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Engineering LibreTexts

1.2.2: Documenting a Process

  • Page ID
    58650
  • Documenting a Process

    Every day, each of us will conduct many processes without even thinking about them: getting ready for work, using an ATM, reading our e-mail, etc. But as processes grow more complex, they need to be documented. For businesses, it is essential to do this, because it allows them to ensure control over how activities are undertaken in their organization. It also allows for standardization: McDonald’s has the same process for building a Big Mac in all of its restaurants.

    The simplest way to document a process is to simply create a list. The list shows each step in the process; each step can be checked off upon completion. For example, a simple process, such as how to create an account on eBay, might look like this:

    1. Go to ebay.com.
    2. Click on “register.”
    3. Enter your contact information in the “Tell us about you” box.
    4. Choose your user ID and password.
    5. Agree to User Agreement and Privacy Policy by clicking on “Submit.”

    Documenting a process in list format may be beneficial for minor uses or quick fixes; however, if the process is more extensive, listing every detail will cause disorganization. It is best to invest in resources that help manage all of the activities and resources that are required. The ability of a business to effectively document processes and activities can determine the overall efficiency of the business.

    There are a great number of office applications (both free and paid) that can help efficiently document processes and business activities. Microsoft offers many resources that are designed for businesses to manage their business as efficiently as possible, inclusive towards developing efficient information systems. There are too many to list in this section, however; you can do research to see what other resources will be beneficial for your company and its needs.

    For processes that are not so straightforward, documenting the process as a checklist may not be sufficient. For example, here is the process for determining if an article for a term needs to be added to Wikipedia:

    1. Search Wikipedia to determine if the term already exists.
    2. If the term is found, then an article is already written, so you must think of another term. Go to 1.
    3. If the term is not found, then look to see if there is a related term.
    4. If there is a related term, then create a redirect.
    5. If there is not a related term, then create a new article.

    This procedure is relatively simple – in fact, it has the same number of steps as the previous example – but because it has some decision points, it is more difficult to track with as a simple list. In these cases, it may make more sense to use a diagram to document the process:

    Process diagram for determining if a new term should be added to Wikipedia (click to enlarge). (Public Domain)