Process Documentation – A Modern Approach

Every organization aspires to grow with time. The most common hurdle faced by an organization in the path of scalability is the absence of proper processes and systems. To overcome this, an organization needs to adopt a standardized approach to business process creation and documentation. All the business processes should be documented in a systematic way to remove all kinds of operational ambiguity and to serve as a training material for all the process users. This meets the organization’s current and future needs in terms of achieving a desired business output in a methodical, replicable and ordered fashion.

Understanding the New Way of Process Documentation

Over the years Process Flowchart preparation has undergone a sea change in its approach. The traditional approach of Process Flowcharting covers the sequence of events in a process by including all the exceptions in the path. Today flowcharts are supposed to present the desired flow of the process minus the exceptions. The exceptions are presented in a separate section below the flowchart. Some of the exceptions which are lengthy and difficult to manage are detailed as a separate process altogether for better understanding. The difference between the new approach and the old approach of Process Documentation is as follows.

Traditional Way of Process Documentation

New Way of Process Documentation

Graphically represents the entire sequence of events in a process including the flow exceptions.

Graphically represents the desired sequence of events in a process minus decision boxes and exceptions.

Exceptions are presented within the process flowchart.

Exceptions are presented in the “Process Description” section below the flowchart.

Exceptions which are lengthy are covered within the main process flowchart making it cumbersome and difficult to understand.

Exceptions which are lengthy and have a unique flow are detailed as a separate process altogether.

Does not identify improvements in the current flow readily.

Identifies immediate improvements in the existing process.

Lean cannot be implemented easily as it does not readily identify improvements.

Lean solutions to eliminate wastages can be easily implemented.

Difficult to understand and implement because it’s bulky and complex.

Easy to understand and implement.

Has been made redundant by the Lean experts and the new Process Writers because all exclusions can never be covered in totality in Process Flowcharts.

It’s a preferred way of documentation for Lean experts and Process writers.

Advantages of the New Approach
The new approach, as opposed to the traditional approach of covering all exceptions within the Flowchart, has several advantages which are as follows:

  1. Referenceability: The output of this approach is a neat document which is easily referenceable unlike the cluttered bulky document, produced by the traditional approach, which is confusing and difficult to follow.

  2. Management: The Process Documents (containing Process Flowcharts, Process Description and other items like Key Process Indicators, Escalation Matrix, Glossary etc.) produced by the modern approach can be easily managed as they aren’t as cumbersome compared to those produced through the traditional approach.

  3. Dynamic Exception Addition: Making Process Flowcharts without decision boxes gives an opportunity to the Process Owners to include exceptions dynamically. The exceptions can be easily listed in the Process Description without changing the flowchart at all. This is particularly useful for processes with a large number of exceptions which are discovered as the process matures.

  4. Implementation: This approach is easier to follow from the implementation point of view.

  5. Handling of new versions: It enables ease of handling of newer versions of the processes (created due to modifications in the existing sequence) as the basic flow fundamentally remains constant.

  6. Continuous Improvement through FMEA: It presents an opportunity to the team to do Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) on all the process boxes separately and ensures all the exceptions are mitigated with the appropriate solutions. Thus this approach aids innovation and continuous improvement.

  7. Continuous Improvement through Lean: Lean can be more easily deployed in this approach than in the traditional approach.

  8. Visualization: The Flowchart in this approach gives a one-shot view of the process steps and thus registers more in the mind of the process users.

The New Approach through an Example
Given below is an example of a Process Flowchart done through the modern approach. It details all the steps in a “New Service Connection” process in a power management company.

- Business Process Flowchart: “New Service Connection” of power supply

  1. Abbreviations and Legions Used:

CSD: Customer Service Department
NSC: New Service Connection
CCB: Customer Care and Billing
DN: Demand Note
CF: Commercial Feasibility
TF: Technical Feasibility
FE: Field Executive

Activities in the process flow which can be automated
 Activities in the process flow which have to be standardised
Pocess steps
 Start of the process
 End of the process

  1. Explanation:

The above flowchart describes a cross-functional process flow establishing clear-cut accountability for each business function. The business function which has the maximum number of activity boxes becomes the “Process Owner Function”. The accountability of an activity box, which is very critical in the overall process stays with the Process Owner Function even if it is to be performed by another business function. The Process Owner function remains responsible to create mechanisms in the form of metrics, dashboards etc. to bring in transparency in that particular step.

In this flowchart the NSC team was the Process Owner Function as the customer documentation was outsourced to a “Documentation Agency” which was managed internally by the NSC team. The activity “Do the dedup basis the details captured” was critical but was being performed by a different function. Here the NSC team brought in transparency with system-driven checks and measures so that when the details of the customer were entered, de-duplication or dedup happened automatically and the “Consumer No.” got generated through the IT system.

The activity box which could be automated in the future were colour-coded (yellow in this case) thus clearly bringing out the IT system requirements. Moreover, there was a need for standardization of some activities in the existing flow for eliminating occurrence of errors in that step. These were colour-coded as well (blue in this case). This process mapping readily recognised areas for implementing mistake-proofing solutions through Lean. The activity box “FE collects and verifies the documents” was identified as a step which could lead to generation of maximum errors if not done properly. The Lean solution which got implemented to counter this pain area was preparation of an “Activity Checklist” which had to mandatorily filled up by the FE during the visit to complete the document collection and verification.

The procedure to handle the exceptions were not covered within the flowchart but were explained in a table below the flowchart which is as follows:

    • Guidelines for Exception Handling