Pros and cons of digital work instructions

Kat Birett
Marketing Manager

LinkedIn Profile

Work instructions are great; especially capturing step-by-step instructions for business procedures. This is to be commended in circumstances where corporate knowledge is grossly housed in employees’ minds and not recorded. Legacy knowledge based on experiences and expertise can be severely underrated until it is lost. People move on from businesses or change roles, and all that juicy insight and valuable knowledge of how to do something brings operators back to square one.  

In the digital realm, the ability to create and dispense work instructions in an efficient and effective manner screams instant benefits to an organisation. But before jumping ship, let us weigh up some pros and cons. 

1. A central repository
With all digital work instructions being stored in a central location, work colleagues will access the most current information. Here you will have total version control of all content and supporting material. System integration enables you to link processes, policies, and procedures. Digital work instructions can be accessed throughout the business, maintained and reviewed centrally.  

2. Versatility of work instructions
Digital work instructions can serve a multitude of purposes. Some businesses may choose to capture work instructions digitally specifically for quality management, maintenance, safety, training, and audit. Digital work instructions eliminate manual tracking, help meet compliance and regulatory standards, accelerate timelines, provide accurate results, and drive continuous business improvement. Electronic delivery makes editing easy, including assigning additional tasks, or removing redundant steps in a process. 

3. Version control and traceability
Access can be controlled for editing and viewing and a work instruction approval process may be introduced with a full audit trail of edits and updates. This provides peace of mind to document owners, contributors, and editors.  

4. Logical structure of business procedures
Sequences of work instructions are all centralised and follow a logical structure. It is common for procedures to trigger additional activity. You will be able to digitally control requests for action, understand where to find more information, learn quickly who is accountable for various steps in the process, and timelines. Digital work instructions are often integrated with document management systems and their files, enhancing this entire process.  

5. Collaborate easily online
Multiple team members can help co-author, review, edit and manage digital work instructions. Changes and suggested improvements can be made digitally, supporting effective communication between users. 

1. It is challenging work
Rounding up valuable work instructions is demanding work. Time and resources are required to locate documentation and evaluate their value of being transitioned to a digital environment. Here, you may run into issues of various versions, duplicate processes, outdated content, sections missing, and gaps in knowing who is responsible and accountable for process steps. Groundwork needs to be completed prior to going digital. Capacity to do this now may be debated, especially if it is not viewed as a high business priority. 

2. Change management is hard
Bringing colleagues on the journey to going digital with work instructions requires change management. Getting their buy-in, selling the benefits, recruiting help, and obtaining input, are all challenging obstacles. Because work instructions involve multiple players, there is a need to educate and train colleagues in the new way of doing things. It’s a transformation initiative and requires commitment.  

3. Fear of transparency
There’s no longer a safety net of hiding behind red tape and paper trails. Digital work instructions expose responsibilities and accountabilities of staff in processes. Roadblocks, delays in processes, missing steps and derailments are all brought to the surface.  

4. There are costs involved
Yes, financial investment in digital work instruction software is required. Some businesses may view this as a cost, especially equipping operators with the right tools to access the software and carry out their tasks. In addition, time must be spent training staff in using the software until they become autonomous with its use. The investment in time may vary from person to person and would need to be taken into consideration especially if going digital is a new experience for them.  

Before making the switch, it’s up to every individual business to evaluate these pros and cons, and measure the gains in quality, productivity, time and resource saving. Is your business ready to go digital with work instructions? 

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