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Tools for setting up standard operating procedures in SharePoint

Amber Rasmussen October, 2014
Standard Operating Procedures

Almost every organization is under the pressure of some type of compliance training and that reflects why companies put together standard operating procedures to maintain processes that will ensure services and/or products are delivered consistently every time. Setting up a system to manage standard operating procedures is essential and the solutions SharePoint provides is invaluable.

The Brandon Hall Group recently published a 2014 report on why compliance training is so critical to business. What they found is that companies ranked compliance second behind products and services for overall business strategy, many had to demonstrate compliance to an external agency, and compliance effects a large portion of their organization. Here’s the problem…less than half of those in the study felt prepared for a compliance audit. This is not good news. But, fortunately there is a solution with SharePoint and in the following blog, we’ll explain in further detail how you can feel better prepared for such circumstances.

Choosing a library vs. site

First things first, you’ll need to decide how you will organize your standard operating procedures. SharePoint reigns supreme as a content management tool but there are a few ways you can go about organizing your content. The most important thing to consider is content findability. When someone comes to your SharePoint HR Portal, they should find what they expect and they should find it with a minimum of clicks. So, the question is should you store SOPs in a library or site?

Libraries are primarily a tool of document management. Unlike folders, libraries support metadata for search, workflows, versioning, and the implementation of managed processes. Sites, on the other hand, are a tool of information management. Sites are robust and offer the ability to present documents in a broader context – links, calendar, blog. Some organizations found that depending on the situation, their site wasn’t being utilized to its fullest and the library was the only feature being used. Something to consider - a well-defined library looks much better than an unused team site.

If you choose to move forward and structure an SOP library, the best approach is to get rid of the Shared Documents library which tends to become a “junk drawer.” Don’t ask where to put it. Ask, where am I going to find it. Think about how you access your documents, and then build libraries around that.

The next step after creating a library is to distinguish how much control is needed. Who should have access to the content, add or change content, and with what restrictions?

Make sure standard operating procedures are findable with metadata

Metadata allows for library configuration that enforces consistent document classification which in turn helps improve the user’s search results. If you have a very large amount of SOPs, than metadata navigation is a tool you’ll want to get familiar with.

When metadata navigation is configured for a list or library, a tree control on the left-hand side of the page displays a hierarchy of both folders and managed metadata terms that can be used to filter the view of items in the list or library to create dynamic displays of content.

Setting up metadata navigation

1. Go to the list or library for which you want to configure metadata navigation.

2. Click the List or Library tab of the ribbon, and then click List Settings or Library Settings.

3. Under General Settings, click Metadata navigation settings. In the Configure Navigation Hierarchies section, select the field or fields that you want to display in the navigation hierarchy and then click Add.

4. By default, the navigation tree displays folders. If you do not want folders to display, select Folders and then click Remove.

5. In the Configure Key Filters section, select the fields that you want to add as Key Filters, and then click Add.

6. In the Configure automatic column indexing for this list, specify whether you want to create indexes automatically on this list. This improves the performance of the queries that users perform when they use the navigation tree and Key Filter columns that you specified. It is recommended that you select the option automatically manage column indices on this list.

7. Click OK.

Cover all your bases with SharePoint workflows

With standard operating procedures, it is imperative that there is structure from how the document is created, edited, finalized and approved. Workflows in SharePoint are a great tool to automate movement of documents or items through a sequence of actions or tasks that are related to a business process. This can happen on a document or library level.

Types of workflows:

  • Approval - This workflow routes a document or item to a group of people for approval.
  • Collect Feedback - This workflow routes a document or item to a group of people for feedback. Reviewers can provide feedback, which is then compiled and sent to the person who initiated the workflow.
  • Collect Signatures - This workflow routes a document to a group of people to collect their digital signatures.
  • Disposition Approval - This workflow, which supports records management processes, manages document expiration and retention by allowing participants to decide whether to retain or delete expired documents.
  • Group Approval - This workflow is similar to the Approval workflow, but it uses a designated document library and offers a personalized view of the approval processes in which a user is participating.

Adding a workflow:

  • Open the list or library for which you want to add or change a workflow.
  • On the Settings menu, click List Settings, or click the settings for the type of library that you are opening.
  • On the Customize page, in the Permissions and Management column, click Workflow Settings.
  • On the Add a Workflow page, in the Workflow section, in the Select a workflow template list, select the name of the workflow that you want to use.
  • In the Name section, type a unique name for the workflow. This name will be used to identify the workflow to site users.
  • In the Task List section, specify a tasks list to use with this workflow.
  • In the History List section, select a history list to use with this workflow. The history list displays all of the events that occur during each instance of the workflow.
  • In the Start Options section, specify how (automatically or manually), when (item update, creation or both), or by whom a workflow can be started. Note that the available start options are determined by the workflow template and will differ from one workflow to another.
  • Click Next to configure workflow-specific settings, as necessary.
  • After you have configured workflow-specific settings, click OK to finish adding the workflow to the list or library.

Keep all standard operating procedure records with auditing and version control

According to the previously mentioned Brandon Hall Group study, many organizations must demonstrate compliance to an outside agency. SharePoint makes it easy with auditing and version control.

Now that we’ve added metadata and workflows to your SOP library, now it’s time to set versioning.

  • Navigate to your standard operating procedures library
  • On the ribbon, in the Library Tools group, click the Library tab.
  • Click Library Settings.
  • On the Library Settings page, under General Settings, click Versioning settings. The Versioning Settings dialog box opens.
  • In the Document Version History section, select one of the following options: create major versions or create major and minor versions.
  • Optional: Limit the number of versions you want to retain.
  • Optional: Determine which users should be allowed to see draft items in the document library.
  • Optional: Determine whether you want to require check out in this library.
  • Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the Document Library Settings page.

 

SOP training is crucial because not only is it the backbone of the organization but it also becomes the living, breathing foundation that evolves with the organization. Add to the fact that about 78 percent of companies employ SharePoint, wouldn’t it make sense to utilize its supreme content management capabilities for your standard operating procedures? Content management, advanced search capabilities, workflows, versioning and auditing are just a click away. See how SharePoint can cover all your compliance needs to make your job easier.

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