Every time someone wants to add business process documentation such as a new procedure, a sentence to an existing procedure, or a new form; ask the following questions.
Does the law require it?
Federal, state, local, and international laws regulate many procedures and processes, especially in industries and public services where health and safety are primary concerns. Employment practice laws exist at all levels of government. Keeping records specified in regulations or standards helps to maintain accreditation, certification, or compliance status. In any case, make sure the employees responsible for your process documentation see copies of the applicable laws or regulations so that required procedures are applicable, developed, and maintained.
Does the contract specify it?
Many contracts or purchase orders are vague in defining documentation requirements. So, an organization’s internal business functions (departments) may interpret requirements narrowly. For example, a contract may only read “seller will maintain documentation.” A department such as quality control might interpret that to mean everything must be retained, which may be unnecessary. Make sure you understand your company’s documentation responsibilities in relation to contract compliance.
Is it necessary for prudent business operations?
Does it make business sense to document the process or procedure? Maintaining documentation could be justified as a prudent business practice. What makes sense to one department might not make sense to another one, however. Clearly defining business needs and supporting them with evidence can help with making this decision.
Would the documentation harm your organization if it were eliminated in part or in whole?
Some process documentation requirements are less tangible than those spelled out in laws, contracts, or standards. Harm might come to your organization if you promise customer documentation and do not deliver. It can be harmful. However, the absence of expected documentation frustrates your employees and reduces productivity. Moreover, your company could be harmed if a lack of documentation causes your employees to make errors or perform redundant tasks.
Would the documentation harm your organization if it existed in part or in whole?
Sometimes, after you establish a documentation need, all or part of the existing or proposed document could place a burden on employees, customers, or other affected parties. The point of this question is to avoid introducing or keeping documentation that could cause harm as it applies to the process you are evaluating.
Bottom Line for Business Process Documentation Need
Documentation of a procedure or process should accomplish something. There are times when documentation is always needed such as for health or safety reasons, for accreditation, or for regulatory compliance. Sometimes, documentation of a procedure or process is written in reaction to a unique incident — just in case it happens again. Regardless of the reason, it should be determined why documentation is required. This flowchart tool helps you decide.