Documentation is key to successful business processes. It allows you to have procedures in place to expand your company with ease as you face anything from employee conflict to crisis communications.
When these processes are not documented, it can be an expensive lesson to learn. According to The Holmes Report, communication breakdowns can cost businesses as much as $37 billion a year. Avoiding this expense is as easy as putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You need vigilance and constant diligence to ensure your documentation is ready when the need arises.
Below, 14 members of Forbes Communications Council share best practices for documenting your processes to scale communications faster. From constantly reviewing and optimizing to using collaboration technology, here is what they recommend:
1. Constantly review and optimize.
With each client program, we always have a timeline or plan that itemizes each action and milestone. We're continually reviewing and optimizing with each program so that we can take insights from previous work and apply them to the next. Process is something that is continuously evolving; sticking to the same routine each time prevents growth. - Kriselle Laran, Zeno Group
2. Take advantage of collaboration technology.
If you're working with a distributed team, especially globally, collaboration technology is life saving and project saving. Simple project management tools like Asana and Basecamp provide visibility into full project plans, accountable parties and dependencies. This can make a huge difference in efficiency and communication. - Natalie Hahn, Billtrust
3. Keep a repository of on-brand messaging.
Don't reinvent the wheel. Keep a running list of the messaging, stats and milestones that best represent your brand and tell your story. You'll be both more efficient and more consistent. - Jeff Murphy, SnackNation
4. Start with the basics.
While it may be time consuming, documenting your workflow is extremely effective for managing your time, your message and your business. It helps to start with the basics: Identify your audience, break down everything step by step, assign responsibility and clearly state the end goal. Something as simple as a checklist can help create a process and streamline communications quickly. - G'Nai Blakemore, Mattress Firm
5. Rinse and repeat.
Creating a repository of templates and process documents has enabled us to scale communications globally. Communication champs can leverage repeatable processes to scale and adapt templates to ensure global consistency while also acknowledging local nuances. By retaining this repository, updates to both processes and templates can be made in real time. - Tracey Grove, Microsoft
6. Enlist process managers and workflow tools.
Campaigns and ongoing tasks need a dynamic process or project manager with a robust workflow tool the entire team views, and that sends automated alerts when updates occur or actions are required. Depending on the project's scope, this person can be an experienced professional, PR agency or even intern who assesses progress and recommends next steps to optimize and scale communications. - Alex Goryachev, Cisco
7. Use cloud software for real-time updates.
By using software that allows for real-time updates saved to the cloud, teams contribute to the mission faster and more effectively with fluid communication and ongoing updates. While this tech amplifies our communication, nothing will replace the effectiveness of our in-person or televideo status meetings to create alignment. - Robyn Hannah, Dynamic Signal
8. Create a network of local experts.
For repetitive communications, such as training materials, we have a "super user" on each team who can orient a new person and teach them what's available and how to use it. In essence, we have a few key people who are our "documentation." By decentralizing the information, we can share it faster. - Tony Holbrook, Ingram Micro Commerce & Fulfillment
9. Know who to ask and when.
Compose and maintain an internal subject matter expert list that is available to your entire team. This ensures everyone knows exactly who to contact and is particularly handy when creating features or blog posts. You should also document an agreed-upon review process for each type of communication, illustrating how high each should go up the chain. This will help create speed and agility. - Brandi Wessel, Chaparral Energy
10. Socialize processes.
Documentation of good processes is foundational, but processes have greater value when they are easy to understand and there is both organizational understanding and buy in. Coworkers could struggle to embrace processes that are lengthy or complex unless time is taken to socialize and practice the process in question. This rings as true for communications as elsewhere in the company. - Serge Vartanov, AutoGravity
11. Create a handbook.
The best way to approach communications is to have a content and brand handbook. Make sure it includes editorial and branding guidelines, as well as a review of audience and content insights. This will help your teams stay on brand and be audience centric when drafting communications. Practice to ensure there's an approval flow outlined for each type of communication. - Megan Murray, The Conference Board
12. Automate your workflow.
By streamlining and automating workflow, you can eliminate back-and-forth emails, phone calls and manual processes that waste time and money. Additionally, you provide all stakeholders visibility and documentation throughout the process. Simply put, there is no downside to automating workflow. - Laurie Ehrbar, ServiceNow
13. Make it habitual.
Every year, our team works on a list of habits we will follow. We set rules and procedures everyone must follow in order to track accomplishments and benchmarks. Examples include whether newsletters will be weekly or monthly, if reports will happen every quarter, when personnel evaluations will take place, etc. Establishing a habit helps everyone know when to slow down and when to pick up the pace. - David Isern, Texas Tech University College of Architecture (TTU CoA)
14. Use recipe cards.
Digital communications methods are constantly evolving. When refining a new process, I find that the concept of recipe cards to be extremely useful and practical, from listing out the main ingredients (tools, content types, hours of work) to mapping out execution steps, and what the results should be, using real-life examples. This approach is also highly effective for internal buy-in. - Christina Crawley, Forum One
This article originally appeared on forbes.com