SOP General Format
SOPs should be organized in such a way to ensure ease of use and efficiency. IntelliSOP is the perfect tool to manage both your SOPs and the resources related to processes in your company, such as people, projects, roles, responsibilities, documents.
SOPs should also be specific to the organization which develops them. There is no one “correct” or “best” format, and internal formatting will vary with each organization and with the type of procedure described and SOP being written. With IntelliSOP you can keep the format and approach that you have selected to write your company’s SOPs.
IntelliSOP integrates nicely with your existing document management system and learning management system. This way, you don’t need to abandon your existing tools and waste your investment in a huge re-structure. With IntelliSOP everything is re-usable. IntelliSOP brings a quantum leap in operability, because it simplifies the way people interact with SOPs, processes, accounts and their related documentation.
As far as possible, it is advisable to break the information into a series of logical steps to avoid a long list. The level of detail provided in the SOP may differ based on, e.g.:
- whether the process is critical
- the frequency of that procedure being followed
- the complexity of the activities described
- the number of people who will use the SOP
- whether training is not routinely available.
IntelliSOP helps bring processes closer to people. Your dashboard presents users with the information they need to know in order to do their daily job. The right documentation is only one click away: you get all relevant project and process information displayed and summarized, so that you can easily ensure compliance without any effort.
As a general rule, SOPs should contain the adequate level of detail to allow a qualified employee (as defined in the necessary qualifications for the job role) to understand and perform the steps to follow. With IntelliSOP, every employee views the assignments they have, detailed as roles, linked to processes, customer accounts and projects, so that at all times it is clear for them which SOPs apply, which documents are in effect, which training needs to be completed and special cases related to specific projects or client accounts. A generalized format is discussed next.
In the paper-based world -and those companies that have replicated the paper-based world in a series of Office documents or PDF files- the first page or cover page of each SOP should contain the following information:
- a title that clearly identifies the activity or procedure
- an SOP unique identification (ID) number
- date of issue and/or revision
- the name of the applicable agency, division, department and/or branch to which this SOP applies
- the signatures and signature dates of those individuals who:
- reviewed and
- approved the SOP.
Electronic signatures are of course acceptable for SOPs maintained in electronic format on a computerized database. IntelliSOP allows you to search among SOPs based on the title, the description, the SOP ID, etc. This is very convenient for administrators, when the number of SOPs in your company is high. IntelliSOP supports your company’s naming conventions and also allows for storing so called “meta-data” that supports better classifications and tagging of SOPs based on e.g. different statuses, keywords, etc.
Table of Contents
A Table of Contents is usually needed for quick reference, especially if the SOP is long, for locating information. It is also used to denote changes or revisions made only to certain sections of an SOP. IntelliSOP includes a description field that is also indexed for fast searches. Here you can put the information pieces you think may be relevant and helpful for users to understand the spirit, need and use of such SOP.
Well-written SOPs should first include a brief description of the purpose of the work or process, including any regulatory information or standards that are appropriate to the SOP process. The structure of IntelliSOP is completely open, i.e. you are able to determine the level of detail of the information you enter for your employees.
They should then define the scope to indicate what is covered and applicability. Definitions of any specialized or unusual terms which are not self-explanatory, are to be included either in a separate definition section or in the appropriate discussion section. Denote what sequential procedures should be followed, dividing them into significant sections as appropriate. For example:
- possible interference
- phases of a long procedure
- equipment needed
- personnel qualifications
- safety considerations (preferably listed in bold to capture the attention of the user).
Finally, include a description of all appropriate QA and quality control (QC) activities for that procedure, together with a list of any cited or significant references. IntelliSOP completes the SOP with the any other documents referenced in it:
- other related SOPs
- work instructions
- technical manuals
- checklists, etc.
As noted here, SOPs should be clearly worded so as to be readily understandable by a person knowledgeable with the general concept of the procedure, avoiding wording that may lead to multiple interpretations of the tasks to perform. IntelliSOP users get a dashboard displaying:
- the SOPs belonging to their organization
- the projects that involve their organization
- the SOPs in which they play a role
- the projects where they have been assigned a role
- SOPs containing a certain keyword or having a certain status they configure
- projects from other organizations they are assigned to, etc.
It is advisable to write procedures in a format that clearly describes the steps in order. The use of diagrams and flowcharts help to break up long sections of text and to briefly summarize a series of steps for the reader. Any appropriate information may be linked, e.g., an SOP may reference other SOPs. These diagrams, flowcharts, and visual representation of procedures can be easily linked to your document set, so that the user can open this document directly from their browser.
More information on text is contained in the Section about Technical SOPs and about Administrative SOPs.