Business Plan SOP

A comprehensive, easy to use 188 page manual containing scores of worksheets and notes. The contents follow the business plan outline, and have been rigorously tested during years of training throughout the world. The Ibis business plan manual is delivered in Word format, so that users can complete the worksheets and transfer them into the body of their own business plan.

What is an SOP?

A standard operating procedure is a company-wide or operational unit formalised system to handle specific operational activities. They are, in the opinion of Ibis, an essential supporting element in the creation of good planning and control within the growing company, and provide one of the supporting elements in the building of an expert system.

What are the potential advantages of using SOP's?

They standardise the approach of individuals within the company to specific procedures, improving the quality and speed of decision making in key areas – especially in contingency planning and survival and recovery;

They are essential for the enterprise attempting to achieve the maximum of flexibility and intrapreneurialism through decentralisation and the creation of strategic business units as they provide a set of common approaches to problem solving and analysis;

They provide a valuable structure for inter company discussion and development, with a key role in creating a knowledge management base within the organisation, particularly important in cost cutting, competitive analysis and exit planning;

They act to disseminate best practice within the organisation and can be updated as the conditions and legislation requires the creation of a knowledge rich enterprise;

They serve to speed the integration of an individual into the organisation during the induction training phase by making available a library of company-wide best practice and company operating procedures;

They improve transparency within the organisation by enabling all employees to see how specific problems are handled in a standard and clear fashion which helps in the creation of shared values;

They provide a clear audit trail in cases of dispute or external investigation where it can be shown that correct procedures were followed and records maintained;

They provide a check list which is action and implementation orientated and identify precisely the individual responsible for their completion;

They can provide a rapid way to improve the span of control within organisations – removing much of the mundane procedures from management and empowering employees to carry out a whole range of standard activities;

They can provide highly cost effective maintenance training when incorporated into an effective Intranet and checking system. It can also be linked to additional material held within the company and on-line training courses;

They provide the first stage in the creation of knowledge centres within an enterprise, by serving as a means of collecting information which can then be used to develop expert systems, involving software and eventually artificial intelligence;

When key concepts are incorporated into standard operating procedures, such as those listed in the business health check they will lead to greater understanding of overall business operations, important in succession planning.

They can provide valuable assistance to change management policies, by embedding new best practice.

What are the potential disadvantages of using SOP's?

Standard operating procedures can become more and more restrictive and more and more detailed, reducing individual liberty and individual approaches to work;

Standard operating procedures can become very time consuming involving the completion of excessive paperwork;

Standard operating procedures can be extended to cover even the most minor aspects of work, creating a completely controlled environment – ideal for a bureaucratic management style;

Unless updated with new regulatory requirements and best practice they will rapidly fall into disrepute;

Unless they are used by all they will also be seen as part of a system put in place to mollify employees rather than as a key universal management tool.

What are the characteristics of a good SOP?

The SOP can be shown to have benefits to the employee in improving and simplifying job performance;

That it provides a inclusive framework for decision making rather than an exclusive structure;

The SOP is easily and rapidly accessible to all employees;

The role and importance of the SOP can be easily and clearly demonstrated in the accompanying explanation which details what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and what is considered best practice;

The SOP leads to specific and ideally simple action which can be rapidly documented;

The SOP is part of a company-wide training and development programme, and knowledge of the SOP is regularly tested within the organisation through the use of Intranet systems;

SOP's are always used by senior management in the relevant decision making areas, and are communicated in that form to other staff.

When should the company consider the introduction of SOP's?

Some SOP's are in the view of Ibis, central to effective decision making at whatever stage of company development.

Both academic research and personal experience suggest that they become more and more important as the organisation grows in size and more and more operational decisions need to be delegated. In practical terms this suggests that an organisation with more than 30 employees should start introducing SOP’s in crucial areas.

The golden rule is to start with simple SOP’s which provide immediate benefit to the organization.

A suggested portfolio of SOP’s for the medium sized company would be as follows:

Corporate governance/ control: MIS, Corporate Governance, Competitive Analysis, Cost Cutting, Investment Appraisal, Accounting, Employee Contracts, TQM, Employee Suggestion, Credit Management

Buying/selling: Purchasing, Customer Relationship Management, Selling/Sales management, Sales contracts, Customer Satisfaction, Pricing, Complaints, Customer Satisfaction, Web Management

Safety and security: Health and safety, TPM, Product Testing, Security, Data Protection

Personnel and employee development: Recruitment, Disciplinary Code and Grievance Procedure, Industrial Relations, Employee Satisfaction, Appraisal, Training, Motivation, Team Building, Succession Planning, Employee Contracts, Redundancy

Standardisation of performance: Project Management, Risk Management/Contingency Planning, Planning and Monitoring, Costing

How should the enterprise introduce SOP’s?

The first stage should be the completion of an overview which covers the outline of the SOP and its operational requirements. The second stage involves the design of specific content and its implementation/monitoring. In all cases when the SOP is completed it becomes part of the operational environment of each relevant knowledge centre and is included in their annual plan review.

For the purposes of illustration, the recruitment SOP provides a good example of how these steps work.

Recruitment overview chart




Appropriate language for widest possible use


Cost management, Quality, Co-ordination, Regulatory response, Speed

Links with other SOP

Succession planning, Employment Contracts, Training, Disciplinary Code, Appraisal, Motivation, Team Building, Employee Satisfaction, Data Protection

Model answer exists?

None sufficiently comprehensive

Background material available?

Links to Internet resources widely available


Corporate/ standardized


Corporate personnel

Local variation

Employment law relevant to jurisdiction

Effectiveness monitoring

All KC monitor as part of their plan development

Review period



Intranet – SOP available to all – results only accessible by authorized management


SOP in cloud/ Completed files stored offline and secured by password protection


Labour turnover, temporary staff costs, recruitment cost/employee, span of control, disciplinary incidents, skills, diversity index, customer satisfaction

Trade offs

Training costs, Remuneration costs, Industrial Relations costs

Impact on job description

Inclusion of responsibility for management to complete SOP

Impact on budget

Recruitment budget to be included in fixed cost management for each knowledge centre

Impact on advisor structure

Lawyers able to offer employment law advice

Impact on training

Management induction, maintenance, development

Impact on team building/ knowledge centre creation

Considerable – involvement in recruitment panel important

Impact on motivation


Software linkage

None significant

Legal implications

Considerable – relevant law included in highlighted red text

Audit implications

Considerable – relevant tables highlighted in blue

Random inspection responsibility

Corporate personnel

Impact analysis responsibility (Change in legislation)

Corporate personnel/ advisors

Draft SOP approval

Team leaders – knowledge centre based review of simplicity and usefulness

Final SOP approval


Quality control

Exit interview

The standard operational procedure itself should be treated as a project, with the creation of milestones and the decision on what items should be maintained as a permanent record for audit purposes.

Structure of recruitment SOP




Panel leader



Recruitment appraisal

Completion/sign off


Succession planning

Candidate identification


Job description



Information pack



Recruitment panel



7 Point Plan



Draft contract



Internal search

Candidate identification


External search channels (consultants, journals, Web, government agencies)






Ad design/ implementation






Shortlist screening



Interview structure (case study, role play, psychometric testing, question set)



Interview location/timing



Interview invitation with company pack



Other candidates informed



Panel agreement on interview outcome

Sign off by panel members


Second interview if required

Sign off by panel members





Other employment requirements (identity, birth certificate, qualification certificate, medical)



Contract negotiation



Issue of contract



Induction training plan



Mentor choice



PDP development



Success/failure review



Such a structured format may seem excessive and time consuming for the enterprise. However, once established (in itself a fairly quick process) the checklist and action plan that is incorporated in each of the standard operating procedures becomes rapid to complete. Their effectiveness is further emphasized when each knowledge centre reports on standard operating procedures as part of their business plan development. Repeated iterations of standard operating procedure development and monitoring provide the enterprise with ever deepening and widening expertise, while improving speed, quality and comprehensiveness of problem solving.

Ibis have a range of basic formats of standard operating procedures which can be rapidly adapted for specific enterprise requirements.

Operating Procedures from IBIS

Question Totally
  Agree Neutral Disagree Totally


Special units
Authority/ responsibility
Software Alignment
Information Flow Map
Business plan creation
Business plan review
Customer complaints
Random inspection
Core competence
Critical success factors
Exact specification of entries
Devil's Disciple
Project management
Critical path
Audit trail
Background explanation
Legal review
Contingency plan


Internal supervision
External verification
Model answer
Impact analysis
Mystery shopper
Customer/supplier/ internal satisfaction
Customer complaints
Your total is:        

Your score:

Score: 400+. Perfect, but then you knew that.

Score: 300 -400. SOP introduction will function, but quality is likely to suffer.

Score: 200 300. SOP introduction is unlikely to work without major attention to operational management.

Score < 200. SOP introduction will fail.

E-mail Ibis for more information.