ClickHelp Software Documentation Glossary

What Is an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)?

A Standard Operating Procedure (an SOP) is documentation that contains detailed and step-by-step instructions on how workers should carry out their routine operations in accordance with laws, industry regulations, or a company’s standards. It is a guide for employees. A well-written SOP is clear, unambiguous, and easy-to-understand, steps are short and simple. Both experienced employees and newbies are more productive when they have clear guidelines on how to work.
The main purposes of this document are:

  • workflow efficiency
  • reduction of errors
  • unification of processes in a company
  • smooth onboarding for new employees
  • safety
  • consistency and reliability
  • a way to resolve conflicts
  • protection of employees
  • protection of customers
  • troubleshooting
  • scheduling of processes and procedures
  • etc.

As a rule, printed SOPs have the following structure:

  • title
  • table of contents
  • introduction
  • body
  • attachments

SOPs are considered to be the main source of information in all businesses where quality standards are used. These can be companies from any industry: IT, HR, pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, restaurants, etc. Various formats can be used to write an SOP depending on a company, industry, and regulations: checklists, steps, ISO 9000 (for international businesses), flowcharts, etc. Some industries benefit from using standard operating procedures templates. These are ready-made structures to store and use information.

Companies of all sizes pay a lot of attention to developing SOPs, as this type of technical documentation is crucial - working according to well-defined Standard Operating Procedures is an essential aspect of any quality-management system.

Another important question is updating and managing an SOP. Procedures may be changes with time, and it should be reflected in documentation as soon as possible. Outdated SOPs cause mistakes, misunderstanding and slow down the workflow in general.

This post will give you more information on how to write a Standard Operating Procedure: How to Write Standard Operating Procedures?

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