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Documenting Process Made Easy

by Kathy A. Long

There are so many methods, tools, and opinions on how to document the work that occurs in a company — sometimes called a process — that process models often become the deliverable instead of understanding the business.

Companies desperately need their work documented.  Until something is documented, it's not completely understood and cannot be measured.  Until it's understood it cannot be explained to someone else, and if it cannot be explained, it cannot be intentionally improved.  In addition, if it cannot be measured, it cannot be improved.  Without a benchmark against which to compare, provable improvement is not possible.

In our current social media environment, it's often impossible to capture people's attention long enough to identify and understand where value is created.  If you've ever documented business processes, you know in most situations it takes too long.

I suggest three rules for process documentation.

  1. It must provide immediate value.
  2. An eight-year-old should be able to understand it (not literally but conceptually).
  3. It's reusable.

1.  It must provide immediate value.

To provide immediate value, process documentation:

  • is used by people doing the work, 'fit for purpose'.
  • highlights "objectively" where the major pain points exist.
  • identifies clearly-solvable problems.

2.  It can be explained to an eight-year-old.

Someone once said, If you can't explain it simply you don't really understand it yourself.  Draw a simple picture.

An eight-year-old understands:

  • emojis, pics, GIFs, and Snapchat.
  • YouTube videos.
  •  texts, very short ones.  (omw - on my way)

3.  It's reusable.

The world is all about 're' — reuse, recycle, restore, re-examine, etc.

Never draw a picture of a process that you can't build on and reuse the concepts and information.

To do this I need:

  1. A repository — Sorry, Visio won't work.

  2. A defined approach — Everything has a purpose.  (See point #1.)  Understand what you want to achieve from day one.

  3. Knowledge — Understand how everything fits together.  The picture enables others to understand.

I will cover methods and approaches for achieving value-added process documentation in subsequent articles.

standard citation for this article:
Kathy A. Long, "Documenting Process Made Easy," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 17, No. 9 (Sep. 2016), URL:  

December 2016
It's the Conversation, Not the Picture (Part 3)

November 2016
It's the Conversation, Not the Picture (Part 2)

October 2016
It's the Conversation, Not the Picture (Part 1)

September 2016
Documenting Process Made Easy

May 2013
Process Analysis — Additional Techniques

December 2012
Overview of Common Process Analysis Techniques

September 2012
Process Roles — Who are the Process Owners?

July 2012
IGOE — Guides
From Policy to Business Rules

May 2012
IGOE — Link to Decision Criteria

March 2012
A Global Approach to Process Governance

January 2012
What is an IGOE?

September 2011
The Most Cost Effective Process Modeling Techniques

July 2011
Managing Process Project Scope

May 2011
When the Customer Gets Lost in the Rules

March 2011
Six Sigma for Service
Is it Sufficient?

January 2011
Three Critical Success Factors For Making Process Improvement Successful

November 2010
Which is More Important, Process or Rules? (Can They Be Separated?)

September 2010
A Series of Unfortunate 'Process' Events Putting the Pieces Together with Complex Process Events

May 2010
A Series of Unfortunate 'Process' Events Putting the Pieces Together with Complex Process Events

March 2010
The Next Pendulum Swing

November 2009
Is it a Cake or is it Clean? (A Litmus Test for Process)

September 2009
The "Invisible" Process (Where are Your Processes?)

May 2009
'KISS' Process Modeling Technique

January 2009
The KISS Approach to Process



 about . . .


Kathy A. Long — currently BPM Lead for Shell Oil Exploration & Production's North America Onshore Division — was formerly president of her own company, Innovative Process Consulting. She has accumulated two decades of experience in Business Process Management. She previously divided her time between assisting clients with their BPM projects and training organizations in process improvement.

Kathy is a frequent conference speaker on the various topics of Business Process Management. She is now dedicating her time to helping with the improvement of processes for Shell's Onshore business.

Kathy is the author of several articles relating to process. She is also a regular column contributor to the forum on BPM.




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