Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the most common method used in organizations to document work and maintain regulatory compliance. At Business Enterprise Mapping we believe that integrating SOPs into a business process structure provides a better methodology for documenting work to not only achieve regulatory compliance but also further an organization’s mission by improving productivity and performance. This article lays out a straightforward methodology for converting SOPs into process structure.
How to Integrate SOPs into Business Process Structure
1. Develop Enterprise Process Structure for SOPs.
Business Systems. Business Systems are the primary functions that drive the Business Model. They are typically known by names such as Procurement, Human Resources, and Finance.
Business Processes. A Business Process is a series of activities that receives a product or service (the input) from a supplier, adds value to that product or service through a transformation (the process), and then delivers a different product or service of more value (the deliverable) to a customer of the process.
Business Processes connect to deliver the value proposition of a Business System.
Tasks represent a series of actions, events, and decisions that combine to form a Business Process.
Tasks access Organization Knowledge to successfully execute their purpose.
2. Assign Business System and Process Owners.
Every business system and business process should be assigned an owner of the organization. A summary of ownership responsibilities is shown below.
3. Identify and catalog SOPs.
When an organization is documented using Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the volume of written narrative can be large and cumbersome. Most SOPs, however, are organized according to some regulatory logic such as ISO 9000 and therefore it is fairly easy to identify and catalog their existence.
4. Locate System/Process where each SOP fits.
It is also typically straightforward to broadly allocate SOPs to the business systems and processes where they fit. What may not be as easy however is to match-up those SOPs directly to business processes, as they often overlap business processes and may even address work over multiple business processes.
5. Determine who owns each SOP.
While this may seem like a fairly straightforward step, many SOPs are developed by staff that does not actually execute the work. Because of this, it is not uncommon for the current SOPs to differ from how the work is being done. Therefore, it is important to identify the SOP author and their knowledge of the work as a useful input to the SOP integration steps.
6. Assess whether SOP is necessary, current and useful.
This step brings together both the SOP owner and process owner to determine the extent to which the SOP provides information that is relevant and useful to the process being documented.
7. Integrate the SOP into a Process Map.
Purpose. The typically generic SOP purpose statement should be turned into a more meaningful process goal statement. The process goal should include the aim of the process as well as a one-year target for process performance.
What. These are the process tasks that produce a deliverable that accomplishes a purpose for its customer.
Who. The RACI matrix should be used to assign responsibilities to tasks within the process.
How. Task instructions explain how the tasks are executed to accomplish their process purpose. This is typically the area where SOP narratives are most valuable. While not being particularly useful at describing the larger picture, SOPs are very effective at expressing the “how to” instructions necessary to perform work at the task level.
When and Where. These are details that should be attached to tasks on the process map or contained within task instructions.
8. Hyperlink source knowledge to tasks.
Knowledge includes a wide range of content, such as information, records, data, bills of materials, specifications, and regulatory requirements. By associating knowledge sources with tasks where they are used, an organization can better manage the use and risk of its intellectual property.
9. Isolate and assess the remaining SOPs.
Once the exercise outlined above has been completed, there will likely be a large volume of remaining SOPs, maybe as much as 90%. These SOPs should be assessed for remaining content that may be useful.
10. Purge the obsolete and unnecessary SOPs.
All leftover SOP documentation should be archived digitally and properly identified as obsolete. One of the frequent errors that organizations often make is to leave obsolete SOPs in the field where they can accidentally be accessed and used.
While SOPs are a common way to document work in organizations; they represent a time-consuming, and dated methodology for best practice documentation practices. A process-based structure provides a more robust methodology for organizing documentation. Integrate SOPs into a business process structure to deliver an effective and efficient method for documenting work.
Further Reading: THE PERIGON METHOD