Updating Process Documents as a Result of COVID-19

Most of us are ramping up our businesses after a COVID-19-related hiatus or moving forward with new business as a result of a recent pivot. Either way, now is the time to audit and update business process documentation.

Our “new normal” likely means that at least some of your business processes and procedures have changed, and thus the documentation is outdated.

Leverage your newfound business energy to bring that documentation up to date so that it reflects the current state and current needs of your business.

Where do I start?

Before you revise any process documentation, conduct a quick audit of what you have. In a spreadsheet or table:

  1. List the document’s title, purpose, and location.
  2. Include a relevant date for the document – when it was last updated, published, revised, or submitted.
  3. Evaluate each document to determine whether the content is still relevant. Based on this evaluation, indicate whether the document should be revised, replaced or archived (or left as is).
  4. Identify any gaps or missing documents. For example, if you expanded your facility cleaning procedures, add a spot on your documents list for any new instructions your staff might need.

Which documents should I update?

Just as your business has many different facets, so do your business processes and process documentation.

If your accounting or legal needs or practices have changed, consult with your professional advisors before making adjustments to documentation in these areas. That said, updating this documentation should be your highest priority because failure to supply adequate data or comply with legal and/or tax requirements could impact revenue. (And get you in a lot of trouble.)

Next, review your workplace and product compliance documents. What documentation is absolutely required and what additional documents do you want to put in place?

  • For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor didn’t create any new OSHA obligations for COVID-19 (legal-wise), but their Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 document does outline some new recommendations and strategies. Areas to consider are engineering/facility controls, administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. You might even want to put an SHMS in place.
  • Also consider that while your product compliance status might not have changed (for CE, EMC, or WEEE, for instance), regulatory and compliance standards are always evolving. So now is a good time to review and make a plan. You might also want to consider more fully documenting your product testing procedures to ensure consistency.
  • Finally, consider whether your product packaging or labeling needs have changed. For example, while the U.S. FDA is being flexible with food labeling for now, your customers might demand more detail than they had previously.

Most importantly of all, now is the time to document your business continuity plan.

The biggest changes in your business might be in your daily or weekly operations or workflow. It’s good to capture the workflow end-to-end in a diagram and/or tabbed manual or intranet. Ensure that all required steps are included. Also remember to distinguish which processes are temporary and which are part of the “new normal.” These processes will require the most staff training. Now also might be a good time to consider automating some tasks or, as funds allow, incorporating AI.

Operations changes might also have entailed changes to your supply chain procedures and your customer service procedures. If you’ve moved these online, ensure that user touchpoints are well-designed, easy to understand, and easy to troubleshoot. Document those troubleshooting steps! (Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine.) If you have automated some processes, now is a good time to review that automation for pain points and identify improvements. Document the changes in an improvement plan.

Most importantly of all, now is the time to document your business continuity plan.  Identify potential threats and weaknesses to your business readiness, and document workarounds for workflow paths or systems that might fail. Be sure to also document how your business would recover from unplanned downtime. It should go without saying – but I will say it anyway – that you should also up your game when it comes to cybersecurity. Hackers have used this time to learn new skills, too.

Who can help?

Your process documentation is more likely to be in safe hands if you hire information designers and developers who are professionals.

As with any contractor you hire, look at their experience, samples, and references. Schedule an introductory interview, and be prepared to outline for them what you need and why you need it. Don’t be surprised if they ask a lot of questions about your business goals and customers. They need big picture information, too.

With this discussion, you and your contractor should be able to focus more narrowly on the work to be done and some approaches to completing it. You might hear some professional lingo as your discussion progresses, but don’t be afraid to ask for definitions and clarifications.

It’s true that many information professionals have specialized titles, such as content designer, UX designer, and UX writer. Most of us in the content strategy field have a broad enough vision of what is needed that we can bring together the skill set that you need. We can bring our own team, recommend an associate, or help you hire someone. Some of us can even wear multiple hats.

If you would like to know more about what a content strategist can do for you or if want to find a content strategist for your next project, please feel free to reach out to me. I am ready to help.

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