Technical Documentation


Processes that are not Step-By-Step

Some processes can be broken down into step-by-step procedures which rarely change. Other processes cannot be documented in this manner because the actual steps vary according to the situation. This is often the case in service operations. The lack of a standard set of steps does not make process documentation impossible. It, in fact, increases the need for good documentation.

The question we need to answer is, "What do we want the employee to do?" This has to be more specific than "Give the customer good service." To accomplish this it is helpful to look at the mechanics of a decision flow process.

Situation 1:

A customer comes into a hardware store and is met by a salesperson who asks, "Can I help you?" The customer responds, "Yes, I am looking for a new drill." Salesperson "Do you want one that is cordless or one that plugs into the wall?" Customer, "A cordless model."

Situation 2

A customer comes into a hardware store and is met by a salesperson who asks, "Can I help you?" The customer responds, "Yes, I want to return this drill." Salesperson "Do you want a replacement or credit?" Customer, "A replacement."

Let’s breakdown both of these situations and look at what’s happening.

Situation 1 Situation 2
Assessment There is a customer that needs help. There is a customer that needs help.
Response Confirm that the customer needs help. Confirm that the customer needs help.
Assessment Customer wants a new drill. Customer wants to return a product.
Response Determine what kind of drill the customer is interested in. Determine what kind of return is requested.
Assessment The customer wants to be shown the cordless drills. The customer's drill is probably defective.
Response Show the customer the cordless drill and talk about the various features. Determine the nature of the defect and get the customer a new drill.

How Process Flow Differs from Step-By-Step

Decision Flow Processes Concentrate On;

• The sequence of decisions.
• The knowledge needed by the operator to make good decisions.

While the example above may appear to so obvious that it is not worth documenting, consider how many times it doesn’t happen in a retail setting. Remember, people aren’t born with these skills. Not everyone has experience in retail sales.

This type of process analysis is also useful because it highlights other areas where documentation and training is needed.

• Knowledge of cord and cordless drills.
• How to handle returns for replacement.
• How to handle returns for credit.

Documenting Processes or a Product or Service

Unless your organization produces only one or two products or services you probably have fewer processes than products. It is not unusual for products with different functions to share the same processes. Examples include scheduling jobs, inventory functions, one or more manufacturing processes and shipping.

Advantages of Documenting Process Flow Procedures

Documenting your process rather than individual products or services hold the following advantages:

• Reduction in the number of processes to document and maintain.
• Simplification of operator certification for ISO requirements.
• Reduction in the effort needed to bring new products to market.

Technical Documentation