Business Process Documentation: Automate It!

Take the pain out of document generation, and boost accuracy too.

digital process documentation cio v2

Audit. Compliance. Team training. Process re-engineering. Every one of these activities requires that your team have accurate business process documentation in-hand to maximize success.

Is it optional? Not really. For a variety of reasons, complex enterprises need to have a firm understanding of how they actually conduct business and “how things really work around here.” And it needs to be written down in a way that your team, your auditors, your regulators, and your business analysts will understand and be able to use and customize for their intended purpose.

Challenges. The problem is that generating and maintaining accurate business process documentation is a real pain because it’s time consuming and difficult. The knowledge of the process has to come from business users and business analysts, whose time is expensive – and any time spent creating documentation takes them away from their primary mission of running the business. Even worse, once this hard-won information is captured, it can become out-of-date in a matter of days or weeks as business processes change over time.

The cost of documenting your business processes can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct costs for consultants, interviewers, and document preparation – not to mention your team’s opportunity cost which can be much greater.

An Automation Path. If you’ve made it this far, it’s because you’re looking for a better way – and the good news is that automation provides today’s most effective solution.

With software for automated business process documentation, the business user turns on a process “capture” feature from their desktop toolbar when executing a business process in their enterprise application of choice, such as SAP or a web application. When the process is complete, they simply turn off the capture feature. Every business process function, keystroke, and transaction has been uploaded into the automation software. In this way, the software captures process information directly from the user’s interaction with the application and its underlying business objects. No interviewer. No time delay. Little chance of error. High accuracy. Lower cost.

The best part is that this is not limited to single transactions with an individual user. You may have a dozen or more people involved in a complex end-to-end business process – and today’s automation platforms have the ability to stitch together business process segments across users and geographies. This means that they can capture a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the whole process. Note that this is not a hypothetical process or the process as it was originally designed – it’s the process as actually executed by real business users every day.

Capturing the process is the hard part, and once that’s done, generating documents is straightforward.

Training Documents. Creating step-by step-documents for training business users on how to perform normal process activities (such as creating a new order or processing a shipment), has historically been time consuming, tedious, and quickly outdated. With software like Worksoft AnalyzeTM, step-by step-training materials include a narrative of each process step along with sample data, full screenshots, and even highlighted data entry fields used for every transaction. Results are automatically generated in MS Word or PDF documents. Best of all, when part of a process changes (because a business user has captured a process in a new way), new documentation is generated with the click of a button. With automation software, the generation of training material is automatic, and automatically updated.

Audit & Compliance Documents. When external or internal auditors are deployed in your organization, one of the first things they ask for is a description of the processes used in your business. In my experience this is time-consuming and takes away valuable time from your team’s normal activities. In addition to detailed, plain-English process narratives described above, Worksoft Analyze allows you to provide auditors with up-to-date flow charts describing the overall process (when an overview is needed), as well as detailed step-by-step documentation. Manual steps or signature approval blocks can be easily added because the process description is generated in easy-to-edit formats, like MS Word.

There’s much more we could discuss, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to continue the conversation. Next time, we will describe how you can layer analytics on top of captured business process flows for process optimization, streamlining, and re-engineering.

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