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Documenting Firmwide Processes: It’s a Team Sport

Process improvement has been on my mind recently, as Boomer Consulting, Inc. is embarking on a comprehensive process improvement project. The goal is to identify all the company's processes and document them thoroughly so we can continuously improve them. 


This task is far from straightforward. One of the primary hurdles is that many team members perform their daily tasks and jobs without recognizing that what they're doing is a process that needs to be documented. This oversight isn’t unique to our company—it's a common scenario in firms across the profession. That’s why it takes a team to uncover and document all processes. 


The importance of process documentation 

Documenting firmwide processes is essential for several reasons: it enhances consistency, improves training and onboarding, facilitates compliance and lays the groundwork for ongoing improvement. 


Process documentation ensures that every task, no matter how small, is performed consistently and efficiently, reducing the margin for error. For CPA firms, where the stakes involve accuracy, regulatory compliance and client satisfaction, consistency is non-negotiable. 


How to identify all processes in your firm 

Identifying all the processes in your firm is a major undertaking. Following these strategic steps can help you get there.  


Create a cross-functional team 

Begin by assembling a cross-functional team representing a broad spectrum of departments, roles and levels within the firm. This diversity ensures you consider all areas of the company and document processes that reflect the full scope of your operations. The team should include individuals who are directly involved in the execution of tasks and those who manage or oversee them. 


Review historical results 

Take time to consider what the company has done in the past to collect, document and improve processes. Analyze what went well, what didn’t work and why. Understanding past successes and failures can provide valuable insights to inform your current efforts. 


Decide how to collect process data from employees 

To get complete process information, you’ll need to collect information from people across the firm. Will you send surveys? Conduct interviews? 

Surveys can help gather information about the tasks employees perform and the processes they follow, especially those that may not be immediately visible to management or the cross-functional team. 


Conduct follow-up interviews 

Use the insights gained from the surveys to conduct follow-up interviews. These interviews can help clarify responses, dive deeper into specific processes, and uncover the nuances of how employees perform tasks. This step is vital for ensuring that the documentation reflects the reality of the work being done. 


Focus on actual practices 

Aim to uncover what is actually happening—not what is supposed to happen based on outdated documentation. Processes evolve with the introduction of new people and new technologies, and may evolve due to a shift in the firm’s vision or strategic plan, so it's important to capture the current state of operations. 


Set deadlines and hold people accountable 

Establish clear deadlines for each phase of the process identification and documentation effort. Assign responsibilities to specific team members and hold them accountable for meeting these deadlines. This structure helps maintain momentum and ensures the project progresses steadily toward completion. 


Decide on a central repository for documentation 

Choose a location where the documented processes will be stored and easily accessible to the entire team. This could be an intranet site, a cloud-based document management system or another platform that supports collaboration and easy access. The key is to ensure that everyone who needs the information can find it quickly and easily. 


Share results and schedule regular check-ins 

Once you’ve documented your processes, share the results with the whole team. This transparency ensures that everyone understands the methods they are a part of. Scheduling annual or quarterly check-ins to review and update the documentation helps keep the documentation current and relevant. 


Streamline your future process improvement efforts 

Finally, review and refine the process for documenting processes. The goal is to make this an efficient and sustainable effort, not a burdensome task that the team dreads. By streamlining the documentation process, the firm can ensure that keeping processes up-to-date is manageable and doesn’t become a massive project in itself. 


Documenting all your firm’s processes may seem like an overwhelming effort. You don’t have to cover all departments at the same time—larger firms might decide to go department-by-department. Either way, it's a rewarding project that can improve operational efficiency and lay the groundwork for a more streamlined and successful future. 


Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward? 

The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement. 


Parker Bohon, Solutions Advisor at Boomer Consulting, Inc., is excited to work closely with our members. Her primary focus is on our communities, including the Boomer Technology Circles, CIO Circle, and Marketing and Business Development Circle.


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