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How to Organize the Information Gathering Phase

This is the part I like the most about writing procedures. It involves walking around and getting to know those who work with the actual procedure and know how it works ˇ®warts and all'.

What is Information Gathering?

It's about walking and talking.


That's right.

One of the mistakes many writers make is to work at their PC and assume that the knowledge they need will come to them. All they have to do is send out some emails, right?

Not really. You need to get out and make connections with people. Once they can put a ˇ®name to the face', it gets easier to arrange meetings. You're not a stranger anymore. They know who you are and why this project means so much to you.

Also, by going to their desk, you're showing that you're making the effort to reach out to them. It's also harder to say No to a person when they are in front of you. Deleting emails is a lot easier.

Identify the Information You Need to Gather

Let's think about this for a second. The end goal is to be able to:

  • Document how the process works
  • Understand where and how it interacts with other processes
  • Examine where it can be improved
  • Share this information with everyone on the team

To get to that point you have to do a Sherlock Holmes.

Do a Sherlock Holmes?

What I mean is you need to look at this procedure as neutrally as possible. Think of yourself looking for clues, trying to find information that will explain exactly how the process works.

Many business analysts, maybe new to this field, think they know how a process works after a quick assessment. When they get into how it works ¨C and when eagle-eyed team members review the first draft ¨C it becomes clear that the process needs to be re-examined.
To recap: the information gathering phase is where you go out and collect all the information you need to prepare the procedures.

Shouldn't it be obvious what you need to capture?

Not really. If you ask ten people how to get from your house to the city centre, they'll all give you different routes. Everyone knows different shortcuts, different schedules, and better ways to get from A to B.

It's the same with writing procedures and work instructions.

You don't write Procedures in a vacuum. Meet up with other people and ask them how the procedure works. Let's say, as an example, that you're writing procedures for a bank. You want to know how mortgages applications are processed.

This process will typically involve numerous activities, all handled by different people, many of which are performed by different functions and disparate IT systems.

To capture each step in the process means sitting down with those who understand each task.

There are two parts involved in capturing how a process works.

  1. Capture the As Is Process ¨C The first is to ˇ®photograph' how the actual process works. This is often called the ˇ®as-is' process. In other words, you're aim is to capture exactly how the process works, warts and all. You're not concerned with finding faults, looking for improvements, or exploring alternative options. The as-is process shows how the process works, just as a photograph would.
  2. Define the To Be Process ¨C The second is the ˇ®to-be' process. This involves looking at alternative ways of performing the process and different contingencies you can take if/when a specific action occurred. Exploring the to-be process is often called process redesign or process reengineering.

However, to get to this point, you need to understand the ˇ®as-is' process very clearly.

If you start the second step without going through the first, you're likely to make assumptions or overlook factors that will undermine the accuracy of the process.

How to get started?

You can speed things along by arranging workshops with the necessary subject matter experts. It's unlikely that all will be able to attend; don't worry. Get as many into the workshop as possible and go through the processes.

Make sure you have:

  • Flip-boards
  • Overhead projectors and
  • Writing materials

If necessary, arrange for lunch to be delivered as this will give you more time with the attendees, instead of them splitting up for lunch. I've seen people go for lunch and not return for the afternoon session; do your best to keep them in the room. You mightn't get a second chance.

If possible, get another team member to make notes as you're running the workshop. You can compile these notes the next day and then circulate them to the attendees for their review.

Tip: Try to capture things while they are still fresh in your memory. If you leave it until tomorrow, you're likely to forget large chunks of what you've heard. Give yourself an extra hour after the session to write up your notes.

What other suggestions do you have for this phase? What's the best way to get information from those who are reluctant to share information?

Why do you think they hold the information back?

Table of Contents

  1. Before you Start Writing Your Standard Operating Procedures
  2. How To Find Procedure Writers
  3. How to Get a Budget
  4. How To Cost The SOP Project
  5. How to Get Management Support For Your SOP Project
  6. How to Find An Executive Champion
  7. How To Setup the Procedure Writing Team
  8. How To Define Roles in the Procedure Writing Team
  9. How to Create SOP Writing Guidelines
  10. How to Organize the Information Gathering Phase
  11. How to Test the Current As Is Business Process
  12. How to Examine Alternatives To The Current As Is Process
  13. How to Write Standard Operating Procedures
  14. How to Write Your First Procedure
  15. How to Number Each Step in the Procedure
  16. How To Capture Exceptions in Procedures
  17. How to Use If Then Tables For Complex Procedures
  18. How to Test Standard Operating Procedures
  19. How to Get SMEs to Test Procedures
  20. How & When to Sign Off the Procedure
  21. How to Publish the Standard Operating Procedures
  22. How to Control Documents
  23. How to Use Track Changes
  24. How to Use Naming Conventions
  25. How to Convert SOPs to PDF
  26. How to Upload SOPs to the Document Management System
  27. How to Create a SOP Document Archive
  28. How to Backup SOPs Archives & Store Offsite
  29. How to Implement Procedures
  30. How to Schedule Assessments
Standard Operating Procedure Template - Download Now Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template

Document Control

  • Process Improvement - writing SOPs provides opportunities to refine current processes. Feedback received during this activity helps identify limitation of the current processes and potential problems that may arise.

Document Control

  • Regulatory requirements - SOPs help address legislative and regulatory requirements. Developing and maintaining SOPs is an effective way to address safe work practice regulations.
  • Staff Performance - SOPs clearly describe what staff are expected to perform in the workplace. SOPs remove ambiguity and provide an objective mechanism for evaluating their performance.
  • Standardization - SOPs identify roles and responsibilities. SOPs clarify decision-making requirements and chain of commands.

Clarifications Spreadsheet

  • Training material - SOPs can be used in training programs, workshops and exercises. SOPs improve the understanding of work requirements and identify potential problems.

Buy this template

Download the SOP Template Pack

The templates included in this pack are in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel format. You can download all templates online for only $9.99.

More details about the SOP template pack are here.

The template pack includes the following documents:

SOP Template (Detailed) 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Single Template 1 pages Download Word template
SOP Guidebook 11 pages Download Word template
Sample - RFP Pre-Issuance Procedure 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Log Book 7 pages Download Word template
SOP Document Control 3 pages Excel templates
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Manual - this is used for writing and maintaining multiple SOPs, for example, all SOPs for the HR Department.
  • Standard Operating Procedures template - this is used for writing and maintaining standalone SOPs.
  • Standard Operating Procedures Guidebook - this describes how to write SOPs. The guidebook includes the following sections:
    • Planning
    • Requirements
    • Writing Standard Operating Procedures
    • Level of Detail
    • Consistency
    • Writing Style and Language
    • Writing Conventions
    • Numerical Information
    • Component Information
    • Procedure Titles
    • Headings
    • Step Numbering
    • Procedure Organization
    • Revision Status
    • Precautions and Limitations
    • Prerequisites
    • Terms, Definitions, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
    • Writing Action Steps
    • Writing Conditional Action Steps
  • Standard Operating Procedures Log Book - this is used for controlling new SOPs, numbering SOPs, and ensuring that all SOPs are authorized before creation.
  • Excel spreadsheets - these 3 Excel files will help you manage document control, clarifications that arise during the analysis phase and monitoring roles and responsibilities.
  • Sample template - this sample template documents the pre-issuance procedure when developing Request for Proposals.

Document Control

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Q: What file formats are the templates?

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