Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) play a crucial role in ensuring frontline work processes are performed consistently, safely, and efficiently, making it possible for businesses to deliver better products and services to their customers.
Yet, the usefulness of SOPs is often greatly undermined by the medium through which they are communicated: paper. That’s because traditional paper-based SOPs are plagued with issues, including difficulties in keeping them updated, the inability to dynamically include tribal knowledge or the ease with which they can be damaged and lost.
Additionally, paper-based SOPs don’t reflect the fact that people process visual information much faster than text. They force workers to read often lengthy descriptions of what to do instead of instantly showing them the same information using visual aids, such as videos, images, and diagrams.
SOP digitalization aims to overcome the limitations of delivering work instructions to the frontline on paper, but simply recreating paragraphs, checklists, and tables using a word processor isn’t sufficient since it leaves the issue of slow text processing by the human brain unaddressed.
Instead, businesses need to combine digital delivery with visual guidance. Visual SOPs that incorporate a variety of different visual aids and are presented in an interactive form using modern digital devices can improve comprehension, retention, and engagement among workers. By adopting this approach, businesses can create SOPs that are not only more effective but also more appealing and enjoyable for workers to use.
Roadmap for Creating Powerful Digital SOPs
The following roadmap provides a series of practical steps for creating visually-oriented digital SOPs that greatly outperform their paper-based counterparts, delivering so much value to frontline workers that their implementation never faces any resistance—quite the opposite.
1. Set Your Goals
The first step in creating powerful digital SOPs is to determine what you want to accomplish by identifying the tasks that could benefit from standardization. The chances are that you will identify multiple tasks, and we recommend you always start with the most repetitive ones because they have the most significant impact on the overall efficiency of your processes.
2. Define the Scope of the SOP
Next, you should define the scope of the SOP you’ve decided to start with. This involves identifying where the SOP will be used and who will use it. The goal here is to create more targeted and thus more relevant instructions.
3. Include Frontline Knowledge
To achieve the best results when creating digital SOPs, you need to involve as many relevant people as you can. Frontline workers are especially important because they are closest to the processes and have invaluable knowledge and insights that should always be included in SOPs.
4. Keep It Simple and Visual
Digital SOPs provide the opportunity to present information in a visually engaging manner, and it’s paramount not to let this opportunity go to waste. It’s estimated that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, so businesses should skip long chunks of text and use images, videos, and even voice recordings to deliver the message instead.
5. Regularly Review and Update the SOP
Even the most well-thought-out digital SOPs don’t remain accurate forever because processes, technologies, and best practices are constantly evolving. This is why businesses should revisit their SOPs every 6 to 12 months and update them if necessary. Frontline workers should be invited to suggest how the SOPs they work with could be improved—not just during the regular reviews but on an ongoing basis.
Benefits of Digitalizing SOPs
Businesses that successfully digitalize their SOPs by following the roadmap above can unlock a number of important benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: Even seasoned employees sometimes forget the exact steps they need to follow to perform specific tasks, leading to wasted time and decreased productivity. With digital SOPs, workers have immediate access to step-by-step instructions, so they can always be sure of how to proceed.
- Cost savings: By reducing errors and minimizing downtime, digital SOPs can help businesses save costs. Real-time monitoring of the completion of digitalized SOPs and analysis of gathered data can help identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies to further optimize workflows and cut down on unnecessary spending.
- Greater accuracy: Clear visual guidance provided by digital SOPs can help employees avoid mistakes and perform tasks with a high level of accuracy. This, in turn, can help improve the quality of products and services, increasing customer satisfaction and enhancing the company’s reputation.
- Improved safety: Digitalizing SOPs can significantly enhance safety by providing frontline workers with easy access to safety procedures and real-time alerts that reflect the current equipment status and other useful information.
- Shared knowledge: By effectively leveraging the knowledge of frontline workers and subject matter experts, digital SOPs help businesses continuously improve and innovate because past lessons never go to waste or, even worse, become forgotten.
These and other benefits are why moving away from paper should be a top priority of every business that relies on SOPs. The good news is that it’s never been easier to create powerful digital SOPs thanks to next-generation digital assistance solutions like ROO.AI.
Even in our digital age, many businesses still rely on mostly text-based SOPs documented on paper. Such SOPs don’t take full advantage of the large part of the human brain that is directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information. Digital SOPs provide a modern alternative, but not all of them are created equal. To fully benefit from SOP digitalization, businesses need to follow the best practices described in this article instead of simply recreating the same old plaintext SOPs using a digital medium.