A Technology Recipe for Success: The Powerful Flavor of Documentation

How important is documentation?

Ever try to put together a puzzle without a picture of the end result? Ever try to put together a complex piece of furniture from IKEA with nothing more than the box and parts but no instructions? Ever try to use a tree chipper without directions? Ask the one armed man how that turned out.

I would bet my paycheck 1,000 times over that it’s easier and more time and cost effective when you have that documentation.

You may be thinking to yourself…

Documenting what I already know how to do is a “BIG” waste of time!

Why do I need this?

The better questions is, why would you not want to document how your processes should work in the software that runs your business? Because it requires too much effort?

Large companies find documentation extremely valuable but for smaller businesses, it can be critical to your survival. McDonalds and every other franchise out there documents processes and procedures. The information is invaluable to the franchises to know how to run the business and the specific processes and steps it takes to replicate the success in how their system works. Documentation takes the reliance on people out of the process. With well documented processes and procedures, your Big Mac comes out the same way every time on time. 

Why it’s beneficial:

  1. Better Customer Service

  2. Better internal communication

  3. Less mistakes which saves time correcting mistakes

  4. Faster training time

  5. You are less dependent on your people-employees go on vacation, maternity leave, jury duty, or even leave the company

  6. Increases efficiency and ensure consistency

  7. Frees up your mind to focus on other tasks

  8. You can’t change a process or look for efficiencies in it, if you don’t know how it works. The documentation is the starting point for that analysis…

  9. Helps you remember seldom or rarely used processes.

  10. It keeps you from putting out fires due to incorrect processing.

  11. You aren’t relying on the memory of an employee to determine how something is done

  12. Ensures that if you sell your business, you can include the processes that make it work so the company can survive under another owner.

We receive requests regularly for documentation. Sometime at the beginning of the sale, sometimes in the middle of the implementation and sometimes later on too. Documentation provided by Microsoft or the Add-On vendor is a good starting point. It is only a starting point though. Custom documentation detailing how your company uses the software is critical. No “out of the box” documentation is going to cover your process in detail.

Documentation is especially important where custom modifications are included. We often find that no one can find the original documentation and the people who had the modification done in the first place are long gone. No one knows why something was programmed or how it was supposed to work. Many times customers are not even aware that there is custom code in their system. They think the base system works that way naturally.

A pinch of Documentation goes a long way!

I always recommend that you make documents which outline the processes and procedures for your internal people. They should print out the documentation and make themselves a binder of the processes and the steps required to complete them. Those that have followed that advice have seen it pay off. This has been a successful recipe for many businesses in every industry, both large and small! Consider documentation the salt of all companies success. Everyone loves the flavor.

To get started in your organization:

  1. Have your employees brain storm a list of the functions of their job.

  2. Prioritize those functions from most frequent to least frequent.

  3. Create a template and ask users to document the functions they perform. Just having them document procedures can bring to light questions they have for gaps in their understanding of the process. Compile documentation on processes performed by more than one employee. Make sure they match up.

  4. Create a folder with standard operating procedures across the company and organize by specific job roles.

Save emails and modification request documents to a folder that can be accessed later. This becomes especially helpful when you want to upgrade and need to determine which customizations are no longer used and which can be replaced with newly available standard functionality.

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