- Screencasts useful for instructions but are difficult to update or search
- Visual documenting tools more flexible, easier to share
- Quick way to build a library of training documents for new staff
In Part 3 in this 7 Cool Tools for Fast Delegation series we looked at the speed and effectiveness of using screencasts for delegation.
Screencasts are easy to create but they are not perfect for communicating on-screen instructions. In this post, Part 6 in the series, we’ll look at something you can use in addition to screencasts that complement them well.
Screencasts are brilliant for the initial training in a process. The first three viewings of a screencast are great for a learner, but additional viewings can become tedious if an employee wants to refer quickly to a specific step in a process. For example, if they want to refer to step 11 in a 20-step process, it is not easy to find or quickly jump to that part of a screencast video.
You cannot do any of the following with a screencast:
- ‘Speed read’ it
- Keyword search it
- Replace or update just a portion of it
Visual Procedures solve each of these problems.
A visual procedure is a phrase we coined to describe a document containing a series of screenshots (still images) that are annotated with arrows, boxes, numbers and text callouts where needed, as well as basic text descriptions of each step in a process.
If you have ever captured a screenshot and pasted it into a Word document, you have created a visual procedure.
However, capturing screenshots and annotating them is slow and inefficient using common methods such as Alt+Print Screen in Windows, Command+Shift+4 on Mac and a word processor, or even specialist screen capture and annotation software such as SnagIt.
Initially designed for software developers creating user documentation and manuals, I quickly recognised their application for creating visual procedures for any business with staff that use computers.
These days that applies to most businesses.
What percentage of your business’ processes happen on screen? If it’s higher than 30 percent, visual procedures will enhance your business systems and training documentation.
Clarify is designed for creating quick documentation that might be informal or one-off in nature, such as helping a particular client or customer with an issue they are having. ScreenSteps is designed for creating more formal or permanent documentation. ScreenSteps can also integrate with the ScreenSteps Live intranet for easy publishing to the cloud.
Alternatively, ScreenSteps can export documents in PDF, HTML and Word formats which is useful if you are already using a centralised knowledge management or document management system such as HowNow or SharePoint. The soon-to-be-released ScreenSteps 3 will also integrate with Zendesk, Desk.com and WordPress.
It’s not often I see a piece of software or technology that makes my jaw drop in awe when I first see it. ScreenSteps is one of those tools. In our estimates it is around 10 times faster to use ScreenSteps for creating visual procedures than the usual ways of screen capture into word processor documents. That’s no exaggeration.
In our Lightning Method business systemisation online course we show students how to combine a screencast and a visual procedure into one online document. The screencast is shown at the start of the document and the rest of the document is a visual procedure showing a series of annotated screenshots.
This is the ultimate in on-screen process documentation because it ticks all the boxes, combining the advantages of screencasts that we explained in Part 3, while also allowing speed reading, keyword search and the ability to replace a portion of a procedure, such as updating one particular step.
Imagine having a multimedia ‘knowledge vending machine’ for training and on-boarding team members in your organisation. The time efficiencies alone justify learning the skills and using these tools. Instead of explaining the same process over and over again you can capture the process once using visual documentation and let your team use your knowledge vending machine.
A combination of screencasts and visual procedures provides highly effective self-paced training. The process of documenting your procedures in this way not only standardises your “this is how we do things here” processes, your team members will get up to speed much faster than the typical verbal or once-off instruction most businesses provide new team members. (Often referred to as the “drop them in the deep end” approach!)
Share in the Comments below what visual methods and tools you are currently using in your business organisation and how they are working for you and your team.