Standard Operations Protocol (SOP)
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are step-by-step instructions that act as guidelines for employee work processes. It can be designed as a checklist or formatted as flow charts, in video format or even in picture form.
When SOPs are complete, clearly written, and well documented, the organisation is better able to help their team produce a product or service that is consistent and predictable, produce consistent products and service delivery as well as increase business productivity.
Today, SOPs are no longer delivered as huge cumbersome documents but rather are offered as bite-sized workflows and checklists that make up a process in various parts of a business’s operations. These processes are often also made available in a digitized format, accessible only by specific roles and with specific authorisations.
Some obvious benefits a well-documented SOP can bring to an organisation are:
1. Readiness for Growth
When business plan to expand whether, organically or through franchise, and have multiple outlets across different territories, having well documented SOPs make existing work processes portable and replicable. The on-boarding of new employees at new locations can be quickly and smoothly implemented at the new outlets in different locations with workflows, checklists and process documented using the various SOP modules.
2. Standard Operating Procedures Simplify Performance Management
Managers can use the SOP framework to develop target ranges and create audit plans for easy monitoring and evaluation. Employees who work in compliance with SOPs know exactly what is expected of them, and they plan their work schedules to meet their goals with efficiency.
When all employees in the company follow the same processes regardless of which outlet or where they are operating from, there is a benchmark to measure performance. This becomes an important tool for HR management tool.
3. Control the Quality and Consistency of Your Product
Maintaining a high standard of product and service quality is important to sustaining the performance of the company. Standardized Operational procedures guide employees on how to execute workflow to reduce the possibility of missed steps or other errors that impact the quality of the completed product. It also helps employees manage potentially difficult situations especially when handling Customers. Providing a blueprint for overall workflow processes allows the various departments to deliver consistent product quality and customer experience.
4. Protection from potential know how and IP Loss
By documenting the workflow and details of your business processes instead of relying only on experience and expertise that exist within the team, the continuity of the workflow and processes remain intact. A company needs to rely on process and less on individual know how and expertise.
Documentation of job processes greatly reduces the risk of losing intellectual property that has been developed by the employees during their tenure. The quality of products and services must survive employee attrition, pilferage, retirement and resignation, and allow your company to carry on as usual. Although people are very important in any great company, comprehensive well-written SOPs ensure that valuable Intellectual Property and business processes stay with the business.
5. Reduction on Training Costs
Training documents are often crafted using SOPs as the foundation. For simple and repetitive tasks, SOPs are very valuable in that they can be used as an On-boarding toolkit to onboard new-hires, and can reduce training time.
SOP Documentation formats
There are many formats to documenting your business’ SOPs.
1. Step by step SOPs
2. Task based templates: In a business that has many different processes in different departments that are systematically repeated and not scenario or flow chart based, it could be useful to have each workflow documented individually and then combined into different processes.
3. Hierarchical Format: While a purely step-by-step SOP will list steps 1, 2, 3, and so forth, a hierarchical SOP may include Steps 1a and 1b; 2a, 2b, 2c; 3a, 3b. This is a great format when more details are needed than a step by step instructions.
4. Flow chart Formats: Flow chart formats are best used when describing SOPS that may have multiple outcomes at different points of a workflow.
5. Video based SOPs: Some industries require SOPs that focus on demonstrating steps, videos and photographs. In this case, the SOPs would mean organising the content either in a hierarchical, flow chart or step by step or Role format and then formatting them systematically
6. Complex SOPs that include an entire business’ various departments and functions: When documenting a company’s entire operations, it entails combining all the different ways of documenting the various methods of documenting processes.
Keeping SOPs updated and current.
Internal and external factors can greatly affect how things are done in a busines. SOPs should be relevant and referenced routinely in daily operations to ensure consistency in project execution. Ideally SOPs are frequently updated and changes communicated to the organisation. However, this is sometimes not the case as updating SOPs and communicating them can be a cumbersome process of documenting, updating, sending communication and ensuring the recipients are well informed. Today, a lot of these steps can be removed if SOPs are documented on a digital platform. This means once the updates are made in the SOP, everyone and anyone who needs to know in the system will get the necessary alerts of the updates, and once the recipient has acknowledges receipt, the organisation has successfully updated the team on the changes to the SOP. Digital SOPs are the future of SOP management and implementation,
Experts in SOP documentation
No one knows your business better than your own team. However, sometimes, it can help a lot if there SOP templates you can use to get yourself started. In this case, you could consider Astreem’s GO-DIY SOP Templates. GO DIY is a program that helps you identify the closest fit SOP Template for your business and offers a checker service to help you fill gaps not available in the templates.
If you do not wish to get knee-deep in the entire process of documentation yourself or if you do not have SOP experts in your team, you could consider using the full service consultation SOP Documentation service offered by astreem’s SOP experts to work with you to take away the anxiety of completing the big task of documenting all your business’s important processes.
Find out if astreem’s consultants can help simplify your SOP documentation processes.
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