What is a standard operating procedure?
Definition: Standard operation procedure (SOP) is a set of written guidelines or instructions necessary for an employee to perform a specific task or process sucessfully. Companies create this document to ensure quality, consistency, and accuracy when delivering their service.
With a SOP, any process in the company is explained in a clear, visually appealing, user-friendly way so all employees are on the same page when conducting a specific task.
How to write a standard operating procedure?
- Goals: Clearly defying the processes and tasks the SOP covers and the expected outcomes. This step is crucial for setting the direction and the purpose of the document so the person writing it doesn’t stray.
- Input: Gathering relevant information from the team, stakeholders, and experts is crucial for an accurate, reliable, useful, and clear SOP.
- Audience: Defining the audience for the SOP sets the language, tone, and level of details to match the knowledge, experience, and tone of the people it’s made for.
- Format: Deciding on the format for the SOP provides a clear framework for organizing information from the start, making it easier for the person writing the SOP.
- Title: It has the topic or the purposes of the SOP in it, and it’s presented in a clear and user-friendly way.
- Objective/Goal: It sets the expectations and outcomes for the reader from the start, so the context and the purpose are clear.
- Scope — It defines for whom the document is intended for, so the audience can identify themselves right away.
- Table of content: It helps readers easily navigate and find specific information in the SOP
- Procedure/Instructions: It includes step-by-step instructions and detail on the techniques, tools, methods, and best practices.
SOP outline example
Title: Customer Support Ticket Resolution Process
Objective: Providing a standardized approach and guide to resolving customer support tickets to ensure customer satisfaction and increase the number of resolved issues.
Scope: Customer service agents
2. Ticket review
3. Ticket troubleshooting
4. Ticket documentation
5. Customer communication
6. Ticket closure
7. Reporting and follow-up
Common formats of standard operating procedures
A document is the oldest paragraph-style SOP form with detailed explanations and steps involved. The form is suitable for both complex processes and tasks and simpler ones.
Compared to other formats, it’s less visually engaging and user-friendly due to loads of paragraphs. Still, documents may include multiple headings, tables, and charts to make them more comprehensible.
A checklist has each step in the process listed with checkboxes that indicate the completion of the step.
This SOP format is user-friendly in terms that it’s easy to follow and skim through. It’s best for straightforward processes that don’t need detailed explanations due to their complexity.
This format consists of visual elements such as images and icons that complement the text. This format is easy to understand and follow if the process described isn’t complex and doesn’t require further information.
This format uses diagrams and flowcharts to represent the information needed to complete a task with visual elements such as arrows and other symbols. This format is useful for processes with multiple decision points because it provides a clear flow.
A modern approach to SOP is a collaboration tool such as a shared document or a project management tool. This format is great for remote teams because it prompts real-time collaboration, and it’s easy to maintain and update regularly.