What is SOP management software and how does it help?

What is SOP management software and how does it help?

SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) management software is a tool that helps organizations create, manage, and enforce their standard operating procedures. This software ensures that all SOPs are standardized, easily accessible, and regularly updated to reflect current best practices. Key functionalities include document creation, version control, compliance tracking, and automated approval workflows. Implementing SOP management software enhances operational consistency, reduces errors, and ensures compliance with industry standards and regulations.

SOPs provide important guidelines for employees on how to complete key activities. Multiple organisations across different sectors are reliant on employees correctly following SOPs to enable smooth day-to-day operations. However, there can sometimes be associated challenges, including ensuring that employees can access all the SOPs they need, and all that SOPs are up to date. Here, SOP management software such as Xoralia can make a huge difference.

In this post we’re going to do a deep dive into Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and how to manage them. We’re going to cover what SOPs are, some typical examples of SOPs and the typical challenges that teams can encounter. We then cover what SOP management software is, how it can help overcome some of the issues in managing SOPs, and the particular features in Xoralia that help.

What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a set of instructions and guidelines that provide the clear and authoritative detail around how to carry out particular activities and tasks. An SOP can often be very detailed, for example establishing a number of steps on what to do.

Why are SOPs important?

SOPs bring a lot of value to organisations. They can help to:

  • Ensure smooth day to day operations.
  • Drive efficiency and minimise risk, for example ensuring processes are carried out safely.
  • Standardise processes across larger organisations.
  • Help show external authorities such as certification bodies and professional associations that particular standards are being met.
  • Help employees learn about and train in particular processes.
  • Provide clarity and precision to decision marking and employee actions.
  • Be a structured way to manage changes to operating procedures, so employees get to know about the change.

What is SOP management software?

SOP management software is a family of applications that help organisations to manage and distribute their SOPs, often doing much of the heavy lifting around administration, content management and access, while also reducing many of the associated challenges.

SOP management software can be considered as a type of policy management software. For example, a SOP management software solution like Xoralia can also be used to manage more general policies too.

What is different between managing SOPs and managing policies?

There are lots of similarities between managing SOPs and managing more general policies. However, there are some particular characteristics of SOPs that do make some of the challenges more pertinent. For example, SOPs tend to be more detailed than some general policies, have more regular changes that need to be digested by employees, and need to be referred to more often. They also need to be accessed from anywhere, for example when employees are out in the field or by frontline employees working in a factory.

What are some typical examples of SOPs?

There are many examples of SOPs across multiple industries, for example:

  • Handling and escalating a customer complaint in a call centre.
  • Regular maintenance of a piece of heavy machinery in a factory.
  • Discharging a patient from hospital.
  • Doing necessary background checks on a new customer.
  • Auditors signing off on a set of accounts.

All of these processes and many more may be captured in SOPs.

What are some of the challenges with managing SOPs?

There are a number of particular challenges associated with managing SOPs.

Real-time access for everyone from anywhere

SOPs can relate to multiple business processes and areas so it very likely that everyone in an organisation will need to have access to your SOPs. Moreover, an employee will often need access when they are carrying out a particular activity. This could apply when they are off-site, or in a facility where there is not easy access to a desk.

Creating real-time access to SOPs from anywhere and at any time is not always straightforward, particularly if when there are frontline employees relying on mobile devices or if some SOPs are particularly sensitive with stringent security requirements.

Multiple documents with multiple versions for multiple different roles

Because SOPs can cover so many different processes and get updated regularly it can mean that there are often multiple versions of a SOP. Moreover, there may also need to be variations of a SOP dependent on the audience – for example, procedures might differ from country to country due to regulatory difference, or a SOP might need to be in multiple languages. Moreover, some SOPs are specific to different roles.

Finding the right SOP can therefore be an issue leading to multiple versions being in circulation with users struggling to know if they have the very latest version and the one that is relevant to their role and location. At best this is confusing, at worst highly risky, if employees follow the wrong procedures detailed in a SOP that has been superceded.

Managing frequent changes

SOPs focus on the detail around operations. There are potentially a lot of frequent changes to each SOP which means it can be hard for policy owners to keep everything up to date. It can be equally difficult for employees to keep on top of any changes, as well as know which is the latest version of a SOP they are accessing.

Communicating some changes and not others to the right people

SOPs are not documents that are kept up for the sake of it – they are there to be used – and it’s important to keep employees up to date about any changes. Ensuring these are communicated to employees is essential – but actually how you communicate that effectively is difficult – and also knowing which changes to communicate about is also key. Not every minor amendment will need to be communicated, for example.

Showing external parties that SOPs are managed but also understood

Sometimes it’s important to show to external third parties that you take a robust approach to managing your SOPs. For example, this could be a certification body that is performing an audit for ISO 27001 or a professional regulator who wants to know about your approaches to risk, learning and more. But sometimes just saying that you have SOPs in place is not enough and you need to demonstrate that you have a robust, systemic approach to managing and accessing SOPs. This is not always straightforward to show – having a solution with employee attestation reporting can help and shows intent.

Multiple SOP owners across the organisation

Managing SOPs can involve many people across your organisation who either contribute to or own an SOP. Having so many people involved from a wide number of different business functions can be challenging. Some may not always keep their SOP as up to date as they should do, while who is involved will change frequently as people move to new roles or leave your organisation. Sometimes an SOP might be owned by a team but it’s not always clear which member of that team is ultimately responsible, and updates get forgotten.

Inevitably this means SOPs get out of date or are not properly looked after, and central teams hoping to maintain a place for SOPs to be made available will have their work cut keeping on top of everything.

Not integrated into your wider digital workplace

SOPs need to be accessible for all employees at the point of need. However, sometimes they are not available directly in the flow of work or easily findable because they are housed in a repository that is not integrated directly into the wider digital workplace, likely to be based on Microsoft 365.

This creates barriers to accessing SOPs – for example, if your SOPs are kept in a separate database that requires another log-in, it means users may not be able to find SOPs in their main enterprise search. They also may be deterred from accessing them as they have to authenticate, and any view may be not optimised for mobile access.

How can SOP Management software like Xoralia help?

SOP management solution like Xoralia can help with many of the challenges associated with Standard Operating Procedures.

A central SOP library available anywhere, anytime

One of the most important elements of using SOPs is to have one place that employees can easily access all SOPs. Xoralia leverages SharePoint to establish a clear, trusted SOP library that can be reached by any employee with a Microsoft 365 license. SOPs are available from anywhere and at any time, including from mobile devices, meaning they can be reached at the point of need, from the office, out in the field, on the factory floor and working from home.

Seamless integration with your Microsoft 365 digital workplace

Xoralia provide a central place to find and manage SOPs that is easy to access and even easier to use. Because the solution is based on SharePoint it means your SOP library is seamlessly integrated with your Microsoft 365-powered digital workplace and therefore can be accessed via Single Sign-On and potentially from your SharePoint intranet and Microsoft Teams. This means SOPs are available in the flow of work with an experience that is also optimised for mobile.

Excellent findability via search and custom browsing plus personalisation

Good findability is critical for distributing SOPs. If an employee can’t easily find the right SOP they may give up or end up missing the right item. Xoralia has excellent findability, allowing for SOPs to be integrated into your wider Microsoft search, as well as using custom tagging and metadata to both search and browse within the SOP library using meaningful terms and parameters, such as by department or owner. The experience is also personalised so employees can find the SOP that is relevant to their location, role and language.

Version control and targeting that scales

Xoralia has built in version control based on SharePoint, eradicating many of the challenges associated with having multiple versions. Crucially this is version control that also scales, taking into account the volume of SOPs and changes that can happen in busy, complex and global organisations.

SOP lifecycle features to support multiple stakeholders

Managing SOPs is not always carried out in time by busy, maxxed-out policy owners, or where there is ambiguity over ownership. Xoralia has built-in SOP lifecycle features to help policy owners providing clear ownership for policies with the appropriate access control, automated notifications and workflow to regularly review policies, clear views and reporting for owners so it easier for them to manage their policies and more.

A solution like Xoralia not only makes it easier for policy owners to manage policies, but also motivates them because they know employees trust and use the SOP library, and also establishes some accountability.

Robust ways to communicate changes to targeted groups

One of the most challenging aspects of managing SOPs is how to ensure that employees are made aware of any relevant changes. Xoralia does much of the heavy lifting here, leveraging existing Microsoft 365 groups and profile data to provide targeted notifications and views of SOPs that have changed, as well as employee attestation features where employees must acknowledge they have read and understood a SOP.

Flexibility and built-in automation within Xoralia also means you can decide when to issue a significant update to a particular group rather than multiple minor changes within a SOP. You can also “set and forget” by automating the communication around employee attestation for a SOP, for example repeating on an annual process or for new joiners.

Employee attestation features that ask additional questions

Sometimes it is necessary to go further than ask employees just to acknowledge they have read a SOP – you also need to know they have truly digested its contents or the relative change. Xoralia has built in additional quiz questions so you can also test whether a user has understood the SOP contents, helping to truly embed change.

Data analytics and reporting

Metrics, analytics and reporting are essential for managing SOPs and the associated employee attestation process effectively. Xoralia has robust data analytics and reporting – for example, a new report allows line managers to see which mandatory SAPs have been read and understood by their team. This reporting can also be extremely valuable in demonstrating your robust approach to SOP management for external third-parties in processes such as ISO certification.

Need help with managing your Standard Operating Procedures? Arrange a Xoralia demo!

We know how important managing SOPs is, but it can be tricky. A solution like Xoralia can reduce the challenges, save time and do much of the heavy lifting. Why not arrange a free Xoralia demo to see it in action?

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