Difference Between Operations Manuals & Procedures Guides

What’s the difference between an Operations Manual and a Procedures Guide? At first glance, it’s easy to see the confusion as both contain procedures that need to be followed. However, if we look at them a little more closely, we can where and how they differ.

Operations Manuals v Procedures Guides

Samantha emailed me to ask about preparing ‘an operations manual for my employer.’

There were two main criteria:

‘The main task is teaching examination skills to health professions, such as doctors and nurses.

My boss wants a manual that will enable anyone to show how things work and to cover any gaps in knowledge when key personnel are no longer available.

The document should detail the what, why, who, when, and how.

Which one of your templates will enable me to best build such a document?’

Here was my response:

Re: My boss wants a manual that will enable almost anyone to keep the show going in the event that any of the key personnel are no longer available.

Use the procedure templates for this type of activity rather than our Operations Manual template.

The reason I say this is that other companies have used this template to capture how different tasks are achieved and maintain them going forward.

The approach I’d take is to:

  • Define all the tasks you want to capture
  • Create a Table of Contents
  • Write a procedure for each task

The difference between the two type of documents is that the Operations Manual is usually focussed on the operations of an IT system.

For example, what tasks do you need to perform to operate the system on a daily basis? The focus is technical and specific to software (or an application, network, or hardware.)

Whereas… procedures show someone the steps to follow to perform a task, which may not be technical.

For example:

  • How to check a customer’s credit card statement.
  • How to apply a discount to a customer’s account.
  • How to update the HR database every quarter.

And so on.

PS – If you’re new to Technical Writing, or have been asked to write technical documents, and don’t know where to ask, send me an email and I’ll show you the best way to get your documents under control.