The Definitive Guide to Building an Operations Manual using Google Sites

Operations Manual Google Sites

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We hear from leadership teams that a central location to store and access relevant information is a must. Further, they want confidence that access to sensitive information is limited, monitored, and managed safely. Lastly, they want some type of way to ensure the information is actually being read and the right people are being notified when new information is available.

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Why do you need an Operations Manual?

Organizing all of the pertinent operations data is no small feat. In fact, many organizations we’ve worked with have disclosed they’ve pushed the task aside and saved it for another day. However, not having a central repository for operations can commonly lead to procedural challenges:

Onboarding/Offboarding Processes

Some of you may find the process of onboarding and offboarding challenging. What do you do when a new hire comes aboard? What is your exit process when someone leaves the company? These tasks can become overwhelming quickly especially when there’s a time constraint.

Disparate Documentation

Where are all the necessary documents such as the employee handbook located? Is it the right version? What about other insurance and tax documentation that needs to completed on day one?
Outdated Policies & Reference Documents
Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to reference a process -especially when someone challenges whether or not it’s being followed correctly!

Static Content

Information can quickly become of out of date and disorganized. Leverage the tools within Google Drive to publish charts, graphs, and sheets that update automatically.

We hear from leadership that a central location to store and access relevant information is a must. Further, they want confidence that access to sensitive information is limited, monitored, and managed safely. Lastly, they want some type of way to ensure the information is actually being read and the right people are being notified when new information is available.

Why Google Sites?

Thanks to G Suite, businesses can store and have quick access to every email, proposal, diagram, pitch deck, calendar, form, and image that relates to the various processes and policies that run the shop. As a result, this can quickly lead to a lot of clutter and become overwhelming to manage and maintain in an orderly fashion.

Google Sites is an application within the Google Apps Suite that serves as a blank canvas to organize and prioritize your organization’s most pertinent data. Sites integrates with all of the core applications2 and even leaves room for creativity3. Utilizing the core functions of Sites can benefit you by creating a central repository for your organization’s processes, manuals, and handbooks.

The way Sites works and functions out-of-the-box today doesn’t necessarily answer the challenges HR and organizational leadership are after. Sites, like Drive, gives anyone the freedom to create, edit, and share their own content. Although it’s great to have such freedom, it might not be ideal for operational purposes.

So at Ripple we were faced with an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, Google has given us this great tool to create project sites to store and share information from the entire app suite. On the other hand, we wanted to present a way to keep true to traditional IT best practices around security and management. Following our best practices, you will be able to design a Google Site that will serve as a hub for your operations.

Roll up your Sleeves, it’s Time to Plan

Planning is the most critical piece to this puzzle. There is no downloadable template or quick and easy way to organize and make available all of your policy, process, and onboarding data into a site. It’s just not possible. This is something that takes time and consideration regardless of the platform being used. However, our goal is to provide some guidelines to help kick the work off in the right direction

Owned by a Non-Human Admin Account

An operation site should be owned by a non-human admin account4. This is going back to general IT best practices, but is something that gets overlooked when focusing on the newness or work involved when deploying Apps across a domain. You want to separate the super user accounts from the day-to-day work.

Everyone in the Org can View

You’ll also want to grant view access so that everyone in the org can view5 it. We can get more granular about editing permissions later.

Only Owner (Non-Human Admin) Can Edit

You’ll want to customize the permissions for this so only the non-human admin can add and remove who has access.

Only Owner (Non-Human Admin) Can Change Permissions

In addition to preventing all staff from editing the structure of the site, you’ll want to restrict and monitor permissions.

Think like a Martian

Imagine that it’s your first day on the job. What do you need to do? Do you need to read and sign the employee handbook? How many tax forms or non-disclosure agreements do you need to fill out? Where’s the supply closet? Do you need a machine? Is it assigned to you? What’s your phone line?
How do you get access to benefits?

While compiling this list, you might consider expanding this by asking each department head the following Think Like a Martian (day 1) questions:

  1. What do I need to know?
  2. How do I do my job?
  3. What are my benefits?

You just need a list. Let your team know you’re not expecting processes, diagrams, or detailed information. Just request a list of the critical items a new staff member would need to answer the questions. In short, all of these questions relate to one simple question: Where do you go to learn what is expected of you? The list will probably grow exponentially. Don’t worry though. Even if the list gets enormous, it will serve a different purpose later on.

Designing the Dashboard

Next in planning is to consider the items that impact everyone at your org. Start by highlighting the items on your list that everyone from your team accesses regularly. From the lists provided by your department heads, identify the top 5 items that impact most if not all your organization. Now try to narrow that list down to a few items that every staff member can/should access. Simple is always better in this case. Try to keep it to 10 items at most, but 5 or 6 is preferred. As an example, consider a community board, team announcements, links to a shared drive, and/or quick access to client documentation.

Creating a Table of Contents

Ideally, the Think Like a Martian exercise has left you with a substantial list. This list is going
to help you organize the architecture of your operations manual. When first starting out, it’s likely that multiple items could easily be identified as critical elements for your organization. Remember: All of the information that should be in your operations manual will in some shape or form make its way in. What needs to be done now is simplify, organize, and categorize.

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