SOP: Simple Explanation of Standard Operating Procedure

5 Min Read
SOP: Simple Explanation of Standard Operating Procedure

HR, marketing, healthcare, retail, construction; all the different departments in all types of industries use Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Written as a guide and used to advise employees on best practices, an SOP can be created for almost any business activity.

What is a SOP?

SOP is the process of documenting a procedure. This is done in the form of an explanation standard operating procedure SOP document.

These are step-by-step instructions to help workers perform a routine business activity or complex routine procedures. Really how it should be done.

SOPs aim to explain how processes should be done and help to improve efficiency, quality, uniformity of performance while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.

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Explaining SOP

In simplistic terms, an SOP is a document that outlines the action points within a workflow required to achieve the intended result. An SOP can be and should be used as a standard for business operations. 

They can be written, developed into a flowchart, shown as images, or instructional videos. The chosen media should be appropriate to the activity i.e. an SOP explaining how to wash hands correctly would most appropriately show a short film or be a selection of images. 

Whichever media is chosen, the SOP itself just needs to be four things:

  • Brief
  • Easy to use 
  • Easy to understand
  • Accessible 

To illustrate the importance of an SOP, let’s imagine you’re cycling home from work one day and you get a flat tyre. You’re several miles from home, and it needs fixing. This involves removing the burst inner tube tyre from underneath the outer tyre – either fixing it or replacing this – and then putting the newly-fixed, or new inner tube back into place. 

You manage to complete all these steps, and you’re feeling so incredibly proud of yourself for being a DIY queen (or king). You cheerily jump back on your bike, only to find that the tyre goes pop – again!

Whilst at first, you’re perplexed – it then dawns on you, you missed a crucial step!

You didn’t check for the object that had caused the flat tyre in the first place.

And there it is, that big old thorn sticking right through the outer tyre, protruding right through to the newly burst inner tube.

All that effort, and still you will be doing another inner tube replacement AND you’ll be getting the bus home. 

You really could have done with an SOP…

Benefits of Standard Operating Procedure SOP

It’s not just the reduction of errors though that SOPs are useful for, there are so many other benefits to producing SOPs for all levels of business activity.

  • Time Management – they are ‘time assets’ (rather than time debts) that help you save time in the long run.
  • Reduce Costs – streamlining processes enables employees to accomplish more in less time.
  • Maintain Consistency – ensures processes are performed the same way by everyone every time.
  • Prevent failures & mistakes – following a step by step guide leaves less room for errors.
  • Performance – a team’s performance can be easily tracked against a SOP.
  • Accountability – SOPs allow for employees to take ownership of performing certain tasks, making them more accountable for their actions.
  • Safer Working Practices – ensures jobs can be completed safely and consistently.

Keep the standard operating procedure up to date to stay relevant with current business procedures.

Do SOPs hinder flexibility?

Contrary to what you might be thinking, SOPs have been demonstrated to increase businesses flexibility. In this Harvard Business Review, author Brad Power, explains that an SOP provides the ‘foundational springboard’ for tailoring experiences and creating unique solutions to problems. Essentially, an SOP ensures you are meeting requirements, while your own insights and knowledge can be used to create customer-focused, detailed pathways to success. With the extra time saved from not having to find the answers, you can therefore be more creative or find better solutions. 

For example, you want to create a new web page for the business website. Using the SOP, you can swiftly build the backbones of the page – safe in the knowledge branding is consistent, there is minimal risk of a preventable technical glitch, and probably most importantly, your marketing team are happy – yet, there is still lots of room to add personal touches and creative flair.

How to create a SOP?

SOPs are very simple to create. We’ve even created an SOP Checklist to help you get started. 

The most important thing to remember is that your SOPs will also have to evolve alongside your organisation. Business is never static, and your procedures shouldn’t be either. 

There will be new laws and regulations introduced along the way that may enforce amendments. Employees will have suggestions on how to make it better. Some tasks will become irrelevant and/or unnecessary.  

These are all reasons to make changes and adapt your SOP.

You may even want to develop an SOP with graphical representation. This is called a Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) for specifying business processes in a visualised workflow format. 

Still an SOP, just a varied format.

Who can use Standard Operating Procedures?

Often when we think of words such as procedures, standardisation, operational, management, workflow – we think of larger businesses with lots of employees. Does this mean that SOPs are not relevant to smaller, even one-man-band businesses?


SOPs can be developed for any task that has a standardised procedure. Many successful business owners wish that they had acquired SOPs at the very beginning.

Examples of SOPs in business

Client Acquisition 

Considered one of the most important processes any business can have, particularly start-ups. SOPs can be helpful in market research, as well as the actual onboarding of clients. 

Having a templated email/phone call, an FAQ resource, information on common issues with new clients, steps to follow when reaching the next steps – this information is invaluable to have to hand when finding new clients to work with. 

Help Desk Manual   

A help desk manual SOP is an essential ingredient to unshakeable, consistent, and memorable customer service. Time is of the essence when dealing with queries or complaints, and so the quicker an employee can get their hands on an answer, the better!

SOPs can be designed in the form of a decision tree, where an employee follows the flowchart to find the answers. This frees up Managers and other employees’ time, gives the employee a sense of pride and ownership and can provide a successful side-step for the unwanted result of an unhappy customer.

Key Performance Indicators 

KPIs are used to quantify how well a business is meeting its strategic outcomes. It’s important that employees across a business are able to monitor their own KPIs, and so an SOP can be used to instruct them how to do this. 

Making this information accessible and easy to understand ensures that employees can hit the ground running when joining the organisation and start adhering to your business needs as soon as possible. 

Content Marketing

While content marketing is all the rage, inconsistent content marketing is not so. That’s why a lot of small and larger businesses choose to outsource at least some of their content creation. Whether content marketing is in-house or outsourced, an SOP is particularly useful.

For an outsourced blog article, your SOP may go a little like this:

  • Research of topic content and related keywords 
  • Produce brief with selected topic and keywords, word count, target audience
  • Hire a content writer 
  • Proofread and edit
  • Save the document to Google Drive
  • Repurpose content for social media channels
  • And so on…

The Success of a SOP

Having a quality-control system with SOPs is an essential part of any business, particularly within production lines, manufacturing, or other businesses with systematic workflows. However, it is useful in all kinds of businesses and can save heaps of time and increase productivity. 

SOPs promote efficiency, quality, uniformity of performance, effective communication, compliance with industry regulations – all the things that a successful business should be striving for.

SOP with Checkify

Create standard operating procedures to guide your best practices but with easy to understand and contain actions steps that are simple to follow in a form of a create a checklist using the power of a simple business checklist.

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