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Why Documenting Business Operations is Important

How a boring thing like documenting business processes can make your company hum.
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No one wants to actually spend time documenting what they do. It's time consuming and you could actually be 'doing' it rather than writing it down. My e-mail marketing company VerticalResponse has been bitten time and time again by the 'non documentation' bug and boy does it sting. Two HUGE reasons to document processes for your own business are:

1.    Your employees go on vacation and you need to pick up the pieces for what they do when they're not around.
2.    Your employees will leave your company and you'll be left holding their bag and you don't know what's in it.

Whether it's "how to input new pricing into the inventory list," "what does this line of engineering code mean?" or 'how to do an e-mail marketing campaign," everything you need to do to run your business should be in some sort of documentation. Then when you update your documentation you have a running history of processes that were created and why they were created.

One great way to document your processes is by doing it online. This way you can have control over who sees what and who can update what. Google Docs is free and an easy way to do this.

I recently had two people leave our company in the marketing department. I asked them if they'd spend their two weeks giving me the following in an online document:

  • All software used by them with access passwords. My PR and Social Media Managers who left our company mostly used online software to get their jobs done so I needed to get access to their accounts to either work with them myself, or teach their replacements how to.
  • Any step-by-step instructions for how to use the software. For instance, we use PR Newswire to get press releases out and I needed to know the steps to take to launch the next few press releases in the interim of getting a replacement person.
  • Any upcoming scheduled campaigns and each step I need to take to launch them. Our Social Media Manager was in the middle of launching a website on how to build e-mail lists called the List Building Bank. I needed to know where she was in the process and the steps I needed to take to launch it.
  • All budget related items for what has been spent and what will be spent. This was a simple monthly spreadsheet tracking each item we spent money on and what was in the budget and outstanding.
  • Any contracts we've signed. This is great so we know when our contracts expire and when we need to renew or when we can cancel them.
  • Any contacts they work with. I wanted our PR person to upload a list of all of our media contacts into a document with dates of the last time we reached out to them.

I also re-routed all of their e-mail to me in the event there was something left outstanding.

With all of this, I was able to launch four press releases myself, get a website launched, and EASILY train some new people on how to do those jobs. So why not start making it a policy now to get your people to start documenting what they do and how they do it so you're not SOL if they're not around?

Last updated: Oct 28, 2010




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