15 Tools for Documenting Internal Business Processes
What one tool would you recommend for documenting internal business processes and why?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
We use Asana as our project management tool in all departments. For processes that we repeat (e.g. onboarding a new hire), we create template projects in Asana with all the necessary steps, including who the task should be assigned to and what the dependencies are. The templates can be updated by anyone and are constantly evolving as we improve.
We’ve recently adopted Evernote and have found it to be a great internal “wiki.” Aside from being great for organization, the tool allows you to annotate all of your processes with photos, emails and more, thereby adding context. As you hire more people, sharing why a process exists can be as important as the process itself.
Podio is a remarkably flexible platform for storing and referencing information. We use it for so many things: bug tracking, deployment planning and post-mortem analyses, security procedures, client tracking and user management. It allows you to quickly and easily build and customize “apps” for each use case, so you can conform it to your workflow, rather than the other way around.
I’ve used Trello as a project management tool in multiple businesses and partnerships, and it always seems to work well. By creating templates in the software that I can replicate and tweak for different processes, I make sure things stay consistent and my team knows not only what needs to get done, but how to get it done.
Build a password-protected website to document internal business processes. Squarespace is an incredibly easy platform to use, and it provides a logical, flexible platform for organizing processes. Plus, it can easily be shared and updated as things inevitably evolve within the company.
Confluence is the standard for wikis because of how easy it is to use and cross-link material. We use it to share links for discussion, capture plans, and create business processes, and its searchability makes it easy to find information. Its Gliffy integration also makes it easy to diagram, draw workflows or present visual information as well.
7. Microsoft Visio
Pictures and images enhance the understanding that employees have of the company’s systems and processes. By using images (e.g. flowcharts), a company can help its employees develop a comprehensive understanding of how business is conducted. Microsoft Visio also provides a great tool for collaboration among team members, as well as encouraging all participants to ask the question, “Why do we do it this way?”
Basecamp is a great asset to keep your team members all on the same page. It allows them to more easily complete any project as a group. It also helps with initiating, tracking and improving processes. There’s a free trial available, and a basic account starts at just $20 per month. You can also purchase extra storage for your business as it scales.
9. Google Drive
Google docs is the best single tool for documenting business practices because it’s easy to use with any complementary business process management system. We use it with Trello, but I’ve seen companies use it with Asana, PivotalTracker, JIRA, or just in email. It’s got all the functions of an office suite, with unlimited potential for different kinds of collaboration. And it’s free!
For developers, JIRA is a great tool to use when documenting business processes. You have to use either the text portlet or the improved HTML plugin to set everything up in a table with interlinking between issues and documents. If you structure it right, everything hyperlinks to everything else and stays organized in a logical grid format. It’s also easy to spot updates and new docs.
Wrike provides a space for us to not only document, but also brainstorm, bounce ideas and work back and forth, collaborate, submit for review and so much more. It is the perfect hub for a team that includes remote employees because we can all easily access tasks (past, present and future) on multiple different devices. Wrike keeps us in check and organized.
12. Salesforce Workflows
In our company, Salesforce is more than just our CRM — it’s our business platform. One of its key features is called Workflows, which are automation rules. For every business process automated with a workflow, we have added the notes directly in the system. This saves us time from having to look up a description elsewhere. Build your documentation right into the business process system itself.
Apollo is a great project management tool that doubles up as a customer relations management tool. It is great for giving a holistic outlook on every process of your company — from tracking project progress to keeping track of all of your clients, as well as adding a layer of time-tracking functionality. It also provides a calendar for task management and event planning.
A shared, internal corporate wiki is absolutely the way to go. You can document processes, embed videos, attach files, collaborate via comments, inter-link pages and see how each wiki page has changed over time. Plus, you can passively receive email notifications about changes made in the wiki, which allowsyou to keep better tabs on what’s happening inside your business.
For early-stage startups, simple business process flowcharts (drawn using MS Visio) could help manually streamline processes. As your business grows and internal processes become more complex, one tool I would recommend implementing is Integrify. It’s an enterprise-level workflow and business process management tool that allows you to create and automate workflows from HR to Finance.
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