So you want your tech team to standardize their everyday procedures.
Asking them to do so is not enough, you know.
One of the biggest challenges with standard operating procedures (SOPs) is socializing them with your team. You need to make the SOP creation process as seamless as possible to encourage people to get involved.
SOPs aim to make your workflows more effective, not burden your team with documentation writing. That’s why you need an effective SOP template. It’ll help you create a standard process everyone can follow, keeping all your SOPs consistent — regardless of who and when has built them.
I’ve prepared a few SOP templates you can choose from to implement in your organization. But first, let’s cover the basics.
What is an SOP?
An SOP is a set of written instructions on how to perform repetitive procedures. It standardizes the way employees perform routine tasks, speeding up business workflows and creating predictable outcomes.
You can create SOPs for your DevOps team, marketing department, sales ops, HRs or accounting team. SOPs aren’t limited by function or the size of the company.
Why are SOPs important to tech teams?
When I asked my network whether they used SOPs, four out of 11 people said they didn’t, and one person admitted they had no idea what SOPs were. So are SOPs even important to startups and growing companies?
In short, they are.
SOPs prevent micromanagement
First of all, SOPs help to avoid micromanagement. When people don’t know how to perform tasks effectively, the management team needs to spend a lot of time assisting them with simple business procedures. This system is time-consuming and limits your capacity to scale operations and grow your team.
SOPs facilitate onboarding
Next, SOPs help to train new employees. For fast-growing tech teams, it’s critical to have onboarding documentation where new hires can access all the necessary information to do their work successfully. SOPs are an inevitable component of onboarding documentation.
SOPs improve knowledge sharing
Eighty-one percent of employees say that knowledge gained from hands-on experience is hard or impossible to replace once it's lost.
When employees leave, they take their knowledge with them. Unless you preserve it.
SOPs are a powerful method for knowledge transfer. Encouraging team members to document work procedures will simplify offboarding and ensure frictionless work handover.
SOPs reduce human error
Tech teams deal with complex processes every day. A single mistake inevitably causes project delays and hours lost in team meetings. While well-written SOPs don’t eliminate errors completely, they help prevent many problems that come with the lack of standard procedures.
SOPs boost productivity
And lastly, SOPs improve productivity. If fast-food chains didn’t have SOPs, you’d be waiting for your Big Tasty for half an hour, instead of a couple of minutes. Just like Mcdonald's, your startup needs SOPs to perform standard workflows faster.
There are plenty of ways to complete one task. But your team doesn’t need all of them. They need only one most effective method for accomplishing their goal. With SOPs, you encourage everyone to follow best practices so they don’t have to spend hours developing ones from scratch.
Also, when your team can turn to a clear SOP, they won’t disrupt each other with simple questions — taking the burden off the management team so they can focus on more critical tasks.
SOP examples in DevOps
Your tech team performs standard operating procedures more often than you think. Think of the daily actions your people take:
- Creating Git branches.
- Working with a version control system.
- Writing tickets.
- Reviewing pull requests.
These all need to be standardized and documented for a more effective team collaboration and faster workflows.
The top challenge of creating SOPs
While it’s worth the effort, documenting SOPs can be a pain.
When you don’t have a clear SOP structure that everyone can follow, the process turns into a mess, and eventually, people don’t bother to create or maintain SOPs.
The biggest problem with poor SOPs is inconsistency. Without a consistent structure, it’s not only challenging to write SOPs but almost impossible to follow them.
Yet there’s a simple solution to this problem — an SOP template. This document will enable you and your team to create SOPs fast and effortlessly by giving a clear direction for the process and outlining a predetermined layout for every document. In other words, it’ll standardize the entire SOP creation process, however paradoxical it may seem.
How to create an SOP template
So you clearly need an SOP template. You can scroll down to find the three ready-to-use SOP templates or read this step-by-step guide to design your own sample.
Step 1: Categorize your procedures
Before you task your team with SOP creation, you can already split your future documentation into categories.
For organization-wide SOPs, you can start by grouping documents by department. If nobody outside your team will use those SOPs, then it’s best to categorize them by product, role or procedure complexity.
It can be that some SOPs will require different levels of access — and this is where you can separate confidential information and avoid access management issues in the future.
Step 2: Choose the format
There are different formats to build your SOPs. You can stick to one or create SOP templates for each format to keep your documentation consistent and easy to follow.
These are the most used formats for standard operating procedures:
- Step-by-step guides. These are simple instructions for straightforward processes.
- Hierarchical SOPs. For complex multi-step procedures that involve decision-making and outline several scenarios, you’d better go for a hierarchical structure.
- Flowcharts. When your SOPs need to outline several scenarios, flowcharts are helpful. These are in the form of a graphical diagram.
How do you choose the right SOP format? The answer depends on the size of your team and the complexity of the procedures you’re going to cover. It’s easy to pick SOP formats when you’ve categorized your procedures (see Step 1).
Step 3: Create a naming convention for your SOPs
Next, you need to ensure your SOPs will be to find. A naming convention is a set of rules that specify how documents should be named to easily distinguish them without opening the files.
Instead of giving people the freedom to name SOPs, give them standards to follow to create documentation that’s easy to navigate. Your naming convention may include these elements.
- Category. To improve the findability of your SOPs, encourage contributors to tag titles with a phrase describing what category this or another SOP belongs to.
- Short description. Provide guidelines for creating short and descriptive titles.
- Date of creation or the last update. Stakeholders should always specify when a document is created or updated. It will help you to indicate the relevance of the exact document version and distinguish it from older or newer versions.
- Contributor(s). In some cases, you might include the name of a person/team that’s worked on the document in the title.
- Naming convention case. Introduce regulations on how to capitalize in titles. This tiny detail will significantly improve the readability of your SOP titles.
Create a template that includes all the components you want to see in your SOP titles. This is how a proper SOP title template looks:
(1) Category - (2) Subject - (3) Date - (4) Contributors
Step 4: Create an SOP structure
It’s finally time to build a body for your SOP template. This is a skeleton around which your documentation will grow. It outlines the key sections that should be included in all SOPs.
You can include any components you want in your SOP template. But typically, SOPs follow a similar structure:
- SOP title.
- Scope & purpose.
You can omit unnecessary components (e.g., a glossary might be redundant) or add something depending on the specifics of your internal procedures.
Step 5: Develop writing and style guidelines
If you want tech specialists to write documentation, keep in mind that most don’t do much writing in their everyday lives. They need clear guidelines on your company’s communication policies, tone of voice and writing standards.
So alongside an SOP format, structure and naming convention, attach writing and style guidelines that will assist contributors with SOP creation. Bullet point styles, formatting instructions, capitalization techniques, punctuation rules, etc. — these seemingly insignificant details will play an important role in creating consistent SOPs.
With style and writing guidelines in place, people won’t have to worry about margins or fonts, and can fully focus on covering the procedures in every detail.
Bonus step: Create SOP templates in seconds
Don’t feel like spending months creating SOPs? No problem. We’ve got you covered.
A step-by-step guide generator, Scribe creates SOP templates and SOPs by simply following your online processes. Here’s how you build SOP templates with Scribe:
- Turn on the Scribe extension or desktop app
- Go through the process you want to standardize.
- Watch Scribe auto-capture the process and create an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide with text and images.
- Leave the resulting SOP as it is or adjust it by adding critical sections (e.g., a glossary, the scope of an SOP, etc.) or visual content.
- From here, you can duplicate your SOP template to build new guides upon.
- Share your SOPs and embed them in your knowledge base in one click.
- You’re brilliant!
Free SOP templates for your team
Here are three SOP templates you can take and customize.
Simple SOP template
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with your SOPs. The simpler they are, the better. Here’s a simple SOP template for small businesses and startups.
Standard Operating Procedure
(1) Category - (2) Subject - (3) Date - (4) Contributors
Date of creation
Name & Role
Who is this SOP for? When is the procedure considered complete? If there are any areas where this SOP specifically CANNOT be applied, these should also be mentioned.
What’s the main objective of this SOP?
All acronyms, abbreviations and terminology should be explained here.
This is the main text of the SOP. It details the procedure.
Step 1: Cover a step-by-step instruction on performing the procedure.
- Include sub-steps when necessary.
- Add screenshots, videos or GIFs to support the points made.
- Avoid jargon.
- Check out the company’s writing and style guidelines before creating this SOP.
Step 2: …
Link helpful resources that provide more context to the topic:
SOP template for DevOps
Your DevOps team will find this SOP template particularly useful.
Sop flowchart template
This SOP flowchart template will be effective for processes with conditional circumstances.
Pick your SOP template
Whether you’ll use one of the templates above (or all of them?) or develop your own SOP template, you must make people adhere to it. A good SOP template ensures consistency in documentation and fosters SOP adoption. And tools like Scribe help you do it right the first time!