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Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Free Colleagues discussing Standard Operating Procedures of project on meeting Stock Photo.

The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures

In business, consistency is key. A business that runs predictably and smoothly will operate efficiently and provide an ideal environment for employees. To achieve this level of consistency, a business must not only have technical documentation describing what to do when things go wrong but also technical documentation describing how to complete processes when things are running normally. Utilizing a technical writing team to carefully document daily processes reduces the likelihood of employees making mistakes. Documenting standard operating procedures (SOPs) will improve efficiency and output for an organization, as well as lower risk factors.

What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

Standard operating procedures are step-by-step instructions compiled to help employees carry out routine operations. Although everyday tasks often appear to be mundane and simple to experienced employees, they are much more complicated for new hires. A technical writing team has experience in breaking down the basic tasks that are often taken for granted into coherent step-by-step instructions.

Some examples of these types of tasks include locking up at the end of a shift, answering phone calls, accepting deliveries, and clocking in. Creating a set of instructions for every task that employees should follow ensures that industry regulations are always met and that employees understand the responsibilities of their positions. SOPs are an important piece of technical documentation when it comes to maximizing safety and productivity.

Who Writes Standard Operating Procedures?

Technical writers are responsible for writing standard operating procedures.  These writers are experts in translating complicated information and documentation into forms that are easier to understand.  Standard operating procedures themselves can at times be quite difficult to follow, as they may cover complicated ideas and topics.  Therefore, technical writers are very helpful in ensuring that standard operating procedures can be properly understood and followed by employees.  However, technical writers may also consult with other workers when writing a standard operating procedure, as they may be able to offer valuable insights on what the SOP should include.

Industries that Use Standard Operating Procedures

While every industry uses standard operating procedures in some capacity, certain industries make use of them to a much greater extent.  In particular, the construction, software, and medical industries make extensive use of SOPs, as these industries involve a large number of processes and procedures which SOPs would be vital in instructing workers about.  Other industries that also use standard operating procedures often – though perhaps not to the same extent as the three aforementioned industries – are the food industry, the manufacturing industry, the cybersecurity industry, the educational services industry, and others.

Each industry uses somewhat different variations of standard operating procedures to account for the specific work and processes that the industry involves.  However, all SOPs should have certain elements and aspects, as will be discussed in the next section.

Colleagues brainstorming Standard Operating Procedures in boardroom.

What a Standard Operating Procedure should Include

Most of the details of a standard operating procedure vary based on the operation the SOP is intended to help employees carry out.  For instance, standard operating procedures used by restaurants involve very different tasks, requirements, and end goals than those used by pharmaceutical companies.  However, certain elements are shared among all SOPs.

Before actually writing the SOP, a writer should gather information about the operation or procedure in question.  Specifically, they should figure out what the operation consists of, the specific workers and resources needed, and the end goal of the operation.  With this done, they can go on to writing the standard operating procedure.

To start, a standard operating procedure should briefly explain what precisely the task or operation to be accomplished is and what its purpose is.  Then, the writer should clearly explain all of the steps required to complete the operation or process in question, including any details that are necessary to get the message across.  The writer should next describe what role each participating worker has in putting the procedure into action, as well as any resources required to complete the procedure.  Finally, the standard operating procedure should include some way of assessing whether it is working as intended.

Factors to Consider

In addition to the aforementioned elements that a standard operating procedure should include, there are certain other factors and steps to take into consideration to ensure the SOP is as effective as possible.  First, when creating an SOP, a writer should consider who specifically is intended to read it and tailor their writing based on the needs of that audience.  Furthermore, the SOP should be made easily accessible to those who need it; such a document does no good if it cannot be found and used when needed.  Finally, a standard operating procedure should not necessarily remain static; it should be changed and updated if new relevant information is discovered or changes are made to the corresponding operation or process.

Afro-American Man and Caucasian Woman Talking with Female Social Worker about Standard Operating Procedures.

Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures improve the efficiency and safety of an organization, while simultaneously reducing threats of litigation. Utilizing a technical writing team to document SOPs results in improved outcomes and leads to demonstrable reductions in miscommunications.  In addition, as explained by CloudMyBiz, SOPs ensure that “people know exactly what to do, are more reliable, and are more likely to succeed“.  Other benefits of standard operating procedures include:

  • Improves employee efficiency and company-wide communication
  • Reduces employee guesswork, leading to lower employer and employee risk
  • Creates a more consistent and cohesive work environment
  • Lowers risk of litigation
  • Ensure that operations comply with industry regulations
  • Helps new employees to quickly learn their duties, aiding in knowledge transfer

How EDC Can Help

Whether you need a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation or a single technical writer for a brief project, Essential Data’s Engagement Manager will lead the project from start to finish. At Essential Data Corporation, the quality of our work is guaranteed. Contact us today to get started. (800) 221-0093 or

Written by Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith