What is an SOP
A Standard Operating Procedure or SOP is a set of written instructions that guide users on performing a certain task in a consistent way.
Operations teams write SOPs so that everyone is doing the task the exact same way every time. Consistency in performing the task is a key concept, as that consistency is what drives the benefits (see below).
A couple trends are driving the need for SOPs. First, people simply don’t stay at one job very long. The average person changing jobs 15 times over their working life or every 2-1/2 years! When a person leaves your company so can your processes unless you document how work is done. The second thing that has happened is the desire to reduce waste. The concepts of Lean, Six-Sigma and Agile are central not just to manufacturing and software development, but to all areas of operation.
We are now a population of hyper-efficient beings looking always on the prowl for new opportunities. This is why all organizations must document even the most mundane task in the form of an SOP.
“There is no good way to waste your time. Wasting time is just a waste” – Helen Mirren
A Few Benefits of SOPs
- Increased quality has always been central to SOPs. Once employees perform a task exactly the same way, that task can be measured, analyzed and improved.
- SOPs are critical for risky jobs, increasing safety while decreasing time off for injury and insurance claims.
- Onboarding new employees is much easier with documented SOPs and improves employee satisfaction.
- SOPs are often seen as the best training a company can provide because they are used on the job.
- SOPs create a culture of improvement. Done right, your SOPs encourage staff to write their own.
- Knowledge is efficiently captured, preserved and transferred to the next worker. This allows the organization to scale quickly.
SOPs in Todays Workplace
Old SOPs can have an oppressive feel to them, and can actually stifle creativity. Imagine rows of 3-ring binders, forms to fill out, and a group of task masters cracking the whip over cowering employees trying to get through the day. Kinda ugly, huh?
Done right, SOPs are empowering for the employee. First, they should be written and maintained by the same teams that are using them. Simple things like using templates and sharing examples creates basic guidelines, while allowing for teams to document in a more flexible and productive manner. Sure, larger or more controlled companies might need oversight, but the bulk of the work should be done by the people using the SOPs. Using the right tools is the key to making them modern.
Must-Have Features for SOPs
Everything in one document
SOPs should not force the user to click out to different resources. This breaks the flow of the process, making it horribly inefficient and likely to not be used. Instead, your tools need to embed documents, videos, flowcharts and other resources right in the SOP. No more jumping around allowed!
Mobile first and always
70% of all online traffic is mobile. If your SOPs are not inherently built for mobile, they will not be used! Keep in mind, though, that this implies 30% are accessed on computers. This means your SOPs must accommodate both. Your tool should support any device in the same SOP. Don’t use two tools…that’s crazy today!
Make it easy with a template
Templates let your teams work quickly and provides a basic guideline for general useability. The very definition of SOPs hinge on consistency, and providing teams with templates will drive that across your SOPs and encourage teams to create more.
Engage the team with awesome SOPs
Everything in our world is built to engage. As consumers, we have rich engaging environments. As business people, we now see engaging user interfaces in the applications we use everyday. Giving users a link to a boring document with a bunch of links is…well…boring. Boring equals low engagement, low use, and a general sense of old-tech. Engaging makes it fun to create and update, and delights the end user, ensuring deeper reading and usage. Design principles in your SOP (browsability, white-space, effective images, etc.) will make them be used!
This should be inexpensive
In the recent past, creating SOPs with these features was expensive, if not impossible. Not today. Plexie can do all of this and more, while providing incredible investment value. Plexie is free to get started. In fact, if you are a small organization of 10 or fewer creators or less than 100 users, it’s free forever. From there, the price is modest for larger organizations. There is no need to spend big dollars on software for this, or have a team of expensive specialists running it.
This should be easy
Plexie is centered on making your life easier. Your SOP’s will be easy to use with all the feature described above. It’s incredibly easy to create…and actually a lot of fun. Your teams, who are also your users, will amaze themselves with how awesome they can make SOPs function and look. As mentioned, we make Plexie easy to buy. Try it out with one team. Build a few SOPs. Expand only when you are comfortable and have proven the value of your Plexie SOPs.