Compliance: Are You Managing Your Standard Operating Procedures Efficiently?

Every organization has rules, policies, procedures, and standards by which its constituents must abide to. The choice to abide must be a voluntary action by the employees to agree and to physically act in accordance with the standards of the organization. This makes the application of standards difficult as they must be communicated to the employee base through documentation, managerial involvement, and company culture. These three principals are the basis for policy acceptance and consistent behavior modification. (See Compliance: Do People or Processes Guide Our Compliance Efforts?)

Culture is passed on through the organization, but it is also constantly evolving – much like the governmental regulations and standards by which our organizations are required to abide by.  The SOP guide becomes the living-breathing foundation that evolves with the organization. It becomes the backbone for the personality of the organization.

The goal during the application of Standard Operating Procedures (or SOP) is to create a uniform and detailed set of instructions to achieve a specified standard during organizational operations. SOPs are the instructions that denote how a policy is to be implemented within an organization – or in other words the procedure for the organizational policy. While a policy is an outline on what to react to on external stimuli or situation, the procedure defines the how to schematics of the policy reaction. SOPs are the basis for our job descriptions, training measures, standards for operations, and employee accountability.

Lets take a look at an example of a policy and procedure to better understand SOP application. We can all relate to a fire evacuation plan, this is an important aspect of employee safety. The fire evacuation policy would outline that the company has method or reacting to the external stimuli of a fire. The procedure would then outline the details of the fire evacuation – how the evacuation must be properly executed upon the fire alarm sounding. The procedure outlines answers such as – how do the employees exit the building? Where do the employees meet upon exiting? How does the company ensure everyone is out of the building? Who is responsible for ensuring everyone is accounted for? Simplified, the procedure outlines the steps necessary for execution while providing accountability to the policy. This combination of policy and procedure can be denoted as an SOP.

Read More About SOP Management in SharePoint

The fire evacuation example is a very simplified version of an SOP. We have to keep in mind what else these policies and procedures are being utilized for. In healthcare they denote the standards and procedures by which surgical devices are cleaned and processed. In global organizations they denote the standards on how 3rd party international vendors are selected and utilized for their services. In banking they denote what assets are purchased and how they are processed. In reality, policies and procedures (SOP) govern every aspect of the organizational output.

Organizations Differ In Their SOP Management Structures

Through our consulting experience we have came to understand that SOP structures are organized differently for every organization. Documentation and accountability are two factors that widely vary between companies – mostly due to industry best practices and where the compliance efforts are structured.

First lets take a look at documentation or how the SOP is structured for the organization – documentation is largely based on what technology the organization is using to organize their information. Many organizations are still utilizing a paper based system for their SOP documentation – they create SOPs through email chains then combine all of the procedures into one large publication that is printed and updated as needed. The publication references multiple sheets of amendments and is often difficult to get employees to read and adopt SOPs through paper documentation and training materials. These materials then have to be collected and maintained by administrative staff, with additional costs associated with paper materials and storage. Email provides low accountability and documentation when it comes to the creation audit trails of creating SOPs as it is difficult to reorganize and find information several years later in email chains.

The next level of documentation we have seen is a use of shared department drives to distribute SOP material. Again these materials are created within emails with poor audit trails and lack of approval captures. Often these groups are working in the right direction as they only display information pertinent to specific departments. Instead of one large SOP guide, these groups have often broken SOPs by relevant literature to reduce the amount of clutter the employees have to search through. Often there are multiple shared drives that must be updated by the compliance team which gets quickly confusing when one or two drives are not updated properly. This causes a mismatch of information when policies are not centralized, which can be a regulatory nightmare. (See: Policy Management: Are Your Policies Centralized?)

A major disadvantage of shared drives is the lack of search functionality for the employees – it is not straightforward to find what they are looking for unless they know exactly where it is. Compliance teams struggle to keep all the information cohesive across multiple drives, and employee adoption is not as cohesive. There is not a way to certify that the employee read and agreed to the SOP and adoption is slow.

Read More About SOP / Policy Management Best Practices

Compliance team structures widely vary from organization to organization – some organizations tackle compliance at the HR level, some at the operational, or from the auditing team. This is a function of company culture as well as industry best practices. No matter where the compliance effort comes from, it is important is that the organization has a proactive stance towards compliance.

Accountability for creating SOPs within the organization is often dynamic as policy creation should be a combined effort from both the regulatory compliance team and the operational leaders. One without the other is a recipe for disaster as external regulatory needs must be addressed from an operational standpoint. This poses a significant challenge because operational leaders are not always in the same location as compliance team members – This is where the right technology can bring the right compliance leaders together to collaborate on the creation of relevant SOPs. The creation process and underlying discussions should now be captured to provide pertinent information to upper management while also providing clear audit trails as to how an SOP evolved from creation to implementation. This becomes even more relevant as people come and go from the company to ensure that knowledge is not lost during the movement of human resources.

The ConvergePoint Solution – SOP Management Software for SharePoint

ConvergePoint has introduced best practices in SOP management within the Microsoft SharePoint Platform. We have been a part of the movement towards enterprise content management on SharePoint – allowing quick SOP business process implementation into your organization’s existing SharePoint environment.

Our SOP / Policy Management Solution brings all of your employees into one central hub for all of your SOP needs including SOP Creation, SOP Distribution, and SOP Training and Document Acknowledgement. The solution is completely configurable to capture your data needs, while being flexible with specific viewing permissions based on integration with your active directory. We manage the entire lifecycle by creating checks and balances within the system, create complete collaboration audit trails, and capture all approvals and managerial sign offs. We provide an acknowledgement portal to ensure employees read and agree to abide by the SOPs you created, while capturing the data you need about their sign offs.

Our software implementation team automates your entire SOP lifecycle with a turn key solution that allows quick transfer of legacy SOP documents. The solution is cost efficient as it utilizes your current SharePoint environment and allows the movement of Legacy SOP documentation over quickly and straightforwardly.

Read Part II of this Blog Post – What To Look for In a SOP Software Provider
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Industries served



Policies and procedures protect the intellectual property that educators,


Manufacturing and Retail Industry

Many manufacturing and retail companies have a decentralized business model with



The healthcare industry encompasses a wide range of facilities from hospital


Financial Services and Banking

Every organization in the financial service industry — whether a commercial bank,


Insurance and Employee Benefits

The insurance and employee benefits industry knows more than anyone else


Energy and Utilities

Navigating the increasingly complex regulatory requirements can be tough for



Abide by FAA, DOT, FMCSA, FRA and FTA regulations, educate drivers and third party vendors on guidelines, and streamline overall compliance.

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