10 Steps for Implementing Successful SOP’s with SharePoint

Standard Operating procedures (SOPs) are key in many industries to keeping a company moving and sometimes more importantly, compliant with the vast array of regulations, legislations, and Laws.

Despite this many organisations still struggle to get the correct SOP’s created, distributed and understood by their employees. This blog will give 10 points to consider when implementing any SOP in your organisation and show some areas where using SharePoint as your SOP software can help:

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are detailed written instructions to achieve uniformity of the performance of a specific function. A well-written and implemented SOP can be used to satisfy compliance requirements, mitigate health and safety risk, or simply to work in a consistent and efficient manner throughout an organisation. This guide will give 10 points to consider when implementing any SOP in your organisation: 

Step 1 – Ensure Purpose of the SOP is understood

Ask yourself why is the SOP required, what problem will it solve and what does it need to achieve. Here are some examples:

  1. To protect the environment.
  2. To drive down costs.
  3. To increase quality.
  4. To ensure safety and/or reduce risk.
  5. To provide training reference.

Step 2 – Consider your audience

Ensure that the audience size and shape, language skills, and prior knowledge of the subject are taken into account when writing the SOP. It may be that one area of the SOP has to cater for a different type of audience than another and may therefore benefit from a different layout. Pictures versus words for example.

Step 3 – Ensure effective format and layout

There are no ‘silver bullet’ answers on how to layout or present your SOP, but there are some simple points to consider:

  1. Is there a pre-existing format in use that is working? – If it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
  2. If there are many routes through the process, then it may lend itself to flowchart layout. – Research shows that 83% of human learning occurs visually.
  3. Is the process very long?  – Then it may be better to have hierarchical steps, giving a list of main steps with sub steps underneath to help give clarity.
  4. Is it a simple routine with few steps? – Then a simple list may be the most effective way.

Step 4 – Appropriate authors need to be engaged

It may go without saying, however in order to write a SOP, you need to have the necessary knowledge. Whilst you may have been tasked to create, and even own this SOP, always bare in mind that you may not be the best person to write it. Ensure that experts in the relevant areas are brought into the authorising process. Using tools like SharePoint to facilitate that collaboration is key to success at this stage.

Step 5 – Provide relevant structure and content

There may be different needs for different scenarios, however the following are examples of basic details that need to be included in the SOP:

  1. Scope of SOP.
  2. The procedure itself.
  3. Any Health and Safety considerations.
  4. Any equipment needs.
  5. Glossary of terms and Hints and Tips

Step 6 – Use a suitable writing style

  1. Ensure any text in the document is clear and concise otherwise the audience will find it difficult to follow and use as a reference.
  2. Try not to use any reference to the person (You, He, She, Him, Her).
  3. Ensure steps are clearly referenced in order to help with ease of reference and ease of maintenance in the future.
  4. Break up large chunks of texts with diagrams and flowcharts; remember a picture paints a thousand words.

Step 7 – SOP testing

Ensure the SOP is tested by the people who will use it, and ensure comments are taken onboard and updated within the SOP wherever possible

Step 8 – Ensure the SOP is available in a known location

Most organisations have a standard repository location for SOP.  Most commonly used is a SharePoint site either at department or organisation level.

Step 9 – Ensure the SOP is distributed and read

Whilst a repository is required, simply placing your SOP on SharePoint will not be enough. Once a SOP is updated or put in place it is imperative that all the relevant user groups read the document.  In many compliance situations it will be mandatory by legislation to have confirmation that SOP has been read and understood. The recommendation would be to use a SharePoint based tool such as DocRead from Collaboris to manage this whole process for you.

Step 10 – Ensure comprehension

Just asking staff to confirm they have read the SOP will not usually be enough to ensure understanding.  There is a need to ensure staff have understood what is meant by the SOP.  Setting a test to be passed when the audience reads the SOP is a good way to achieve this. Again DocRead coupled with DocSurvey from Collaboris is a great way to achieve this within a SharePoint environment. Check out this blog post on How to improve your SOP training using SharePoint.