1. SOP Creation Workflows – SOP creation requires the input of multiple people within the organization, including both operational and compliance team leaders. It takes a team to write the policy which can be tricky as these leaders may not always be in the same physical location. Using technology that makes sure all employees are working on the most current version of the document and captures the discussions around the SOP creation is key. Look for a solution with configurable workflows that encompass every element of policy creation, including drafting, reviewing, approving, revising, amending and publishing.
2. Approval Workflows – Once SOP are created, they must go through a stamp of approval before they are implemented within the organization. These approvers must understand where the initiative is coming from and the conditions the end users work with to ensure SOP are in line with existing business conditions. It is important to capture who approves what so that there is a clear audit trail as to where the SOP came from and what conditions it applies to. This ensures knowledge and discussions are transferred over the years so that they may be referenced for future concerns.
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3. Audit Trails – When an internal or external audit is performed, approvals and employee discussions are key indicators of how and why a policy was implemented. They provide evidence on how the document evolved, who was a part of the process, and where the policy initiative occurred. They are also helpful when it comes time for reviewing policies — organizations know who to talk to or where to look for pertinent information.
4. Version Control – The efficiency of your compliance team to work with operational leaders is important, and version control ensures that employees are always accessing the most current version of the document. Often when collaborating through email and shared drives, employees are left out of the loop with reply alls and employees may be working on different versions of the document. By providing collaborative workflows that utilize version control, we get a clear audit trail of how the document evolved and who was involved in the process during what part.
5. Centralized SOP Hub – SOP Software should include a centralized hub that brings employees together in one area for SOP distribution and training. When compliance teams use shared drives there are often multiples of the same policy in different locations which makes it troublesome when it comes time for updating. Often some files are updated while others are accidental overlooked which creates instances where there are multiple differing policies across the organization.
By bringing everything together in one hub, employees know where to look for information and all information is automatically updated. This material should be automatically distributed upon effective date and retired from the central hub upon expiration so that this is not a manual process for the compliance team.This information should be able to be permissioned off by employee or department so that employees are only looking at information that is relevant to them. This ensures someone from R&D is not also viewing asset procurement procedures, thereby reducing clutter in the SOP document. By providing only relevant material you can ensure the employee can find what they need and the information has more weight in the eyes of the employee.
6. Revision and Amendments – An important feature of SOP software is what happens when a policy comes up for renewal or must be adjusted to reflect new regulation or business need. There should be a streamlined process for retaining the document and the data associated with the document (including approvals, versions, metadata, dates, discussions, and supporting documentation). There should be both a process to amend a document — for instance, changing a grammatical error, where there in central oversight an approval trails. There should also be a revision process — a process to review the old policy upon expiration to ensure the policy is meeting relevant business conditions. The documents should always go through an approval process so that there is a clear audit trail as to where the policy implementation came from.
7. Employee Training and Certification / Business Intelligence – A large piece of the compliance puzzle is to ensure that your employees actually read and understand the SOP material your organization provides. This can be difficult through email as there is no way to record whether or not the employee read the SOP email. Instead SOP software should include a training and certification module that automatically distributes materials to your employees upon effective date and requires employee sign off. The solution should remind the employee multiple times upon non-completion of the acknowledgement and send notification to managers upon escalation of non-compliance. This provides managers with actionable insight and business intelligence in the aspect of non-compliance. Managers should be able to run reports on specific departments or facilities to see employee compliance and be able to take action when and where it is necessary.
8. Active Directory Integration – A major component of SOP software is who is going to have to manage the employees within the system. Organizations are constantly evolving, employees are promoted, leave the organization, and new resources are hired. The HR team already has to manage the active directory (the email lists associated with employees and departments) why not find a solution that actively integrates with your active directory so that HR doesn’t have to manage yet another program? Your SOP certification should also integrate with your active directory so that employee non-compliance issues are directly reported to the right people so that they may take action where necessary.