Why and How to Document Business Processes – 5 Easy Ways

Being the CEO of a fast-growing virtual assistant business, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer, typing out processes for staff.  I’d rather be out talking to clients and helping people. The drudgery of documenting processes is something that does not interest me.

guy banging head on desk

However, VA Platinum would not function nor would it have grown so rapidly without us documenting these processes (which we call “systems”).

Documenting standard business procedures for virtual assistants working for financial advisers, financial planners, and mortgage brokers, ensures high-quality work, compliance with legislations, and helps clients.

While you can trust that your employees can think on their feet, it’s easier to expect good results if you provide resources they can work with.

I thank all my virtual assistants who carefully build a library of systems that everyone in the company can access.
 

Why is Documenting Systems Important?

Imagine you’re asked to bake a chocolate cake.

All the ingredients are in front of you, but you have little knowledge about baking.

You have a go at it anyway.

After hours of mixing and whisking, you end up driving to the closest bakery and buying a cake there.

This is why documenting systems is important.

Although you could have baked something that resembles a cake, knowing the process would have made it easier.

no cake for you meme

Systems are used as a reference on how to complete a task efficiently.

Whether it’s an email template or a tutorial on how to use a specific program or tool, it’s important to have some kind of documentation as a guide.

This way, staff can use the document for training or if they need clarification.

To save time on documentation, you can use video capture, create a checklist, or take screenshots.

Each of these methods is best used in certain situations.

So, here’s how you document a system properly:
 

1. Create the system document

A system document tells you all the information about how a task is done in a pre-set/standardised layout.

Think of it as a road map.

road map

We ask the following questions:

  • What is the task?
  • Why does the task need to be completed?
  • Who is in charge of completing the task?
  • When does it need to be done?
  • How does the task need to be done? 

For example, if you ask your virtual assistants to send you an email at the end of the day summarising what they’ve achieved, your system document should look like this:

  • What is the task?

Sending out daily updates.

  • Why does the task need to be completed?

To provide a detailed summary of what you’ve done on that day. This way, you can show accountability in your role.

  • Who is in charge of completing the task?

Everyone.

  • When does it need to be done?

Every workday, by the end of the business day.

  • How does the task need to be done?

    1. List down the task

    • Identify the status of the task
    • Report actions done and bottlenecks
    • If the task is incomplete, provide an estimated time of completion

2. Send the daily update to team members

Here’s an example of a daily update I sent out to my team.

sample daily update

As you can see, I’m a pretty busy guy. I get things done.
 

2. Video Capture

Video capture is the way to go when you want to create a tutorial.

It’s quick, easy, and effective. You simply record yourself doing the work. This way, someone who’s watching you doing a task can just follow the steps you’ve taken.

video capture

A recorded Skype call turned into a video tutorial on how to set up voicemails.

My staff and I use video capture for more than documenting systems. I often ask them to video capture calls and meetings so they can go back to the video if they need to clarify something that we talked about.

video review session

A snapshot of the article review session we had with the digital marketing team.

Our virtual assistants primarily use FastStone Capture. It’s an affordable, easy-to-use software that you can download.

Another good video capture plug-in that you can use is Loom.

It’s a Google Chrome plug-in that allows you to capture videos and share them with your team.
 

3. Use A Checklist

a checklist

Some processes need to be done in specific steps.

Let’s go back to that cake.

You pushed through and baked it anyway.

It comes out of the oven looking great!

You take a bite… and drive down the bakery to buy a cake there.

You realised that you didn’t add the sugar… and the butter… and the chocolate.

face palm

A checklist helps ensure that all the steps are done in the correct order and that nothing is missed out.

You complete repetitive tasks more quickly and efficiently while making fewer mistakes.

It’s also helpful in keeping you motivated to finish tasks. There’s something satisfying in checking off items from a list.

Trello, Asana, and Teamwork are just some of the applications our virtual assistants and clients use to help organise, track, and manage their work.

Screenshot of Trello checklist

Example of a daily admin task checklist on Trello

4. Collect Screenshots

Like video capture, screenshots are a great way to create tutorials for a system.

Since we use a number of tools and programs that are industry-specific, screenshots allow you to create a visual guide.

It highlights an interface choice with a visual reference and creates step-by-step instructions for a specific task.

sample screenshot for CCTV access system document

An example of how we use screenshots for our CCTV access system document.

5. Keep System Documents Centralised

girl with a magnifying glass searching for a file on a laptop

Don’t you just hate wasting time looking for a file, going through hundreds of folders, only to find it on the desktop?

Ok, let’s not blame bad eyesight. This is a common frustration at any workplace.

Organisation and centralisation of system documents and other process references are vital.

Why go through the trouble of documentation if you can’t find the file when you need it?

For easier file sharing, use services like Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint, or even the file-sharing features on Asana and Slack.

The biggest problem with the lack of documentation is that it hinders productivity.

It causes staff to spend more time on a task because processes still need to be explained to them or it takes a long time for them to find references.

What’s also interesting is that staff often end up discovering ways to become more efficient.

Remember to keep your system documents updated.

When someone finds a more efficient way to finish a task, update the document with their best practice.

Sure, documentation is boring. But proper system documentation can make or break your company’s growth.

Related topic: Apps You Should Have When Working with Virtual Assistants

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