You have a problem: You need to document policies, procedures or best practices. It is time consuming to write them yourself and participating in meetings with everyone every time something changes is exhausting. Good news: There are tools out there that allow you to build and review documentation without having to spend time on everything yourself.
It’s no secret that documentation is vital to the success of any business. In fact, a common phrase within the Information Technology industry states that without documentation, a system may fail. Why is this? Well, in order to properly set up your system and then to troubleshoot issues, you must be aware of what steps are taking place before anything goes wrong and then how to fix it after.
Implementing a new business process or changing an old one can be difficult. People can get confused, not know what to do, you name it. It is always better to have detailed documentation of your processes and procedures than not. What type of tool you will use to document them depends on the environment you work in and the nature of your work.
A process isn’t complete, until it has been documented. If you’re not quite sure on where to start or which software to get, I’ve rounded up the top 10 best process documentation software options out there.
10 Best Business Process Documentation Tools
As your business grows, having processes in place will become increasingly important. Think of all the different parts of your business that have specific internal processes that need to be followed:
- Onboarding new hires
- Completing contracts
- Bringing on new vendors
- Getting budgets approved
And the list goes on. Unfortunately, when it comes to processes, many companies fall under one of two categories:
- They don’t have any processes in place
- They don’t have processes documented anywhere, so everyone has their own variation of the processes
In either case, the end result is miscommunication, difficulty tracking the progress of certain tasks and disorganization.
Luckily, with the right business process documentation tools, you can get your entire company on the same page and get things done faster since all the steps of each process will be clearly outlined and available to the entire company.
So, here are 10 business process documentation tools that’ll keep your company organized and cohesive.
Trello is a project management tool that uses the Kanban framework. You can read about Kanban here, but essentially it’s a system that allows you to setup processes and move projects along the specified steps until they’re completed.
The way you can use Trello as a business process documentation tool is to create boards for all the different processes your business has. For instance, a board for new employee onboarding like this one.
For pretty much any process you can think of, you can create a Trello board to manage it. The best part about Trello is you can organize your boards by teams, so every department has its own set of boards where they can outline their processes.
Plus, you can track the progress of any tasks that are currently going through the process so you know where everything stands.
Podio is another project management tool, but it’s not quite like Trello. It’s more of a flexible system your company can use for documenting business processes and much more. It’s primarily for larger companies juggling several processes and projects.
If your needs are more complex than just needing to outline your processes, Podio could be a good solution. Just keep in mind you’ll likely need a project manager to set up and maintain your system to ensure tasks are being completed and moving through the system.
Confluence has become a fairly popular tool (particularly among tech companies) for creating internal wikis. With confluence, you can plan out projects, communicate updates to the company and have an overall “hub” for all your company information.
If you don’t want something as dynamic as Trello’s Kanban boards, but rather a hub to store your business process documents, Confluence can be a good choice. You can create documents that outline the processes of each department and they’ll be searchable within your hub.
Plus, Confluence is made by Atlassian, which is the same company that owns Trello so the tools play well together. Just keep in mind that the learning curve is a little steep due to all the different features of the software.
Another business process documentation tool popular among tech companies is Basecamp. The simplest way to describe Basecamp is an internal communications tool. While it has several different features that’ll help document your business processes, one of the main ones that stick out is the to-do lists.
With the to-do lists, you can outline any processes that need to be completed, and assign them out to different members of your team. The processes can be copied so you can re-use them as needed.
This is particularly useful if your business processes involve multiple team members. For instance, if the process for bringing on new vendors involves getting approval from the head of your department, getting the contract reviewed by legal, and then having it paid for by finance, you can assign out each task to the appropriate person.
Wrike is a work management solution that allows teams to collaborate with ease. It has several of the features of some of the other tools on our list, which makes it a good option for companies looking for more than just a tool to create and manage their process documentation.
Wrike is particularly helpful for companies that have remote employees since everyone can access any information from anywhere (including on mobile devices). Plus, if your company doesn’t have business processes documented, it’s a great tool to collaborate to create one.
Also, every employee has their own dashboard so they can see anything that needs to be done on their end and if they’re slowing down any processes that need to get done.
One process that every department in any business has to handle is paperwork. Sending and getting paperwork signed can be a hassle, particularly if you need it signed by multiple people.
Eversign makes that process easier by offering complete document workflow management. From creating templates to emailing them and ensuring everyone signs them, eversign makes your document workflow a breeze.
The best part is you can create templates for all the different documents you need to have signed on a regular basis. That way everyone knows which documents to send and can customize them based on their needs.
If your business processes involve getting data from multiple sources, and has several steps that can (and should) be automated, Integrify is a business process documentation tool to look into. It allows you to create processes from a drag-and-drop dashboard so you can easily set the steps needed for any process and automate it.
The beauty of Integrify over other tools is the automation aspect. Once you create your process, you don’t have to manually move from one step to the next. For instance, in the image below, you can see a process flow for submitting a vacation/time-off request.
Once an employee submits their form, the rest of the process kicks in and all the appropriate stakeholders get notified when their step needs to be completed. This cuts back on the employee needing to check with their manager, HR and other departments to find out what the status of their request is.
Whether you’re looking to create and automate business processes for finance, marketing, sales or any other department, Integrify has tools to cut out the manual work.
8. Google Drive
If you’re looking for a free tool that you can use simply to document all your business processes, it doesn’t get much simpler than Google Drive. The free platform that allows you to store files and create documents is easy to turn into a business process documentation tool.
One route would be to create folders for all your different departments. Then, in each folder have documents that outline all the different processes from how to submit accounts payable requests to IT support or any other process.
Since Google Drive is collaborative, you can create Google Docs with the processes and if anything changes it’ll be easy to update the documentation in real time. The downside of using Drive as a business process documentation tool is you don’t get the frills of some of the other tools on our list. But for a basic, free solution it’s hard to beat. Particularly for small businesses with only a few employees.
Most businesses don’t think of Evernote as a business process documentation tool. However, it’s much more than just a handy way to take notes from around the web. With their business plan, you have access to some of their more advanced features like Spaces, which acts as a “hub” for your team similar to Confluence.
Spaces acts as an intranet for your team where you can document all your different processes, plus store notes, ideas, dashboards and more.
Another feature you can take advantage of is their template library. They have document templates for everything from interviewing employees to planning projects and more.
One way this can come in handy is if your hiring process involves interviewing as a step, you can include a link to the template your team should use to “score” interviewees. Since everything’s in one place, it’s easy to find and convenient for your entire team.
8 key considerations for selecting the best process documentation tool
Before we look at the top five, let’s first consider what functions in an ideal world make a business process documentation tool the most effective.
- It can be accessed and shared easily: this is important because otherwise the documentation won’t be used or reviewed properly. As a result, it won’t reflect reality.
- It makes collaborating easy: this is especially helpful in companies with more than a handful of people. The bigger the firm, the more helpful collaboration is.
- It’s mobile friendly: When you and your people are on the move, accessing documentation via mobile devices is essential.
- It’s online: Having access wherever you are, at whichever workstation, makes life easier.
- It integrates other tools: There are a number of other tools, such as Gsuite and Confluence, that support process documentation and it’s helpful when you can use them in an integrated way.
- It does more than one thing: Some tools are great for writing notes or instructions, others are better for creating complex process maps. But what if you have one tool that can do it all?
- It’s user-friendly: Ever looked at an interface and felt like you’re dying inside? That’s a sign it’s not user-friendly. Instead, a tool should be easily usable by even your colleague Jim who swears by Microsoft Word 2003.
- It balances functionality with simplicity: Too many functions and options and poor old Jim will lose his shit, while too few and it’s useful to no one. It’s about having just enough to be simple and effective.
Documentation is a critical task of most organizations. The quality of documentation determines the effectiveness of the service delivery processes and the overall customer experience. On this basis, one can argue that how much money is spent on having the right software solution for documenting procedures and decisions. As you know, documenting company processes and procedures is absolutely critical. But, when doing it manually takes hours and hours of your time and low-quality results, one must look for ways to automate the process and not lose any of the vital information.
Documentation is an important part of many business process management systems. It can be used to document how employees carry out certain tasks or help in managing a business. It can also be used to provide information on how a business processes work and how decisions are made about that process. Whether you’re a small business owner who wants to be more organized, or a large company that’s simply trying to document its workflow in more detail so it can operate more smoothly and make better decisions, you’re going to need the right tools for the job.