If you’re Googling how to write an SOP, I suppose you already know that Standard Operating Procedure is a set of step by step instructions that an organization provides to its workers to help them execute complex routine operations. What you may not know about an SOP is that its creation process is rather time- and effort-consuming, monotonous, and dull, however – good news – it can become faster, easier, and ̶f̶u̶n̶n̶i̶e̶r̶ less boring with StepShot Guides and an SOP template.
Whether you want to know how to write an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) because you have never done it before or you just want to get an SOP template to optimize the creation process, you are lucky to have found this page. Here, you’ll find a step by step guide on how to write an SOP, useful tips on optimizing this process to make it faster and easier, and, finally, a standard operating procedure template.
How to write an SOP: Step-by-step guide & useful tips
1. Choose the format of your SOP presentation
You should decide first how you will present an SOP in accordance with the process you describe. For example, there may be relevant industry requirements, international standards, or corporate policies. On the other hand, it’s important to think about the layout – it may be different for a step-by-step guide and for a flowchart, for a mini-manual and for a complex procedure.
Tip: If you’re working on a step-by-step guide or manual, you definitely need to include screenshots to make it easier to understand and reproduce the operation. With StepShot Guides, it won’t take long – automatic screen capturing and step description recording will do it in a breeze, especially if you have to capture 500 screenshots in a row – use StepShot Guides as it is specifically designed to capture complex procedures in a simple way and save up to 90% of your time.
2. Gather co-workers responsible for the procedures
Chances are you’re not the only one completing the procedures you describe in an SOP. In this case, ask all the responsible people to help you delineate the process – believe me, they will not only tell you how to write an SOP but may also contribute to the optimization of these procedures after revealing ineffective practices. Ask everyone engaged in the procedure to answer all the difficult questions you may have to create an effective and useful standard operating procedure template.
Tip: You can even ask your teammates to demonstrate how they accomplish a part of the procedure you describe with StepShot Guides. It will likely take even less time and will be way more effective to automatically capture the process to explain it to a colleague visually.
3. Define your aim & audience
Think about how to write an SOP for your specific audience. Who is your audience? What is their role? What are they responsible for? What do they already know about procedures like this? Obviously, you should adjust your SOP template to their needs – for example, for those who may not be aware of the process and related terminology it would be better to include as much visual data representation as possible. Also, you should remember about the purpose of your SOP – to ensure high productivity, provide solutions to reoccurring issues, prevent failures, provide training, and more.
Tip: If there are many roles involved in the standard operating procedure, be sure to clearly specify the responsibilities of each role. For instance, when you edit step descriptions/titles after capturing the process with our tool, assign each step or a heading of a bunch of steps to a particular role: “Admin: Click “Delete” – like in a script.
4. Designate the scope of an SOP
Now as you have collected information in the previous steps, you can define the scope of your SOP. In other words, you have to map the procedure from its beginning to end and make sure you cover all the necessary operations while you align your SOP with the existing ones.
Tip: Of course, you do not need to write each step at this point – you can just write a plan which will be consequently developed into a complex SOP. The items of your plan may be further used as headings for a series of steps in StepShot Guides.
5. Specify all necessary elements
This step is especially important since you basically have to build a detailed standard operating procedure template. Depending on your industry and related standards, organization, SOP purpose and audience, you may want to include the following elements:
- Title page (SOP title, identification number, date, brief description, author, and company details like name, phone, website, and so on)
- Table of Contents
- Definitions / Terminology
- Applicability (department / roles)
- Scope (limits, inputs, outputs, standards)
- Methodology and procedures (body of an SOP template presenting step-by-step guide with all the necessary details, screenshots, and so on)
- Quality assurance
- Tools (hardware and software)
- Warnings (mention potential issues and solutions for them as well as possible diversions)
Tip: Use a standard operating procedure template to not have to think about how to write an SOP each time you need to do it. StepShot Guides offers a free customizable SOP template in PDF and Word format – just customize it once and fill it in each time you need a standard operating procedure template. In addition, with our tool, you can define a set of variables such as SOP notations and company details to align your SOP template with corporate branding.
6. Go through the procedure and make sure to record all steps
The next step is equally important – you need to go through the whole procedure due to the scope of your SOP. This is where the boredom usually begins – take a screenshot, insert it into an image editor to edit and annotate it, then copypaste it to a word processor and write manually or copypaste step description. A 20 step guide created with such an approach will take about 150 minutes. But what if there are 500 steps?
Tip: Want to learn how to write an SOP with 20 steps in 15 minutes – that is, 10 times faster? We’ll give you a clue – StepShot Guides! How? With this app, the process described above looks like this: launch StepShot Guides, go through your procedure (StepShot Guides will automatically capture all keyboard and mouse clicks as annotated screenshots with step descriptions), and edit the document to remove any inaccuracies in step descriptions. Yep, we’re not kidding – out tool saves up to 90% of your time! But, what if there are 500 steps?
7. Write in a consistent & easy-to-read style & format
While you’re describing each step, remember it’s essential to adhere to a consistent style and format similar to other corporate SOPs and related documentation. This will make the standard operating procedure easy to read, understand, and implement.
Tip: Use a standard operating procedure template for this purpose – StepShot Guides offers a ready-made PDF and Word SOP template. At the same time, a set of predefined text labels or variables can easily align all your documents with the corporate branding format.
8. Include control document notation
Each page should have control document notation denoting a code for referencing your company’s reference system database. Such notation on each page may include a shortened title of an SOP, identification number, date, version, page number, and others.
Tip: Again, a set of variables in our app won’t force you to input the data each time you need it – just set a place for them in a standard operating procedure template and enjoy your saved time!
9. Consider potential issues & opportunities
It’s quite challenging to predict what can happen, when, and how to deal with it, that’s why you need to discuss these moments with all the responsible people. They can recall how the procedure is usually carried out, and suggest solutions to potential problems. In some cases, there may not even be issues but opportunities for better performance – these are also worth a mention.
Tip: If possible, you can reproduce potential issues and screenshot any risk factors or the issue itself to make sure that those who use your SOP are supplied with all the possible materials leading to its successful implementation.
10. Test a standard operating procedure and review a document
It’s recommended to ask employees who have never accomplished the standard operating procedure you’ve described or a member of your target audience to try to implement your SOP. In this case, you will know for sure if your audience can correctly understand and follow all your guidelines.
Tip: Even if you’ve revealed you have to change something in your SOP or SOP template, you can easily open and edit your file in StepShot Guides and export it again.
This is it! Now you have an SOP template!
Once an SOP is approved, it’s time to implement it, which can mean training for employees, sharing the SOP within the company or department, printing it and hanging it on the wall, or something else. In any case, save a standard operating procedure template for your future needs. Do not forget to review and update an SOP regularly to keep it up to date and useful for current workers.
As you must have noted, StepShot Guides is an app specifically built for creating SOPs – even if it’s a complex 500 step SOP, our tool will save you a lot of time and effort. It allows procedure capturing and recording the guide automatically without switching between different programs. Basically, if you need to explain to somebody how to install or configure the software – StepShot Guides is all you need. Furthermore, you won’t think about how to write an SOP from a scratch owing to customizable SOP templates.