Athena Software Blog
Why you should document your case management software processes
Posted by Ashley Fokma on Jun. 6, 2016

We offer a large selection of help materials for our Penelope case management software system to our clients at health and social service agencies around the world to reference whenever they have a question.

There, they'll find a variety of types of documentation including configuration guides, user guides, tutorials, release notes, and much more.

The documents we host are wonderful resources for an organization to use when learning about the functionality of a feature in Penelope, supplementing on-the-job training to new staff, and for learning how to configure a new feature.

These resources, however, don’t speak to your own internal processes and procedures.

Each agency has configured a unique Penelope database and has designed processes tailored to their specific services and needs.

For example, most agencies use Penelope's Intake Wizard to manage their intake of new clients, but there is an enormous amount of variety in how and when they use the Intake Wizard.

From varying demographic questions to what happens after you click save, there can be a lot of information that your staff need to know to confidently use the features of Penelope.

While we provide our clients with a tutorial of how to use our Intake Wizard, for example, the when and why isn’t captured in a how-to manual (we wish we could, but you’re all so unique!).

So, this is where you come in.

As the expert at how your organization runs, you know the ins and outs of how Penelope fits into your day-to-day workflow.

Below, we’ll talk about why it’s important to document that knowledge and make it available for the other employees at your organization.

Why should you document your processes?

Risk Management

Almost every organization experiences turnover.

But what happens when an employee leaves, or even goes on vacation for a couple of weeks?

Where does their knowledge of systems and processes go?

To avoid the potential loss of all of this information, taking the time to document ahead of time is critical.

Knowledge documentation is particularly important for any employees actively involved in implementing a case management software application like Penelope for the first time, or managing any updates to your database.

Another method you can use to mitigate this risk is to ensure that multiple staff are involved in the initial implementation or are designated as 'Super Users' for Penelope (note: we consider a Super User to be typically someone with a system administrator account that is responsible for configuration changes, adding new users, or that has access to setup options in Penelope).

Consistency

When processes are documented, you leave little room for error, as all employees can rely on the same materials for their job function.

Example: a case manager may not be sure whether it is standard protocol where to document a client phone call in the system - Penelope is so flexible that this can be done in a variety of places.

When you document your own agency’s process for situations like these, however, staff know without a doubt what to do.

When client data is consistently documented, reporting becomes easier and more accurate!

Quality and Compliance

Quality and Compliance

In a similar vein, ensuring that you’ve fully documented what information staff are expected to capture in Penelope also ensures that your data is accurate.

  • Is there certain information that you must collect to satisfy the reporting needs of your funder?
  • Are there specific demographic fields you need to document?
  • Is there any outcomes measurement that needs to happen on a set schedule?

In many ways, Penelope can assist you in ensuring these needs are met.

Our innovative action triggers feature can automatically send messages or assign tasks based on parameters you determine.

Documenting what these needs are and stating the importance can help to further ensure that the information is captured which can lead to less time updating and revising records.

Training

Documentation reinforces on the job training!

In addition to providing hands-on end-user training to your staff, we recommend providing them with a takeaway.

A takeaway can be as simple as a Job Aid to define the work the specific employee needs to complete in Penelope or as thorough as a fully documented process and user guide (preferably both!).

After training is complete, employees can rely on the takeaway as a resource to review key concepts or fill in any gaps they might have forgotten.

By having these resources, you ease the burden off of the Super Users and your implementation team.

We recommend that you create and provide documentation for each employee that performs a unique job function in your agency as there is often a great deal of variety in how they interact with Penelope (for example, your Billing Manager will experience Penelope in a very different way than a Counselor!).

The future

When we introduce new features to Penelope, you can use your fully documented process and procedures to investigate the new feature and determine what kind of impact it could have for your business.

Perhaps there’s a particular aspect to your procedures that have been in need of automation or aren’t flowing exactly how you’d like them to.

For example, maybe your Penelope Super Users spend a significant amount of time resetting user passwords.

The introduction of Penelope’s two-step login and user-managed password reset features could fill that void! By comparing your procedures to the documentation we provide, you can determine how the feature will fit with your processes and prepare to train staff on how to use it going forward.

General tips for creating documentation

  • Do: Document all of your software systems (including Penelope!), all policies, and all procedures
  • Do: Involve all of your subject matter experts and Penelope Super Users in creating the documentation.
  • Do: Conduct interviews with an employee of each job function to determine how they spend their days, and use these interviews to inform the documentation.
  • Do: Include a mix of text and screenshots; even better, include a variety of materials like text-based guides, tutorials, videos, etc. to satisfy diverse learning styles.
  • Do: Keep it updated! As reporting requirements, funding sources, job functions, etc. change, ensure you keep your internal documentation fully up to date. If it’s not up to date, it’s not useful! Bonus tip: Specify the date the documents were last updated so staff know they’re working from the most recent copy.
  • Do: Ensure you have all of the documentation tools you need: a word processing tool, a screen capture tool, presentation tools, diagramming tools, etc.
  • Do: Make the documentation accessible to all staff. Do you have an intranet resource or a shared server? Make sure everyone knows how and where to access the documentation.
  • Do: Refer to job functions rather than specific employee names in the documentation to give the documentation longevity.

If you're interested in learning more about how Penelope case management software can help transform your nonprofit or social service agency today, contact us today and an evaluation specialist will be in touch!

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