SOP, or a standard operating procedure, is a series of rules/guidelines, which will allow individuals to carry out specific tasks. Operating procedures can be used in general operations in a business setting. So, if you have a job-title which needs to complete specific tasks on a day to day basis, the SOP would be a resource which informs applicants/employees how to carry out those tasks. SOPs can also be used in legislative/governmental agencies. The procedures/instructions would be used to help government officials or employees carry out specific tasks, in order to ensure compliance with the law or governing laws within the agency.
Where is an SOP used?
Standard operating procedures can be used in any industry. From government agencies to banking/financial organizations, to a small business that needs to complete various tasks on a daily basis, the procedure will serve as a guide for those who are carrying out the tasks as they are described in the SOP.
What should the SOP include?
When implementing the standard operating procedures for a business/organization, it will vary from industry to industry what terms will be included. However, in most operating procedures, some imperative facts to include would be:
1. How duties should be carried out.
2. Who should perform those duties (and in what order.)
3. When tasks should be performed (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.).
4. How to report if there are issues in completing or carrying out a task.
5. How to deal with setbacks or how to implement revisions to a specific task in the event something goes wrong.
6. Industry-specific guidelines, based upon laws, governing agencies, or other regulations a company has to follow, based on that specific industry.
Many companies, especially in a smaller/dedicated niche, might choose to include additional factors in the SOP which will allow employees to properly perform all functions in their job description. Due to the complex nature of certain positions/agencies, an SOP in one organization will greatly differ from those in another or a different industry a company operates in.
Are SOPs necessary?
In some industries they are. For example, governmental agencies have to follow specific guidelines in order to ensure compliance with the law. A small business might not need to develop an SOP for 3-5 employees; but, having standard procedures in place, will allow an organization to run efficiently and smoothly. So, although not essential, the SOP is a great guideline for how procedures should be performed, and how different tasks should be carried out.
Every company and business owner will expect certain tasks to be carried out in different manners. For such reason, the implementation of an SOP is a great guideline for new (and old employees) to follow. Regardless of the niche industry, your company is in, or how many employees you have working for your company, implementing standard operating procedures is a great idea. Not only to keep standards the same throughout each department but also to ensure all employees, regardless of how long they have been with your organization, will understand how tasks/duties should be carried out.