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Stage 8 – Signing-off the Procedure

sop-signoff-procedures

We’ve now completed seven stages in the Procedure writing process. From gathering the requirements, interviewing the Subject Matter Experts, drafting the procedures and getting them reviewed. This takes us up the stage where the documents must be signed off by the Project Stakeholders. While this seems straightforward, there are a few hazards  that need to be avoided.

Getting the Procedure Approved

Now that you have finished writing the procedure, you need to get it approved and sent out to those who will use it.

  • The procedure should have been reviewed by the SME and others assigned to reviewing the SOP.
  • Changes have been incorporated.
  • The Version History has been updated to reflect the changes to each draft.

How to get it approved:

  • Send the final document to the person assigned to approve the document (usually your manager) with the correct naming structure, for example, ACME-Pharma-D-SOP-05052009. The ‘D’ means the document is still in Draft and is not a Final document.
  • The approver examines the documents. Their role is not to check the integrity or accuracy of the material (the SMEs should have done this) but rather to ensure that it has been through the correct review process.
  • The Approver enters the name, date, and any comments to finalize the document. Most SOP templates have a section for the Document History at the start.
  • The Approver saves the document and change the D to F, so that this is now a Final document.
  • Tip: Most companies save their official procedures as PDFs. We use CutePDF (www.cutepdf.com) to convert our Word documents into PDF. It’s free and very easy to use. Install it and then click File, Print and choose CutePDF Writer to generate the PDF file.
  • The Approver returns the document to the Document Owner (possibly you or your team lead) who changes the status from D to F. The document is now Final.
  • Circulate the procedure to the main contributors, so they have a copy for their reference. I’d suggest you include a nice ‘thank you’ to those who’ve helped with this piece of work. It doesn’t take much time and shows you’ve appreciated their time and effort. And, of course, builds up some goodwill that you may need when you start the next round of procedures.
  • Encourage feedback and acknowledge users to contact you if they find something that needs to be addressed.

Finally, to make sure those who need to use the procedure can find it, add it to your Document Management System and, if applicable, to your Intranet.

Procedures must be reviewed on a scheduled basis and also when IT systems are upgraded or changed.

Factor this into your project schedule and highlight whatever resources you may need in advance. Procedures are living documents and must be treated as such. When any step changes, the procedures must be updated to reflect these changes.

What do you look for when approving documents? How do you know you’ve got it right?

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Stage 5 – Analyzing Alternatives and Contingencies to the As Is Business Process

sop-as-is-process

Yesterday we looked at the Information Gathering Phase and described different ways you can get that information from Subject Matter Experts and those in the frontline who use the procedures.

Gathering Data For Procedures

In general, Business Analysts gather data through workshops and interviews. Emails work too but I prefer to see the white of their eyes.

You can also collect data from reading historical documents which may give more background to the project. These may include Specifications, Requirements and Flowcharts. Gather all these and hold them in a centralized location.

Does the Process Work?

As mentioned in the previous tutorial, we need to test the procedures (aka SOP) and determine if they work. Your goal at this point is to:

  • Determine if the procedure works as documented in the SOP.
  • Identify mistakes or anomalies that have crept into the material.
  • Determine if the procedure has been updated, version controlled, and also if multiple copies of the same SOP are in circulation. It’s not unusual for multiple copies of the same procedure to be in circulation if there is no known Document Owner or if there are no Version Controls in place.

Once you have captured the existing process, share your notes with the team members.

Looking at Alternatives To The Current Process

The next step is to look at alternative ways of performing this process and contingencies that need to be considered when developing the new process.

At this point, you should understand how the current process works. What you want to do is see:

  • Where it can be improved.
  • How the process can be streamlined so there are fewer activities, transactions, manual interactions required.
  • Who needs to be involved in the revised process.
  • What technologies are required to perform these tasks.
  • What parallel processes must be performed for the primary process to work correctly.
  • What sub-processes need to be developed to support the new process.

There are several ways to approach this. One is to look at the actors in the process, (for example, the Cashier) and see how his role could be streamlined.

  • What activities can be removed?
  • What activities could be collapsed into a single activity?
  • What tasks could be automated?
  • What activities could be changed so there are fewer activities later on.
  • What security measures need to be considered, for example, sharing information between department and/or with partners.

Here’s an example from the real world.

When I apply to have my credit card limit increased, the process works as follows:

  • Ivan contacts his Local Branch.
  • Local branch tells me to call another number. They can’t forward me for technical reasons.
  • Ivan called the Credit Card office.
  • Credit Card Dept ask me to fax in the paperwork, e.g. utility bill. They do not accept documents over the web. Oddly enough, you can apply for a credit card and even a mortgage over the web….
  • Credit Card Dept faxes this to Relationship Manager at Local Branch for verification purposes.
  • Local Branch forgets to process my application… Relationship Manager may have moved to different office.
  • Credit Card Dept don’t follow up.
  • Ivan calls Credit Card Dept to remind them to chase up Local Branch.
  • Ivan needs to send over the documents again.
  • Does Ivan do this? You know the answer, I’m sure.

OK, clearly this process could be improved if I could give the documents to my Local Branch  instead and if there was a reminder for the Credit Card Dept to follow-up if they did not hear back from the Local Branch. Otherwise, applications disappear into black hole.

FYI – actually, I did. While re-sending the documents was an inconvenience, I wanted to finish this task and move on to the next thing… which you can read about tomorrow.