If you’re in an industry that uses SOPs, you know the importance of having reliable access to the current version of each SOP, and how crucial it is that each step is followed exactly as outlined. Whether you work within the realm of manufacturing, food & beverage processing, pharmaceuticals, or another highly-regulated industry, documenting and following Standard Operating Procedures – along with each update – isn’t merely a suggestion. It’s a compliance requirement!
Fortunately, an SOP management system can help you manage your SOP content, and can even help you build out and regulate the processes that need to be followed. There are dozens of options on the market for SOP management systems. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re getting these 7 important features:
1 – Ease of Access
Your thorough and compliant SOP content won’t do your organization any good if people can’t access it. A cloud-based DMS (Document Management System) will give your team access to the SOPs they need, when they need them, without requiring them to check out a document from a file room or waste reams of paper making copies of each iteration of each SOP for each person who needs to use it.
Instead, the needed SOP can be stored in a secure online document repository and can be accessed through a user-friendly, web-based interface.
2 – Version Control
In the case that your SOPs are updated on a regular basis, how can you make sure that the most up-to-date version is in circulation? If your SOPs are all paper-based or on network drives, this can become a sticky situation. But it’s a problem that can be easily solved with a DMS that includes version control.
Version control lets you update a document while still maintaining a record of previous versions. This creates an audit trail for you, as you can see who has made changes, and on what date. Conveniently, the DMS can default so that everyone sees the most recent version first, ensuring that everyone is working off of the same SOP document.
3 – Custom Workflows
It’s one thing to house your SOPs using a DMS. It’s another undertaking entirely to make sure your team is following the policies you’ve instituted. One way to ensure compliance – while also creating a record of each step that is taken – is by building out the process using a custom workflow. That way, each responsible party completes each task when called upon to do so, and marks the work as completed when it is finished. Nothing falls through the cracks. No steps are missed. Your organization remains compliant and in lockstep with your documented SOPs.
If you’re interested in building out the steps in your process, you’ll need to go beyond a simple DMS, and invest in an Enterprise Automation Platform, which will allow you to build out processes, automate repetitive tasks, and keep track of progress. Yes, the same system that houses your SOPs can also be used to guide your staff through the processes you’ve documented.
4 – Compliance
What does compliance mean within your industry? Is it about the safety of consumers? Is it about proving that processes have been followed strictly? Is it about keeping complete and accurate records? More than likely, it has to do with all of the above. Consider what regulations you must comply with, and seek out an SOP management system that will help ensure that you’re in compliance.
With an Enterprise Automation Platform like DocuPhase, compliance is assured through a number of measures. Need to make sure your documentation is complete and up-to-date? Set up an automated self-audit in the form of a Document Wait task, which will wait for required documents to be put into the system and notify you if they aren’t present. Looking for an audit trail proving that each step of your SOP is being followed? Set up workflow steps to be completed by each responsible party, creating a Work Item Detail Map laying out who completed each step of the process. Will you have to provide specific documentation to auditors? Use tags to tie together related documents for easy search and retrieval in the event of an audit.
5 – Notifications & Alerts
Another way to ensure policy adherence is through notifications and alerts. This can serve two purposes. First, your team members can be automatically notified when it’s time for them to complete a step in a process. Gentle reminders can even be sent if tasks are near being due or are overdue. Second, your SOP may require parties to be informed of completed items or to receive certain information (consider new patients receiving HIPAA privacy notifications or new hires receiving employment policies). Whatever your requirements are, automated notifications and alerts can be built into your custom workflow in order to ensure that you’re in compliance.
6 – Security
Dealing with sensitive information? Worried that information is going to be released to the wrong people? Worry no more! A Document Management System will allow you to tighten up security by setting up role-based access to documentation and processes. User groups can be designated and tweaked to meet your needs, and then new hires can be added to whichever groups have the right combination of access.
While having online documents and data can make it easier for qualified parties to log in and access the digital files they need, it also makes it easier to keep prying eyes away from information they shouldn’t be seeing. No more files left lying around on desks. Keep your sensitive data where it should be – in a secure document repository.
7 – Reporting & Analytics
A comprehensive SOP management solution will also allow you to track who is doing what and how long each step is taking. This will help you determine which steps in your process are becoming sticking points, and it can help you determine how your resources (people and time) should be redistributed in order to make your operation more efficient.
More than a nice-to-have, comprehensive analytics dashboards are a must-have for your C-Suite and project managers. They provide the data needed to assess the state of your business and the effectiveness of your processes.
Want to know more about how DocuPhase can help you manage your SOPs and ensure compliance? Sign up for a free demonstration with one of our Business Consultants.