3 of the best ways to organize your firm’s process documentation

If you’ve taken the effort to standardize and document your internal processes but haven’t organized them in a way that makes sense to your team, then you’ve only done 80% of the work.

If staff members can’t easily access the process documentation, the time you have spent making their processes more efficient will be undone—simply because they’re wasting time trying to locate the relevant documents.

With a clear system of document organization, the full benefits of standardizing and documenting your firm’s processes can be realized.

Continue the discussion on Karbon Community: Share your tips and best practices for organizing your process documentation

The benefits of organizing your firm’s process documentation

A component of running a successful firm is your ability to support your team.

It’s your job to provide them with the resources and tools they need to do their job well. Only then will they be able to provide the best possible value to your clients.

And that doesn’t stop after you’ve standardized and documented your processes.

You need to create and implement a system that effectively organizes your process documentation, so that your team can:

  • Easily access the information they need to serve clients

  • Complete work more efficiently

  • Be more productive

  • Not waste time trying to remember next steps

  • Be easily onboarded and trained on new processes

Paperless doesn’t solve document organization issues

The 76% of high-performing firms that have gone paperless over the last decade are using solutions like Dropbox, Google Docs and Microsoft OneDrive to keep their files organized and clutter-free, and their process documentation easy to access.

But finding the right tool doesn’t solve the question of organization. 

Good organization and file management still rely on having a clear process for:

  • What documents should be stored

  • Where they should go

  • What they should be named

This is where clear communication becomes critical. You need to make sure whatever method you choose is communicated to your team in a way that is clear enough for them to follow, and simple enough so that anyone can easily find what they need.

Discovering the best system to organize your firm’s process documentation

There are many methods you can implement when organizing your process documents. The key is determining what makes sense for your firm.

If you’re unsure of the best system for your firm’s needs, here are some common ways to organize your process documentation to help you get started. 

Remember, the system you choose should be intuitive for your firm’s workflow and easy to use for you and your staff.

1. Organize by client-type

You will likely have requirements for each specific business or  industry that you serve, including legal or regulatory and compliance mandates. 

This method means each process relating to a specific client-type are housed together under a parent folder, for example:

  • Individuals (parent folder) > Individual Taxation (subfolder) > Individual Tax Return

  • Corporate Entities > Administration > Corporate Name Change

  • Partnerships > Taxation > Partnerships Tax Return

✅ Benefit: You can easily access all the processes you need when dealing with a business vs. an individual vs. a trust, etc.

🚨 Area of concern: Some processes may not fall into a client-type or may fall into multiple client-types.

Organize by work-type

Organizing your process documentation by work-type involves creating parent folders for each of the types of work your firm performs (or your services) and then using subfolders to get more specific.

For example:

  • Tax > Business Tax > Business Tax Registration > GST

  • Payroll > Payroll Setup

  • Advisory > Business Grant Assistance > Business Grant Lodgment

✅ Benefit: Simple and clear high-level folder structure.

🚨 Area of concern: Some processes are cross-functional and can be housed under multiple parent folders, which may cause confusion.

📌 Reminder: Keeping your processes up-to-date with frequent legislative changes (particularly relating to tax) at the federal, state and local level is critical in your team delivering the most appropriate service.

Organize by frequency of tasks

Some processes need to be completed at certain frequencies. Be it weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or annually, this method may make the most sense to how your firm operates.

For example:

  • Weekly > Weekly Reconciliation

  • Monthly > Month-End Close

  • Annually > Business Tax Return

✅ Benefit: Easy to avoid parent folders getting out of hand.

🚨 Area of concern: Lack of high-level visibility over subfolders because every process is first housed under a frequency.

Storing your process templates in Karbon

If your firm uses Karbon, you can create templates for all of your common processes. This solves a lot of the complexities discussed, by providing your team with one centralized and easy-to-manage location for every workflow.

Whatever naming convention you choose for your templates in Karbon, dynamic search and list sorting will ensure that staff can find the documented process they need quickly. 

You can explore Karbon’s Template Library to access hundreds of process templates, which will also provide you with some ideas of categorizing and naming your own processes.

If you don't use Karbon, you can still benefit from the Karbon Template Library—all of the templates are downloadable as Excel files.

Managing an effective system

Organizing your firm’s process documentation isn’t a ‘set and forget’ effort, and it’s going to need input from your entire team. 

Here are some tips for maintaining your chosen document organization structure:

  • Delegate it: You may have a staff member with strong organizational skills who is best suited to take the lead in organizing your process documentation. Set your expectations and empower them to drive this process for your firm.

  • Onboard your team: Invest the time to train your team so they understand the system.

  • Use it: Check-in frequently with your team to be sure they’re using it. Don’t let the time invested up-front to create an organized system go to waste. 

  • Iterate and update: Be open to feedback from your team and be prepared to make adjustments or changes where necessary.

By establishing a system to organize your firm’s process documentation, you’ll reap the rewards of a high-functioning firm that is well-positioned for success.