Saturday, 12 July 2014

Why procedures need to be agreed

Procedures (or Standard Operating Procedures) sound boring, but if documented properly and disseminated appropriately they can make a real difference to staff performance. Far too many people are not clear about the best way to use their IT system, or worse, they claim to be clear but do not use their system the way they should!

Computer systems are designed to function in a particular way, and they have many features which can make a real difference to performance if used properly.

Make sure they are agreed

To get the most out of your system, procedures need to be agreed before a system goes live. They should be discussed with all those involved, including those in other areas who will receive outputs from the system, to ensure that each person will get what they need to perform their job effectively.

In some companies people in other departments get a paper report and then type the information into another system, or into Excel, when they could have got a file that would interface directly – if they’d been asked at the beginning!

Once procedures have been developed and agreed, they should be reviewed some time after implementation (say one to three months later) and modified if need be. They should always be reviewed when business requirements change, and they should be looked at in more detail at least once a year, to address any new features of work which have developed (and to exclude aspects no longer required).

Note that what is required is a clearly documented set of procedures which provides a general understanding of the best way to use your systems. Good procedures include screen shots and maybe even clear handwritten notes. 

Awareness videos or Quick Reference Cards can really make a difference. 


Remember though, even before there can be procedures, there needs to be an agreed objective, a business strategy, so that all involved see how their role fits in with the company’s or the department’s objectives.

Procedures should not be written by managers and handed over to staff without proper training. They need to be discussed and any necessary modifications need to be made. Staff have to understand the procedures, and agree to use them. If they do not agree, the manager needs to understand why – possibly they do not cover all situations, or the staff feel they will be too onerous to implement.

Managers need to check procedures are being followed, and this will also help them validate the procedures.

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