SOPs

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) + Templates | Scribe

You need an SOP template if you’re looking for a fast way to create and maintain great SOPs. These templates are particularly helpful for tech teams looking to align their work!

Introduction

Every company needs a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

SOPs standardize processes and make them more efficient, allowing businesses to scale quickly. However, writing SOP manuals can be a pain.

For one, they need to be updated frequently — and these updates require coordination with other departments because of overlapping processes and inconsistent formatting.

What if we told you there was a simple solution called the standard operating procedure template?

In this article, we’ll learn what an SOP template is and how it helps us speed up SOP writing.

‎We’ll also cover:

What is an SOP document?

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions that detail how to perform specific procedures and processes. It standardizes how particular tasks are performed, so the quality remains the same even when the people in the company change.

SOPs don't require special tools — you can even create one on Google Docs — and they aren't limited by team or function size. 

Here are some common SOP examples per industry.

  • Human resource SOPs include training manuals and employee onboarding documents for new hires.
  • Marketing SOPs include style guides for writers, copyediting and blog publishing procedures.
  • Customer service SOPs include client-facing documentation and customer complaint resolution.

Customer Service SOP Template

Why are standard operating procedures important?

Organizations implement SOPs to systematize their business processes and align team members and stakeholders to move the project forward and complete tasks with as few mistakes as possible.

There are several benefits to creating SOPs, such as:

  • It keeps you compliant. SOPs simplify company audits and allow you to adhere to legal requirements. 

An SOP is one document a standards organization looks for when a company is applying for or renewing its quality assurance certification.

  • It improves quality control. SOPs are a form of quality assurance. Having a standard procedure in place assures customers of consistent and high-quality products.
  • It helps retain knowledge. Employees come and go, but having an SOP allows organizations to retain knowledge from former employees and pass that information to new employees.
  • It saves time and money. SOPs prevent errors and reduce employee training times. They improve productivity by speeding up business workflows and creating predictable outcomes.

A 2022 Asana study found that structured procedures saved workplaces 270 hours annually, or 30 nine-hour workdays.

Challenges of creating an SOP

There are so many benefits to creating SOPs, but not all organizations invest the time into it. 

Here are some common challenges of creating SOPs and how to overcome them.

Inconsistencies

Writing SOPs isn’t the responsibility of a sole department because no one person or department is familiar with each team’s processes — especially if you’re from a large organization.

For instance, someone from the engineering team is the best person to write about their processes. The same goes for the finance, HR, or sales teams.

The problem arises when you collate all these documents to present during audits. Because different groups create these SOP documents, there will be other SOP formats and inconsistent or contradictory procedures. Some SOPs may not even mention related processes.

Solution:

Set meetings with departments to schedule writing sessions or seek clarifications regarding any questions. This allows different teams with overlapping SOPs to stay on the same page and prevent inconsistencies.

Resource-intensive process

Many organizations don't bother to update or maintain SOPs for several reasons.

First, updates usually happen too fast — especially in ever-changing industries like tech. Second, it’s a resource-intensive process. Thomson Reuters found that 34 percent of businesses spend one to three hours per week updating policies and procedures for new regulations.

Maintaining an SOP won't be a priority if you're understaffed and overworked.

Solution:

Create an SOP template. Build a uniform SOP template or get started with ours!

‎Inaccessible records

Another problem with SOPs is inaccessibility.

According to a 2022 Act! survey, 45 percent of small businesses still rely on paper records. While there is a good reason behind keeping paper records, it doesn’t make sense for SOPs, especially when they require frequent updating.

If your team struggles to update and organize SOPs, consider upgrading to a digital platform like Scribe.

Solution:

Leverage automation. There are multiple SOP tools and software available, such as Scribe.

Scribe is a screen recording and documentation tool. It allows you to automatically generate step-by-step guides with text and screenshots using a browser extension or desktop app.

The 6 steps to writing an SOP

  1. Plan the SOP details.
  2. Collect data.
  3. Choose an SOP format.
  4. Write the SOP.
  5. Implement the SOP.
  6. Refine and update the SOP.

1. Plan the SOP details

Before creating a new SOP, identify and prepare everything you’ll need for a smoother writing experience.

To start, determine why you're writing an SOP. Some questions to guide you may include:

  • What pain points currently exist in our organization? Can an SOP help solve them?
  • How will an SOP improve our bottom line?
  • How does an SOP impact our current workplace practices?

Next, identify the stakeholders and discuss the project timeline.

Sample questions to ask when discussing stakeholders:

  • Who are the experts we can consult to describe the process?
  • Who will write the document? Will we work with someone in-house or get a freelancer?
  • Who’s going to approve the document?

Some questions to ask when figuring out the timeline:

  • When do we need the document?
  • What does the review process look like? How many revisions will we accept?
  • How often should the SOP be updated? 

2. Collect data

Once you’ve ironed out all the initial details, start collecting information on the procedure, process, and activity.

For example, ask the subject matter expert or employees performing the task to give definitions and describe the procedure.

3. Choose an SOP format

ALT: How to choose an SOP format.

Once you’ve gathered the raw data, choose the suitable format for the SOP.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a format — audience, purpose, type of data available, and level of detail included.

Common SOP formats include:

  • Flowcharts are best for processes that produce multiple outcomes, as they show the various ways to proceed, which depend on the result of the previous steps.
  • Step-by-step guides are best for processes where the order is important, and the project is straightforward and can be completed without fail. You can choose this format when implementing setup instructions.

Another type of step-by-step guide is the hierarchical SOP, which is used when you need to give more detail to a step.

Here’s a sample of a step-by-step guide:

  • Checklists: These are recommended for projects with repetitive tasks. They help you determine whether you're on track for a project.

4. Write the SOP

Once you have the details, data, and format, bring everything together and draft the SOP.

When writing the SOP, keep the audience in mind. Consider the audience’s skill level, familiarity with tools and whether the document targets internal or external teams. For example, you’ll want to create a more detailed process in a language the reader understands if you're writing to external teams.

Well-written SOPs are:

  • Concise: They only include relevant details.
  • Easy to understand: They use simple language.
  • Accessible: Users can find the information they need.

When you're done writing, send it to personnel for review, feedback and revisions.

5. Implement the SOP

Once the SOP has been approved, make it accessible to relevant employees.

Monitor the results and evaluate the SOP writing process to determine which areas can be improved.

6. Refine and update your SOP

Once you've finished writing your SOP, monitor its use. Take note of suggestions to improve.

Some ways to improve your SOP process: 

  • Use automation. It speeds up the writing process and makes SOPs more accessible.
  • Develop SOP templates. They also speed up the writing process and ensure a consistent style and format.

What goes in an SOP template?

SOPs replicate your organization’s processes and save time, but they take too long to write and can be inconsistent. So, how do you streamline SOP creation? 

That’s where an SOP template comes in.

SOP templates standardize your SOP’s style and format, ensuring they’re uniform and consistent.

What does a standard operating procedure template look like, and how do you create one?

Here are some suggested sections for your SOP template.

Title page

This should include information about the document, such as the:

  • SOP being documented.
  • Document control number (if applicable).
  • Name of the people who created the document.
  • Document creation and effectivity date.
  • Date the document was updated (for subsequent revisions).
  • Department that will implement the document.

Table of contents

If your SOP is longer than two pages, include a table of contents following the title page to help those reading your manual find the information easily.

Preliminary information

Some SOPs require different conditions before you can apply them. Here are some samples of information to include.

  • Purpose: Explain the SOP’s importance and the procedure’s objectives and relevance to the company.
  • Scope: The scope covers the people, areas, and processes to which the SOP applies.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Discuss the employees and stakeholders responsible for performing tasks, who to contact when emergencies arise and who’s in charge of implementation and review.
  • Materials: Write down the materials and tools the people implementing the process will need. Discuss their specifications, where to find them, and how to store them.
  • Safety information: List safety precautions to prevent untoward incidents. Include safety procedures or mention where employees can access the safety manual should any accidents occur.
  • Definition of terms: Define any jargon to avoid confusion.

Procedures

After the preliminary information, we arrive at the most essential part of the SOP document — the procedures.

How you discuss a procedure will depend on the format you choose.

Remember to use clear and concise language your audience understands, regardless of your chosen format. The language should leave no room for misinterpretation.

Here’s an example of an SOP template you can copy.

Create an SOP template in seconds

Writing an SOP or coming up with an SOP template can take hours.

But digital tools like Scribe automate the process so you can create an SOP template in minutes.

Here are some benefits of using Scribe.

  • Collaborate with your team in real time.
  • Store and access SOPs in one place.
  • Automate workflow documentation by generating screenshots and text descriptions for each step.

Quote from Scribe user Kirkland G., associate SEO director at GR0.

Besides easy collaboration and an automated workflow, Scribe also offers free SOP templates from its library:

Standard SOP Template

By using an SOP template, organizations can save time and resources while ensuring that their SOPs are clear, concise and consistent.

Method of procedure (MOP) template

A Method of Procedure (MOP) template is a handy tool for creating standardized documentation for your organization. These templates give you a pre-made framework to follow, so you don't have to start from scratch.

Customer service SOP template

A Customer Service Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a detailed guide that outlines the steps and processes involved in delivering high-quality customer service.

Final thoughts: How to write a standard operating procedure template

An SOP template speeds up the writing process by creating a standardized format to follow. Thanks to technology, SOP templates aren't solely confined to word documents. For instance, you can easily create one with an automated documentation tool like Scribe.

Try Scribe’s SOP templates for yourself. Sign up for a free account today.

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