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How-To Essentials
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    Introduction
    Verification and Packaging
    Project Management
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Introduction

Similar to building a house, which starts with the construction of a frame, Rapid Documentation begins with the construction of an Organizer for the documentation. With an Organizer in place, project planning is simple:

Building the Organizer for the Manual

Suggested Sections

The procedures manual should include several sections:

Section 1.0 – Introduction

This section provides a robust summary of the group's activities in narrative format. It can be read independently of the procedures, providing the reader with a comprehensive overview of the group (or function); or as an introduction to the more detailed procedures providing the reader with a more detailed context for the group's processes and procedures. The Introduction generally includes an overview of the group or function; its products/services; key risks and how they are controlled; and applicable key internal policies and any regulations governing the group's activities.

Section 2.0 – Roles and Responsibilities

A section on Roles and Responsibilities is especially important for manuals which will be utilized by auditors and regulators. The section generally provides an overview of the group's organization; job descriptions for key roles; and role descriptions for other groups with which the group interfaces. It may be combined with the Introduction section.

Section 3.0 – Procedures

The procedures section provides step-by-step descriptions of activities or processes performed by the group (or function). The purpose of the manual will determine the appropriate level of granularity for the procedures.

Section 4.0 – References

References provide supplementary information and may include exhibits such as screenshots, reports or forms; policies or regulations; other manuals; or other external reference information.

Building the Organizer for the Manual

Sample Manual Organizers

Sample organizers for the Introduction and Roles and Responsibilities sections of compliance related and operational manuals are provided below. These samples are best used as starting points for a manual. The subsections to include depend on the subject and purpose of the manual.

In a policies and procedures manual, which is written to facilitate regulatory examinations and/or audits, the narrative sections should focus on the controls followed to mitigate risk(s). In general, the structure of the "story" this manual will tell is:

  1. Overview of group – their purpose and activities.
  2. Overview of risks inherent in their activities.
  3. Overview of controls in place to manage risks.

For operational and training manuals, the narrative sections should present context sufficient for users to understand the group's activities and how they fit into the organization's overall activities and goals. In general, the framework of the "story" this manual will tell is:

  1. Purpose of the group and high-level description of their activities.
  2. How the group fits into the overall organization – why what they do is important for accomplishing the organization's strategic objectives.
  3. Description of the overall process (which probably involves several groups/departments) and activities performed by the group.

Throughout the development of the manual, it may be necessary to modify the Manual Organizer. Therefore it is useful to treat the Manual Organizer as a draft until the manual is finalized. The draft Manual Organizer should be reviewed with the project sponsor. This review is generally done at the same time as the review of the Process Organizer, described in the next section.

Building the Organizer for the Procedures

What is a Process Organizer?

Most of the content of the manual will reside in the Procedures section. The most critical factor to consider when developing an organizer for the procedures is maintainability. Procedures will change, so they should be organized so that updates will be easy and efficient. For this reason, organizing the procedures by process works best.

What's the difference between a process and a procedure? Simply put:

By way of example, "invoice payment" is a process shared by most organizations. Most, if not all, organizations have vendors who invoice for delivered products or services. Going forward, chances are that organizations will continue receiving invoices which require payment. The outcome of this process is a "paid invoice". How invoices are paid in an organization is the procedure.

A procedure is unique to the organization based on a variety of factors, including the organization's systems, controls and process efficiencies. As the organization changes its systems or controls or introduces new efficiencies, the procedure will change. The need for the process or outcome, in this case "invoice payment", within the organization, however, generally remains fairly constant over time. For this reason, utilizing a Process Organizer or Map for housing procedures facilitates on-going maintenance of the procedures.

The next sections describe how to construct a Process Organizer. As with the Manual Organizer, it is useful to treat the Process Organizer as a draft until the manual is finalized. The draft Process Organizer should be reviwed with the project sponsor. This review is generally done at the same time as the review of the Manual Organizer.

Building the Organizer for the Procedures

Constructing a Process Organizer

Following is a Process Organizer for an Accounts Payable function. It includes six main processes:

  1. Vendor Maintenance
  2. Invoice Approval
  3. Invoice Payment
  4. Payment Control
  5. Employee Expense Payment
  6. Department Management

How were these six processes selected?

The selection was based on identifying the key outcomes or the mission of an Accounts Payable function (via a combination of research and discussions with the organization's Accounts Payable Manager). Key outcomes for this type of function generally include:

  1. Ensuring that valid vendor invoices are paid accurately and timely
  2. Minimizing early disbursements to optimize interest earnings on cash balances
  3. Reimbursing employees for valid expenses timely and accurately

The next step involves analyzing each of the key outcomes or mission, and identifying the processes which need to be in place to achieve the outcome.

What processes would need to be in place to achieve the first outcome – ensuring valid invoices are paid accurately and timely?

Once the high-level Organizer is drafted for the function, it may make sense to meet with the Accounts Payable management to verify that the Organizer is a good fit.

The next step requires drilling down on each of the main processes to identify sub-processes. Similar to the identification of the main processes, the drill down can be based on a combination of research and discussions with Accounts Payable management. In all cases, prior to finalizing the draft Process Organizer, Accounts Payable management should verify that the Organizer makes sense.

The resulting Accounts Payable Process Organizer, including sub-processes, follows.

Building the Organizer for the Procedures

Process Organizer Conventions

The lay-out of the Process Organizer follows several conventions:

Naming conventions include:

Numbering of sections, processes and sub-processes is critical for referencing and change management purposes. In terms of numbering conventions, the following guidelines are based on one of the organizers described earlier. If a different organizer is being used, the sections will need to be re-numbered accordingly:

Building a Procedure or Work Instruction

Organizing Procedural Data

Once a draft Process Organizer has been agreed on, the next step in development of the manual is collection of procedural data. Procedural data, i.e., how the process is performed, needs to be collected for each of the 3-digit sub-processes on the Process Organizer.

Depending on the process and its complexity or level of variation, several closely related procedures may need to be collected. As an example, "3.1.1 Set Up New Vendor" may involve separate procedures for setting up a local or domestic vendor versus a vendor domiciled in a foreign country. If the two procedures are substantially different, it may make sense to document the procedures separately as follows:

This structure maintains the process-based organization, and also makes it easier for staff to find the relevant set-up information. Additionally, if, at some point in the future, the two procedures change and become more similar due to a systems change or change in requirements, this structure simplifies integrating the two procedures.

A procedure describes how a process is performed or how an outcome is achieved. If the outcome is that a new vendor has been set up in Accounts Payables' records and/or system, the procedure will detail the steps in setting up the vendor on the system.

All procedures should have the following components:

  1. Input(s) – for "Set Up New Vendor" this would be an instruction from Corporate Sourcing or a similar department to set up a new vendor with any required information and documentation.
  2. Process – the process transforms the inputs into an output.
  3. Output(s) – in this case, a vendor has been set up on the system, and required documentation (e.g., a W-9 Form) is on file.
  4. Control(s) – for quality assurance purposes, to comply with organizational policy requirements.

Building a Procedure or Work Instruction

Writing the Procedure Step

A procedure consists of a series of procedural steps. Each step should describe a particular action within the procedure. Procedural steps have the following components:

  1. A triggering event which initiates the step. The event may be scheduled (i.e., a daily process); unscheduled (i.e., upon receipt of a request); or the result of the previous step.
  2. A primary owner and in some cases involved parties.
  3. Value adding actions (e.g., information gathering, manual processing, data capture, initiation of an automated activity, review, approval, notification).
  4. A result or output (e.g., information was obtained, a manual process was completed, information was recorded, an automated activity was completed, quality was ensured, information was communicated).
    • The result of the step may be explicit:
      Payroll Manager reconciles the Tax Information in Payroll System to the tax filings to ensure that payroll records match tax filings.
    • Or the result of a procedure step may be implicit:
      Payroll Specialist determines the number of days worked by the employee in the pay period using hire date or termination date.

Building a Procedure or Work Instruction

A Sample Procedure

Below is a procedure for "Set Up New Vendor" illustrating the components of a procedure and procedure step. The level of detail or granularity of the procedure should be based on the purpose of the manual. In general, training manuals are more detailed.

Verification and Packaging

If the procedure has been documented by an individual who is not the Subject Matter Expert ("SME"), it should be reviewed by the SME and verified prior to finalization. At this point, in collaboration with the SME, a decision can be made about exhibits, policies or other references which would be valuable to include.

The revised "Set Up Vendor" procedure below illustrates a method for integrating any exhibits or references into the procedure.

Schemes for incorporating screenshots into a procedure are provided under Resources.

Project Management

The Process Organizer provides several advantages in collecting procedural data and documenting the procedure from a project management point of view. Assuming there is a project manager or project management team, following are several approaches for collecting procedural data and documenting the procedures.

SME Model

Project Resourcing Model

Project Management Team (“PM”) supported by Subject Matter Expert (“SMEs”) SMEs generally available on a part time basis

Project Management Strategy

  • SMEs familiar with the process document the procedure
  • PM performs quality control checks
  • PM edits completed procedures for consistency and packages manual

Description of Key Roles & Responsibilities

  • Identify the SME for each process on the Process Organizer; assign to the SME
  • Establish target completion date for each process
  • Conduct weekly progress meetings involving all SMEs
  • Update and publish project tracker distributing to SMEs and Project Management Sponsor

Advantages:

  • Cost efficiencies as SMEs have process knowledge

Downside Risk:

  • Delays in meeting target dates as SMEs focus on other priorities

Single Resource Model

Project Resourcing Model

One Resource

  • Full time; or
  • Part time
  • May have subject matter expertise

Project Management Strategy

  • Collect procedural data as necessary from existing documents and/or SME interviews
  • Draft procedures
  • Verify procedures with SMEs
  • Package manual

Description of Key Roles & Responsibilities

  • Prioritize processes on Process Organizer for documentation
  • Establish target completion dates for each process
  • Update schedule as processes are documented
  • Distribute project tracker to Project Sponsor and key stakeholders

Advantages:

  • Critical processes can be fast tracked for documentation
  • Optimizes utilization of minimal resources

Downside Risk:

  • Completion risk; greater exposure to knowledge loss given limited resourcing and longer project timetable

Multiple Dedicated Resource Model

Project Resourcing Model

Multiple Resources dedicated full time to the project headed by a Project Manager

Project Management Strategy

  • Collect procedural data as necessary from existing documents and/or SME interviews
  • Draft procedures
  • Verify procedures with SMEs
  • Package manual

Description of Key Roles & Responsibilities

  • Assign processes from Process Organizer to resources for data collection/documentation
  • Establish target completion dates
  • Conduct weekly or more frequent progress meetings involving all dedicated resources
  • Update and publish project tracker distributing to resources and Project Management Sponsor

Advantages:

  • Speeds up completion
  • Reduces risk of knowledge loss

Downside Risk:

  • Requires greater investment in resourcing