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While understanding and creating standard operating procedures (SOP's) is crucial for any Aspire customer, it's especially important during the implementation process.
Aspire works best when everyone in your company understands their role and workflow within our software. SOP's exist as a baseline to prevent confusion on processes and to help prevent employees from using the 'making it up as they go' method.
Since Aspire onboards companies at many different stages in their organizational journey, we want to help you get an understanding of the foundational idea of SOP's: no matter what stage you are in.
In this article, you'll learn:
What's an SOP?
S.O.P. is an acronym for Standard Operating Procedure. Let's break it down:
Standard: Everyone follows them, with few exceptions
Operating: They relate to operations internally and externally
Procedure: They are steps in a specific, detailed order
🧠 Putting it together: An SOP is a documented series of steps that a company uses for their specific processes or operations. SOP's are the playbook that keeps everyone on the same page. 📑
SOP's should be used at any company and are the foundation of your company's operations. From company to company, they can be different based on how your company does business with your customers, vendors, or internally.
Okay.... but when should I think about using them? 🤔
Here's an example: Everyone at your company has their unique way of submitting their receipts when buying from a vendor. When trying to job cost the work, it can become a headache to reconcile all of these expenses that are coming to you from all over. This is where an SOP needs to be created!
📌 Note: Aspire may recommend certain processes, but because each company is unique, have conversations with the people that know your business the best (your employees) when creating an SOP.
Why Are SOP's Important?
As we mentioned above, SOP's mean that everyone follows the same steps with few exceptions.
While it doesn't seem immediately fun, the consequences of not having SOP's contribute to the pain your company probably experiences today. (And the daily fires you are have to put out 🔥)
Without SOP's, your company could have:
⛔ Inconsistent ways of recording new leads in the system, leading to missed prospects.
⛔ Misunderstandings of the crew's schedule and capacity, leading to low-quality work from being overbooked.
⛔ Incorrect timing of invoices being sent to customers, causing missed or behind payments.
Do I Really Have to Document Everything?
While it might seem silly to document the things that seem obvious, you might want to rethink this. Sometimes the processes we believe are true are only true because we are the only ones doing them!
What happens if you get sick? Or you get promoted into a different position? Or your company needs more employees? The processes that you just 'know' will not be immediately understood by others.
💡 This is why SOP's exist as a baseline: to prevent confusion on processes and to prevent employees from using the 'making it up as they go' method.
How to Create an SOP
Something that sounds so important must be pretty complicated right? Not really! Your document just needs three things:
A description of why the process is important to follow (purpose), when the process should be followed, and who it applies to (context).
A step by step process of what your company should do based on the specific operation.
A place to keep it updated and accessible to all needed employees.
1. Thinking About the Purpose and Context
At Aspire, we do our best to provide scenarios and context around why knowledge articles are important to know. Take a moment to consider the purpose of your document!
Your document should be trying to answer these questions:
💡 Why should someone read this?
💡 Who should be reading this?
💡 When should they be referring to it?
💡 What example scenarios can be given to help someone understand?
While the "standard" part of standard operating procedures means that this process will apply to many people, make sure you are clear about who this document is specifically for. This is so employees don't follow a process that isn't made for them or new hires don't accidentally learn something that isn't part of their job description.
2. Creating the Step by Step Process
If you are documenting an SOP for the first time when moving to Aspire, focus on only documenting the current process. Don't spend time optimizing the current process unless absolutely necessary.
Companies often make the mistake of trying to optimize before they standardize. Employees need time to learn the workflow of a new software, and when you add a completely new way of doing things, the learning curve during implementation becomes higher.
Tips For Creating a Step By Step Process:
💡 Collaborate with the employees that would be impacted by the process. The way you think it is done may not be true. Getting feedback from the people doing the work means that it's accurate from the start.
💡 Be as detailed as needed on how the process should work 90% of the time. This includes where to click in the Aspire system or even steps needing to be completed outside of Aspire. Don't leave anyone to assume a step but don't get caught up on the exceptions to the rule. Going down rabbit holes will lead to more confusion. 🐇 🕳️
💡 Include screenshots or diagrams if possible to help employees navigate and understand the process.
Here's an example of a basic SOP: How to Inactivate an Employee
3. Saving and Accessing the SOP
Once you've finalized the document, and checked with all stakeholders that it looks accurate, it's time to save the SOP! Most companies will have an internal file sharing system, such as Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, and we suggest using this.
You will want to make sure that people know where to access the SOP's you are creating. Send them a link or file path to the existing document. The benefit of doing this, as opposed to a PDF, is that, as your SOP's change, your document can change as well. It also encourages them to look for an answer without coming to you first.
🚫 A common mistake people make when creating SOP's is sending the SOP only once, through an email, in PDF format.
While this may be okay to do, you will find eventually that:
Employees, years later, are holding on to an old PDF of a process that is no longer accurate.
Employees are unable to find the document because it was sent once and only through email.
💡 Tip: Consider giving editing permissions to just a few people while everyone can still view it.
Getting Buy In for Your SOP
While speaking with stakeholders before creating an SOP is a great way to get people aligned, recognize that standardizing a process will mean a behavior change for people.
Like with any change, people will forget or not follow the process correctly the first, second, or even third time. This means it's important to:
💡 Communicate the new SOP before it will take effect multiple times in multiple different ways (Email, in-person meetings, conference calls, bulletin boards).
💡 Explain the benefits of following the SOP (such as, more consistency = less fires).
💡 Mention who helped collaborate on the new SOP.
💡 Be open to feedback: there may be an exception or missing piece of information not considered.
💡 Create a system of accountability: Whether that's looking at data in the Aspire system on a weekly basis or creating incentives for employees, make sure that the SOP is being followed consistently. Follow-up with those that are having difficulty. Some can adopt changes quickly while others take more time to adopt changes. These people just may need more resources to be successful.
Conclusion: Now that you've learned what SOP's are, why they are important, and how to create them, you are ready to put this idea to work! 👍
We, at Aspire, care about your success and want to see you grow! Ultimately, as your company grows, you will find standardization and documentation are keys to your continued success. 🔑