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This article explains what is an SOP?

Classification, SOP Framework and SOP

An Overview

Venkadesh Narayanan

Standard Operating Procedure

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
The word Standard Operating Procedure shortly known as SOP, probably originated in military or
healthcare domains to instill best practices in performing a specific function. SOP is a written
document with step-by-step instructions to guide the performer of a process or a function or an
activity. The purpose of SOP is not to teach someone how to do a work or to impart a skill, but to
imbibe best practices that ensures some sort of standardization in performing a work in a most optimal
way. For example, take a SOP Operating a Car. This SOP will not teach someone how to drive a car,
but it does teach the best practices that shall be followed while operating a car such as wearing seat
belt, never to move the car while the passengers are within 5 m radius etc.
SOP Classification:
There are three major classifications.
SOPs for different verticals such as SOP for Banking, Hospitality, Healthcare, Government, Retail,
Supply Chain, Warehousing, Education, Insurance, Capital Markets etc. The objective of having this
classification is that there are specific demands for each vertical while creating SOPs and there are
government regulations with respect to these SOPs in western countries.
Process SOPS: A process is a set of sequential activities that are performed in a predetermined order
to deliver value to the customers (internal / external). These type of SOPs are written to cover all the
activities in a process. In case if the process is performed by a team of people then this SOP is referred
by all the people involved. In other words, process SOP has instructions for a group of people who
perform all the activities involved in a single process. For example, an SOP written for Insurance Claims
Processing. Several people from several departments are involved in this SOP.
Role SOPS: A role SOP is specifically written for one person or role within an organization. All the
activities performed by a single role is documented here. For example, a SOP written for the Front
Desk Executive in a Hotel.
How to Create SOPs?
SOP creation follows four distinct phases. These four phases of creating SOPs are well explained in the
process map. They are
Continuous Improvement
Assessment: The activities involved during this phase are identifying a sponsor, creating a project
charter, management buy-in, identifying the primary, secondary and management processes,
identifying the stakeholders and defining the need for SOP. This is like a planning and preparatory
phase in SOP creation.
Development: During this phase the process maps for the various processes identified during the
assessment phase is developed and the SOPs are chiselled. This is a very intense phase, where lots of
elicitation activities happen within the organization (Elicitation is the process of drawing out the
requirements from the stakeholders).

Implementation: The developed SOPs are reviewed during this phase and several training sessions
are conducted to move the organization from the current state to the future state. This is also a change
management stage where the practices are corrected to attain a state of best-practices.
Continuous Improvement: SOP is not a static document, but rather a living document. It has to keep
abreast of the various development that undergoes in the industry. The situations when a SOP need
to undergo change are typically chance in customer preference or behaviour, changes in regulatory
framework, government policies, market dynamics or disruptions etc. The department or role
responsible for the SOP need to sense these need for changes and appropriately take action and
update the SOP. An SOP that is considered as done and no improvement is carried out has a very short
shelf life.
Benefits of Implementing SOP
SOPs are the documents that help organizations to make the best practices as a part of organizational
culture in performing the various processes, functions and activities. The macro-level benefits of SOP
Well defined steps to perform a work
Standardization of activities irrespective of who is performing
Improved safety and security in operation
Best quality is delivered consistently in a repeated manner
Easy to train new joinees
Sets a standard on expected performance
Minimizing wastages in processes
A platform for continuous improvement
A document for management intentions in Court of Law.

About the Author:

Mr. Venkadesh Narayanan is the Principal Consultant at Fhyzics Business Consultants Private Limited
and President at Product Development and Management Association (India) - An Indian affiliate of
PDMA, USA. He is a Mechanical Engineer and an MBA with over 20 years of experience in Consulting,
Business Analysis and Process Improvement. Mr. Narayanan is a former member of Indian Civil
Services [IRAS 2000 Batch] and served at Indian Railways, Larsen & Toubro ECC, Siemens (USA), EuroPro LLC (USA) and Latex International (USA) prior to joining Fhyzics. He is also functioning as an
Approved WAREX Assessor for Confederation of Indian Industry Institute of Logistics.
Mr. Narayanan is also a member of several professional bodies and holds the below certifications:
Certified Business Analysis ProfessionalTM (CBAP), IIBA, Canada
Certified PMI - Professional in Business AnalysisSM (PMI-PBA), USA
Certified Professional in Requirements Engineering (CPRE-FL), IREB, Germany
Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), APICS, USA
Certified Packaging Professional (CPP), IoPP, USA
Certified Business Process Professional (CBPP), ABPMP, USA
Certified in Production and Inventory Management (BSCM), APICS, USA
Certified in Lean from Society of Manufacturing Engineers, USA
Certified in Six Sigma from Motorola University, USA
Certificate in Hospital Management, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai
LinkedIn Profile: http://in.linkedin.com/in/venkadesh