10 ways SOPs make your Business Agile

SOPs have become indispensable in running business and non-business organisations. They have a tremendous influence on business processes and operations in terms of clarity and direction, adherence to standards, and delivery of superior customer experience. Wherever a process is involved, SOPs could be implemented making it a universal application for businesses across functions, departments, and locations.

In this blog post, we shall deliberate more on how SOPs help businesses become more agile and responsive from the inside out.

#1. Control over the Customer Journey

The customer journey starts with prospects discovering your website, navigating through it, buying products, delivery of products, return requests and refunds. Thus, there are multiple touchpoints where your customers interact with your business and many of its departments. All these touchpoints could be covered and defined comprehensively in great detail using SOPs to map the customer journey. All your business policies and strategies related to purchasing, discounts, product returns, refund requests, delivery, etc. could find a place in these SOPs to have unanimity for better engagement with the customers. The whole point here is to exercise better control over the customer journey and deliver customer delight via meticulous SOP-based operational planning.

#2. Superior Omnichannel Customer Experience

Even though omnichannel has become the norm of the day, operational planning for delivering a synchronised and superior omnichannel customer experience remains a challenge. And this is mainly because of the complexities involved in mapping the customer journey and synchronisation of physical and digital touchpoints. There are the places where a customer is in contact with a brand. These interactions create customer experience. The right synchronisation between these two modes for better customer interaction is important. With SOPs, this synchronisation becomes easy owing to detailed operational planning causing synergy between processes and teams through the customer journey covering every touchpoint.

#3. Spin Technology to Suit Business

SOPs help you in two ways when it comes to technologies in business. Firstly, your SOP manuals give you the foundation for customising the IT solutions for your business. It is only after you define how each operation must be carried out that will you be in a position to define how the concerned IT solutions have to work.

Secondly, SOPs is the connecting medium between your business requirements and the functional integration of your IT systems. This integration is critical to synchronise your business processes and operations at the enterprise level. Planning, strategy formulation, and decision-making become easier when cross-functional information-sharing is involved. But the catch here is expertise. A team of BPM consultants overseeing such an exercise makes the day easier for businesses.

#4. Operational Flexibility

With SOPs, every business process and operation could be defined. Every possibility is planned and there is no need to leave any potential business situation to chance or situational awareness. By having mapped the operational roadmaps and workflows with established standards of performances, your business gains the ability to flex its operational muscles. When the processes and operations are known to businesses, they know their operational capabilities. Let us use an example. Suppose that your retail analytics team sends you better than expected demand forecasts for the upcoming festive season. Does your retail business have the operational readiness to handle more volume? Where will you keep the additional inventory? How much time will your finance team take to procure the investment? If temporary employees have to be hired, how will such a recruitment process be executed and under what timelines? When these activities are under the ambit of process orientation, it becomes easier to make the output assessments. Of course, the right strategic changes have to be made but executing them entails the operational part.

#5. Readiness to Expand

Many businesses fail to recreate their success in new stores. If we are to leave the marketing reasons aside, operational planning is the next biggest culprit. Before attempting growth and expansion projects, it is important to first have the existing processes and operations well-defined. This helps in the replication and improvisation of the existing processes in the new stores. This is something you will notice with big brand stores. If you observe closely, you will find that every store has a similar LED banner displaying the brand’s logo. The sales team on the floor would be wearing the same design of uniforms. The differences in visual merchandising are hard to distinguish. The shelve tags are also no different. You will get the same set of omnichannel benefits. The same offers are available across the stores. Behind this high degree of similarities across stores go a robust replication of standardised SOP-based processes and operations sometimes improvised to suit local requirements. There are expert process consultants working in the background.

#6. Dependable Support Systems

Every business has two sets of functions – core and support. The core functions reflect what the business stands for and earn revenue for it or have a more direct contributory role. Sales, marketing, customer services, and order fulfilment are examples of core functions/processes. Support functions take care of everything else in an organisation. They are HR, administration, finance, IT, housekeeping, etc. But it has to be considered that sometimes HR or IT or Finance could also be core functions. For example, for a housekeeping agency, its core function is to provide housekeeping services to its clients. It will still have its own housekeeping department as a support function.

What do SOPs have to do here? Well, if your support processes are weak, your core functions will not remain strong for too long. If your employees engaged in sales and marketing are not getting their incentives on time, it could demotivate them. Stretch that for a bit longer, you will also have retention problems. By having robust process definitions also for your support functions, you could ensure that your HR, finance, and other support processes are adeptly supporting your core business. Imagine your business’s web store or shopping app crashing with new OS updates. Is there an IT maintenance process in place in your business? Does it define when improvisations have to be made? Who is responsible for testing? How quickly the app has to be up and running? The same approach applies to all support functions and processes.

#7. Strategic Flexibility

Experienced SOP consultants could tell that being a process-oriented enterprise also lends you a certain degree of strategic flexibility. Let us say that a supplier to your retail supermarket takes 2 working days to fulfil your orders. And now the supplier is shifting to another location that will increase this TAT to 2.5 days. Your purchase process for this supplier gets extended by half a day. Your business might not be able to accommodate such a change. You can immediately spring into action to notify the supplier that an alternative arrangement has to be worked out. If things do not work out, you will have to find another supplier. If you have an SOP-based supplier search and selection process with a timeline of 10 days, you ask the supplier to give you 10-12 days. By having SOPs, you understand what kinds of flexibilities you can afford with your operations without losing business.

#8. Faster Business Operations

As SOP consultants, we always highlight that getting stuck with routine decision-making, going back to planning every now and then, and holding frequent meetings on routine subjects simply slows down a business. In the bigger, enterprise-wide picture, small and routine movements carry far more significant implications. Imagine losing one hour every day because managers are taking one hour for what could have been decided in 10 minutes makes a business lose about 52 hours in a year. What if more managers are making the same mistake? Just because these 52 hours are not coming in a single instalment we tend to ignore their significance. If there are SOPs, you could define the timelines for managerial decision-making along with all the supporting inputs required to make the right decisions. In the areas of business where your competitors are taking one hour to make the routine decisions, your operations would be faster by an optimised degree. Sometimes external environmental factors make such minute savings redundant but it does not ask your business to be inefficient.

#9. Robust Control and Audit

To know how the operations are heading, businesses need certain predefined benchmarks. If these standards and roadmaps are not present, there is nothing to compare the actual operations against. But once SOPs are in place for every process and operation, it becomes significantly easier to track and monitor where something is and where it should have been. SOPs are nothing but planned ways to do things in business. For instance, if salary processing did not start by the process-stated 28th of the month and the process takes 4 working days, it is certain that salaries will not get disbursed on time. Was the reason for the delay beyond control? Is there a need to communicate about this delay to the employees?

SOPs are instrumental in audits for the same set of reasons cited above. Established standards enable the audit teams to compare actual activities with the process-defined activities. Without SOPs, internal audits become less fruitful as they themselves would not be following any defined methodologies and procedures, let alone measuring the performance of the business.

#10. Performance Monitoring with Higher Accuracy

A business’s ability to measure and monitor the performance of its employees and teams is enhanced by manifold times in qualitative terms when SOPs are implemented. Interestingly, SOPs measure in quantitative terms by nature. You or your managers could instantly know if the desired performances in the workflows are on track or not. For instance, an online grocery dark store owner may discover that there is a rise in the number of complaints about the packaging. The focus should immediately go to the internal packaging processes and the procurement of packaging materials. Are the employees involved in packaging following the standard procedures? Are the employees of the inventory department carrying out the established QC measures for incoming packaging materials? This kind of monitoring and focus is not possible when the standard procedures are absent.

Business Process Xperts is a company that has management consultants. These Management consultants excel in providing business process consultancy in both offline and online domains of business. Business Process Xperts has an expertise in various fields and sectors like Automobile, Chemical, Apparel/Garment, Manufacturing, Retail, Labs, Banking, Hospitality, Food, Pharmaceuticals, Hotel and Service Industry. Business Process Xperts specializes in designing standard operating procedures (SOPs), Business Process Management, Digital Process automation.

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