How to Write an SOP: Step-by-Step Guide & example

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, it can become faster, easier, and less boring with Stepsy.

If you want to know how to write an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) because you have never done it before this page has exactly what you need. 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.


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Stepsy automatically captures screenshots with every mouse click and generates text descriptions for each step. Now you can get a detailed step-by-step guide of complex routine procedures without any distractions or manual work

How to write a SOP: Step-by-step guide & useful tips

1. Choose the format to present your SOP

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 should include screenshots to make it easier to understand and reproduce the operation. With Stepsy, it won’t take long – screen capturing and automatic step description will do it in a breeze, especially if you have to capture hundreds screenshots in a row – use Stepsy 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 – 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 SOP.

Tip: You can even ask your teammates to demonstrate how they accomplish a part of the procedure you describe with Stepsy. 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

When writing a SOP, remember, to cater to your specific audience. Who is your audience? What are their roles? What are they responsible for? What do they already know about procedures like this? Obviously, you should adjust your SOP 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 recurring 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 Stepsy.

5. Specify all necessary elements

This step is especially important, if you have to build a detailed standard operating procedure. 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

  • Purpose

  • Definitions / Terminology

  • Applicability (department / roles)

  • Scope (limits, inputs, outputs, standards)

  • Methodology and procedures (body of an SOP 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)

  • References

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 can take over two hours to create. But what if there are 500 steps?

Tip: Want to learn how to write an SOP with 20 steps 10 times faster? We’ll give you a clue – Stepsy! How? With this product, the process described above looks like this: launch Stepsy, go through your procedure (Stepsy will automatically capture all mouse clicks as annotated screenshots with descriptions for each step), and edit the document to remove any inaccuracies in step descriptions. Yep, we’re not kidding – our tool saves up to 90% of your time!

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: Using one font for the whole document goes a long way for its cohesion and overall looks.

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: Including such notations, can avoid confusion and errors from happening due to using outdated documents.

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, you can easily open and edit your file created using  Stepsy in Google Docs and export it again.

This is it! Now you have a SOP!

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, 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, Stepsy is a product built with creating SOPs in mind – 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 – Stepsy is all you need.