SOPs are the backbone of any organization — whether you're looking to scale, change management or just stay afloat.
But SOPS only work if they're accurate and up-to-date. That can be time-consuming and tough to maintain. Businesses are using SOP templates so they don't have to start from scratch.
Let's dig through some of the best templates out there, so you can build an SOP manual that fits your needs.
TL;DR: SOP templates
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are essential for businesses to standardize processes and scale quickly.
- Standard operating procedure templates provide a simple solution to speed up SOP writing and ensure consistency.
- SOPs are essential for compliance, quality control, knowledge retention, and saving time and money.
- Challenges of creating SOPs include inconsistencies, resource-intensive processes, and inaccessible records.
- The 6 steps to writing an SOP template include planning, collecting data, choosing a format, writing, implementing, and refining/updating.
What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
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 to perform particular tasks, so the quality remains the same even when the people in the company change.
What is an SOP template?
An SOP template is a pre-made document that you can use as a starting point for creating your SOPs.
Why use SOP templates?
Businesses implement SOPs to standardize their business processes, align team members and stakeholders to move the project forward, and complete tasks with as few mistakes as possible.
There are several benefits of SOP templates, including:
Enhance compliance: Templates simplify company audits and allow you to adhere to legal requirements.
Quality control: SOPs are a form of quality assurance. Having standardized templates in place assures customers of consistent and high-quality products. Standards organizations look for SOPs when a company applies for or renews its quality assurance certification.
Knowledge retention: Employees come and go, but SOP templates allow organizations to retain knowledge from former employees and pass that information to new employees.
Save time and money: SOPs templates 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.
Improve communication: Develop defined processes and procedures, promote collaboration and break down information silos.
100+ free SOP templates
Scribe also offers 100+ free SOP templates from its library. Here are just a few:
SOP manual template
You can save time and resources by using our SOP Manual template to ensure your SOPs are clear, concise and consistent.
Method of procedure (MOP) template
Our Method of Procedure template is a handy tool for creating standardized documentation for your organization. These templates give you a pre-made framework, so you don't have to start from scratch.
Customer service SOP template
Scribe's Customer Service SOP template template outlines the steps and processes so your team can deliver high-quality customer service.
Check out our Gallery for the full template library and more.
What are some examples of SOPs?
Here are a few of the most common types of SOP templates.
- HR SOPs include training manuals and employee onboarding SOPs 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.
- SOPs in Manufacturing include operations manuals and job aids for new employees to learn about internal processes.
How to create an SOP template in 6 steps
1. Plan the SOP
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 template. Some questions to guide you may include:
- What task or process will the SOP template be used to document?
- 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.
Next, decide how much detail should be included in the template. This will help you determine the right format.
3. Choose a format for your template
There are many factors to consider when choosing a SOP format:
- Your audience.
- The SOP's purpose.
- The type of data available.
- The level of detail.
Once you’ve gathered the raw data, choose the format that best fits your needs.
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 lists are best for processes with steps in a specific order. You can choose this format when implementing setup instructions.
- Hierarchical steps are ideal when you need to give more detail to a step.
- Checklist SOPs work best for projects with repetitive tasks. They help you determine whether you're on track for a project.
4. Write the SOP template
Once you have the details, data and format, bring everything together and draft the template.
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, send the template to your team for review, feedback and revisions.
5. Implement the SOP template
Once your template for SOPs is approved, make it accessible to relevant employees.
Monitor the results, encourage feedback and evaluate your SOPs to determine if you need to update or improve your templates.
6. Refine and update your templates
Monitor and review your SOPs and templates regularly to make sure they are still accurate and relevant.
Some ways you can improve your templates:
- Automate your SOP templates. Speed up the writing process and makes SOPs more accessible with automation tools.
- Use a consistent format. Standardizing elements like headings, fonts and branding throughout the template will make your SOPs easier to read and understand.
- Train employees. Ensure everyone who needs to create SOPs knows how to use the templates.
What do I include in an SOP template?
SOP templates standardize your SOP’s style and format, ensuring they’re uniform and consistent.
Here are some suggested sections for your SOP template.
1. Title page
The title page should include information about the document, like:
- The SOP that you're documenting.
- Document control number (if applicable).
- The authors of the document.
- Document creation and effectivity date.
- Date the document was updated (for subsequent revisions).
- The department that owns the SOP.
2. 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.
3. Preliminary information
Some SOPs will need more detailed information. Here are some examples of what you can include.
- Statement of 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 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 and tools: Write down the materials and tools your team will need to implement the process. Include specifications, where to find them and how to store them.
- Safety information: 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.
After the preliminary information, we arrive at the most essential part of the SOP document—the procedures.
How you discuss a procedure depends on the format you choose. A customer-facing SOP will have different information than an onboarding SOP created by the HR team.
Use clear and concise language that your audience will understand. The language should leave no room for misinterpretation.
When creating your SOP, include everything your audience needs to get started, including clear instructions, examples and screenshots.
Challenges of creating an SOP template
There are so many benefits to creating SOPs, but not all organizations invest the time into it.
Here are the top three SOP challenges and how you can overcome them.
Writing SOPs isn’t the responsibility of a sole department. No one person or department is familiar with all of the company's processes—especially if you’re from a large organization.
For instance, the IT team knows the most about their helpdesk 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.
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.
2. Resource-intensive process
Many organizations don't bother updating or maintaining SOPs when they take too long to create.
Updates usually happen too fast—especially in ever-changing industries like tech. And it can be 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 don't have an easy way to start.
Start small and scale up. Don't try to implement SOPs for every process in your organization all at once. Start with a few key processes, build your templates and gradually expand the program.
3. Inaccessible records
Another problem with SOPs templates 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.
Leverage automation. There are multiple tools and free SOP software available.
Use an AI-powered tool like Scribe's SOP generator to make the process easy, consistent and repeatable.
"I was spending hours in my operations role documenting long and complicated digital processes. Scribe has totally solved this. I'm winning back multiple hours a week and the guides look so much better than our previous SOP template." — Josie K., Senior Campaign Analyst
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 seconds.
Why people are choosing Scribe:
With Scribe, you can automatically create SOPs for any process:
- Automate workflow documentation by capturing any process on your browser with the click of a button (desktop version available for Pro users).
- Create SOP guides complete with screenshots, text and GPT4-generated titles.
- Combine multiple SOPs with text and video in Pages.
- Edit your SOP: add tips and tricks, add and update steps and annotate screenshots (Pro users).
- Redact sensitive information so it doesn’t show up in screenshots (Pro users).
- Store and access SOPs in one location.
- Share your SOPs with a single click or embed them into your documentation. Scribe integrates with thousands of tools like Sharepoint, Notion, Confluence and many more.
Here's what Scribe users have to say:
Frequently asked questions
How often should SOPs be updated?
You should regularly update your SOPs to reflect changes in the process or procedure. Updates also need to be made when there are changes to regulations or standards.
Who is responsible for creating and updating SOPs?
The responsibility for creating and updating SOPs typically falls to the department or person responsible for the task or process. Be sure to get input from other stakeholders like other departments, managers and customers.
How can I ensure that my team is using SOP templates?
- Train your team: Make sure that all employees who need to use SOPs are trained on how to create and use them.
- Make your SOP templates easy to find: Creating a central repository for SOPs, such as a shared drive or intranet site, will make it easy for your team to find, access and create SOPs.
- Monitor compliance: Conduct regular audits and spot checks of your SOP templates to make sure they are still compliant.
- Encourage feedback: Ask for feedback on your SOPs and incorporate the suggestions into your templates.
How can I protect sensitive information in my SOPs?
If your SOPs contain sensitive information like customer data or intellectual property, you can use security measures like passwords, encryption, and access controls.
Scribe offers customized sharing settings, so you can control who can access your SOP. Pro users can also redact sensitive information from screenshots, ensuring no customer, employee or personal data is in your Scribe.
Final thoughts: SOP templates
An SOP template speeds up the writing process by creating a standardized format. Thanks to technology, SOP templates aren't solely confined to Word documents. You can easily create templates with AI-powered documentation tool like Scribe.
Build the ultimate SOP template with Scribe’s auto-generated step-by-step guides. With Scribe, you can document any process in seconds, complete with text and screenshots.
Sign up for Scribe today and try our SOP templates for yourself.