White Paper: Prioritizing Process Documentation

Photo of Muniza Arifin

This paper focuses on the importance of prioritizing processes before creating a project schedule. Process documentation projects start with a long list of events, tasks, and activities that need to be documented. This list can seem initially overwhelming, but by clearly defining the objectives of the project, it is possible to prioritize the items on the list.

Filtering the list based on project objectives can identify the processes that are likely to have the most impact when improvements are made. For example, if one of the objectives is to increase customer satisfaction, the processes that are visible to the customer need to be identified. The focus can then be on these processes and their supporting activities. Filtering can identify processes that:

  • Are redundant because they are already covered by another process
  • Provide low ROI (return on investment)
  • Score low in customer satisfaction
  • Cause frustration to the staff

The above list provides examples of criteria that can be used to prioritize and filter the list. Each project will have its own unique set of criteria based on its objectives.

Benefits of Prioritizing Documentation

Documenting every process without first obtaining knowledge of its properties and value to the overall objectives can make it difficult for the team to focus and can waste valuable time. These are some of the benefits of prioritizing the list before starting documentation:

  • Saves time and effort by documenting only the processes that contribute to the objectives of the project; avoids spending time on low priority or redundant processes.
  • Provides a clear and consistent sense of purpose among participants because the list has been prioritized with the help of stakeholders.
  • Enables the success metrics of each process to be aligned with the overall objectives because processes have been prioritized based on the objectives of the project.
  • Fosters informed and valuable team participation and feedback because participants understand how each process contributes to the objective.

Facilitating a Filtering Session

The simplest way to create a prioritized list is to bring together the process team, project sponsors, and process owners and facilitate a filtering session. The goal of the session is to filter the list of processes based on a defined set of criteria. The criteria can be simple or complex. One option is a simple exercise in which participants plot processes on a two‐dimensional chart (for example, effort against value). Another option is to work with a more comprehensive matrix that takes multiple objectives into account.

The discussion in the session should remain high‐level; the exercise does not require the team to go into the details of each process, but simply to first define the criteria and then to weigh each process against those criteria. This will meet the goals of the filtering session and allow the project to move forward with clearer focus.

Conclusion

Process documentation projects require enthusiastic participation from the project sponsors, process owners, and the staff involved in the process. Keeping the attention of a large group of people through delays and changes can affect the quality of their participation and consequently, the quality of the project. Prioritizing is one of the ways to mitigate this risk.

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Muniza is a partner at Lucid IDS, a technical writing company based in Vienna, VA. She has over 15 years of experience in information development and project management with companies such as AOL, Freddie Mac, U.S. Department of Commerce, Nortel Networks, and United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She currently serves as the chapter's President.