Mike Bandar
6 mins

SOP vs Policy vs Procedure vs Process: What are the Key Differences?

Almost all organizations have some documentation everyone needs to follow, referred to as SOP, policy, procedure, and process. However, all these terms aren't the same, and understanding their differences is important to ensure all organizational operations go smoothly. 

Moreover, once you get to know the purpose of each document, the business environment becomes more regulated. So, if you are perplexed about SOP vs policy vs procedure vs process, we’ve got you covered. Let's discuss each of them in detail!

This article covers the following;

  • What is SOP?
  • Examples of SOP
  • What is a Procedure
  • Examples of Procedure
  • What is a Policy?
  • Examples of Policy
  • What is a Process
  • Examples of Process 
  • Wrap Up

What is SOP?

Looking at SOP vs policy, procedure vs process, the SOP, also known as Standard Operating Procedure, is a step-by-step guide compiled by the organization that helps employees to carry out routine operations. You can consider it as a guideline to perform repetitive organizational tasks efficiently. An SOP resembles a procedure, as both share structural similarities. 

However, the purpose of an SOP is to ensure that employees don't make any mistakes while performing daily tasks and the business gets consistent output. For instance, if you work in a manufacturing industry, your SOP will have guidelines about the activities your team must perform to make a product. 

Examples of SOP

Here are some other common examples of SOP:

  • Adding all workers to a zoom meeting by following the given steps.
  • Guidance about how to import all the contacts into a salesforce.
  • Standard methods adopted by HR departments for hiring employees.

However, if the tasks are complex, your business needs to have a standard SOP format. The components of that format will include a title, scope, purpose, glossary, procedure, and references. 

What is a Procedure?

Typically, a procedure is a series of steps that instruct workers about each aspect of the task and help them achieve desired results. For instance, if you want to know the procedure for making tea, the procedure is like this:

  • Take some milk in a bowl
  • Add tea powder and sugar
  • Let it boil …

From a business perspective, a procedure is a series of detailed instructions given to employees to perform certain tasks. Each step of a standard procedure format starts with an action that pushes the workers toward a specific goal. Moreover, depending on the type of audience, the procedure is given in different forms. 

Sometimes it's in verbal form, while other times, the procedure is given to you in the form of a written document or a visual flowchart. What makes procedure different in policy vs procedure vs process is that it's granular - it keeps changing and improving. You should regularly add more steps, clarification, or new details in the procedure to make it more comprehensible. 

Examples of a Procedure

Let's look at a few other examples of a procedure so that you can understand it better. Here's what a retail business procedure looks like:

  • What to ask the customer
  • How to sell products 
  • What to do with a returned item

For giving a loan, the employee should know the procedure of handling a loan application. Here's what the employee needs to do:

  • Confirm the applicant's credit card score
  • Update their timeline
  • Check if the applicant has taken any loan from the bank before

What is a Policy?

A policy is a set of rules and regulations of an organization that you must follow to ensure compliance and consistency throughout your organization. Typically, a policy provides employees answers about their "what, when, who, and why." Moreover, the employees get to know about the things that are allowed in a business and what are prohibited. 

The policy contains information like what the policy is, its classification, who is responsible for following it, why it's required, and when it's used. The general example of a policy to make you understand it better is when you drive on the road; there are certain road rules and speed limits that you need to follow. It doesn't matter which route you take; these rules, aka policies, remain unchanged. 

Examples of a Policy

Here's an example of a bank policy to help you get a better idea of what a policy is:

  • Banks have policies surrounding all their transactions, so if someone comes to refinance a loan, the bank would tell them about the refinance policies. The policy will share the conditions one must fulfill to get the refinancing. 

What is a Process?

In an SOP vs process vs procedure, the process is a series of related tasks that turn inputs into outputs. A process shows you the bigger picture of all the pending tasks and the things that need to be done. Typically, you can consider a process a roadmap for your employees, which helps them know and complete all the undone tasks. In an SOP vs procedure, the latter is different because it provides employees with information about how all the pending tasks will be completed. 

While the former is a set of guidelines that help the employees carry out routine tasks. Additionally, a process tells you who's responsible for all the tasks, which task needs to be done first, and the order of task completion. For instance, if you are running a hamburger business, the whole process is simple. First, you'll take the order, the cook will start working on the burger, then it's served, and the bill is collected. 

Examples of a Process

This is an example to give you clarity between SOP vs Process:

  • For a retail business, the process starts with doing everything that is required for a returned item, checking the receipt to ensure the item fits the return policy, finding out if the item has been used, etc. 


There are minor differences between policy vs procedure vs process vs SOP. And it's essential to know those differences to perform all organizational tasks efficiently. However, to make these things more understandable, you must look for an ideal platform with all the organizational information. 

If so, then Waybook is the best in this regard. With a few taps, you can add all your business details, such as the SOP, procedure, process, and policy, and employees can access them without interruption. So, don't wait; contact us now to replace your old LMS and get a single source of information for your organization!

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