ensure that processes run smoothly. You’ll save everyone time and effort with your great process documents!
Process documentation is important for a variety of reasons, including keeping coworkers up-to-date on procedures, helping to train new hires, preparing for the unexpected, and much more! Having documents ready to go will speed up learning and keep your workplace running smoothly.
A few great examples of process documentation are how-to guides, quick reference guides, job aids, and more. Video works great, too!
Great process documents are visual, simple, evergreen, and are updated often. They should always have clear direction and be easy to understand.