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Stage 0 – Before You Start Writing Standard Operating Procedures


Yesterday we looked at the lifecycle of writing Standard Operating Procedures. We outlined ten different stages in the writing process. What we’ll discuss today is what needs to be done before you start the actual writing. This includes the prep work necessary before the writing team is assembled and also other issues such as getting budgets, equipment and other resources.

Before you Start Writing Your Standard Operating Procedures

The process of developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) involves ten key stages. The approach we have used here is to assume that you are starting from scratch and want to develop your SOPs in a structured manner, so that you can share your style guide, templates, and naming conventions across the writing or those who will also be involved in the writing process.

What’s the first step?
The first thing to do is decide who will write the actual SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).

I know this sounds obvious but in many companies there are no dedicated Procedure Writers and the task is often ‘shared’ with other team members. Some of these will be willing to help, others will resist or may not have the time to assist you.

Where do I find the Procedure Writers?

Tomorrow, we will look at how to get a budget for dedicated procedure writers or access to other professional writers in the organization, for example, technical writers who may be able to offer some:

  • Specialized writing skills
  • Proof-reading and peer reviews (you really shouldn’t proof your own work for obvious reasons)
  • Direction on how to setup the document management systems
  • Establishing naming conventions and
  • Procedure writing techniques

Getting a Budget

If you are responsible for this project, then you need to get funding. You can get this in different ways.

The first is to apply to the Finance Dept for the separate funding, for example, if this is a standalone project.

The second is to look for an extension or increase in current funding, for example, if you manage the Technical Communications Dept and need extra funding to hire new writers, contractors, designers, and also get licenses for new equipment and software.

Where to Start?

The bottom line is the cost. How much will it cost to document these procedures?

To get to that figure, you need to scope what’s involved. Here’s one approach.

  • Identify the number of existing procedures.
  • Estimate how long it will take to write each new procedure.
  • Estimate how long it will take to train new writing staff.
  • Estimate how long it will take to gather information and perform Needs Assessment.
  • Calculate the approximate number of days required to perform these tasks.
  • Based on Daily Rates, calculate how much each resource will cost the project.
  • Add costs for software licenses, equipment, and additional hardware.
  • Factor in 10% for unknown costs.

Once you have the project costs – or at least an estimate – send it to the Project Stakeholder. You can’t proceed until these are approved. Indeed, if the costs are higher than expected, you may want to be a more in-depth Needs Assessment to see what is involved and to define a Scope of Work document.

Ok, you got the funding, now what?

The next step is to set the wheels in motion. Contact the Procurement Dept and request the necessary software, hardware and equipment.

After this, look at:

  • Getting the necessary office space for the new team.
  • Make sure their PCs are setup
  • Software is loaded correctly
  • Passwords have been assigned to network drives
  • Swipe cards are created with the necessary access rights
  • Technical books and Style Guides are ordered.

Once you have these in place, you can arrange to bring in the writing team and start working on documenting the procedures.

Tomorrow we will look at organizing the Procedure Writing team and what’s involved in this activity.