10 Signs that your Policy Management Process Needs an Upgrade

5 Min Read

As a business grows, so too does its library of policies & procedures. Has your policy management team gotten noticeably busier? Perhaps policies are becoming mis-managed or out-of-date as a result – leaving the organisation exposed.

When it comes to policy management are you still using manual processes like spreadsheets & emails or shared drives? Maybe your existing system doesn’t have the capability to keep up with changes required when implementing, updating, and maintaining your policies & procedures. Perhaps you are also losing track of certifications & attestations. End-user adoption of policies might also be a challenge. Clunky, ageing policy management tools will create these problems, as will a continuing reliance on manual processes.

What is Policy Management?

Policy management is the process of creating, implementing, and maintaining a current library of policies & procedures within an organisation.  Done effectively, policy & procedure management can help organisations reduce risk and protect stakeholders.

The Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG) defines policies as the cornerstone of compliance in organisations of all sizes. Policies establish the guidelines that must be followed when establishing procedures and engaging in the day-to-day operations of the business. Not only do policies tell a business how to conduct themselves in their daily operations, but they also offer a uniform, consistent way to handle difficult situations.

Policies – and their little brothers, procedures – are how an organisation puts its ethics and priorities into practice; a business can proclaim its values from the rooftops, but until those values are actually lived and breathed by staff, the words ring hollow.

What Does Bad Policy Management Look Like?

Today’s organisations rely on a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that guide the conduct of their employees, stakeholders, and management – and therefore the organisation as a whole.

If such documentation is paper or email-based and scattered across the organisation, it is difficult to maintain, manage and distribute. Persisting with a haphazard and inefficient approach to policy management increases the chances of policies being written, presented, and managed inconsistently, while also being time-consuming and expensive. Worst case scenario? Bad policy management can expose your organisation to a whole new can of worms in the form of legal, regulatory, reputational, and health & safety risks.

In this blog, we highlight the key indicators that your policy management process needs an upgrade. Plus, we explain why it should be managed as part of your wider GRC programme to ensure your organisation has sufficient policies in place to mitigate known risks, ensure staff are operating in line with compliance requirements, and to implement sufficient governance regarding company values.

10 Signs that your Policy Management Process Needs an Upgrade

To say that it’s challenging to keep policies updated with industry best practices, accreditation standards, and ever-changing regulations is an understatement, and without the right policy tool, it’s like going into a boxing match without gloves.

As society becomes increasingly litigious, and public image gains increasing importance, policy management & adherence matters now more than ever. When you provide your teams with the right tools to proactively adhere to standards – both mandated & voluntary – you save yourself, your business, and your legal team a lot of time and money – in short, policy management is about being proactive, not reactive.

But if you don’t have a policy management tool, or rather, if you don’t have a good one, then here are 10 signs that your policy management process needs an upgrade:

1.    You have no central repository for live policies

Creating a central repository of policies can be a challenge. Most organisations resort to using various SharePoint sites, files, and folders to store policies – while this sounds plausible in principle, it can lead to a wealth of problems.

Shared files & folders lack version control and document history – and they don’t provide the capability to view vital information around approvals, expiry dates, and policy attestations. Often organisations find themselves managing cyber, HR, and IT incidents using different tools, processes, and file locations – resulting in disjointed methods that make accessing the right policy a challenge.

2.    You have no formal policy approval process

Not having a formal policy creation and approval process creates a world of ambiguity around policy validity and approval status – creating countless opportunities for policies to slip through the cracks before they are fully enacted.  When policies are sent for approval via email, there is no central overview to check if the person approved, amended, or rejected the policy. If an email is missed, the policy owner would have to chase the stakeholder manually, and there is no central view of when policies were approved or rejected and what changes were made.

Without automated technology to facilitate progress to the next stage of the approval workflow, there’s no system in place to ensure progress is ever made – this delays the revision of the policy, leaving outdated policies in use.  Obsolete policies are a sure-fire way to leave your organisation at risk. Old policies may fail to comply with new laws and regulations. Plus, they may not address new systems or processes resulting in inconsistent practices. The bottom line is, having a formal policy reviewing process to regularly update your policies & procedures keeps your organisation up to date with the latest requirements & company values, keeping the organisation consistent with industry best practices. 

3.    You are using manual processes that lack automated workflows & controls

Does your policy approval process force your team members to spend a lot of time tracking down paperwork, sharing Word or Excel documents, sending countless emails, making a stream of never-ending phone calls, and dealing with a lot of miscommunications? Manual processes that rely on spreadsheets & emails will do that for you. If you’ve ever worked with a committee on creating a single document, you know what a hassle it can be when different people make changes to the document.

Using GRC software to automate the policy management process enables organisations to set up automated workflows for policy approvals & escalations – ensuring an efficient process that fosters transparency & accountability. Leaders can set controls so they can be notified when policies are due to expire, when approval deadlines are missed, and when employees have not read and attested to policies. Setting controls is a sure-fire way to ensure that policies are always amended on time and to capture any problems early.

4.    You struggle to keep track of live policies, expiration dates and updates

To cut a long story short, when it comes to policy renewal, manual processes place the burden of renewal entirely on individuals leaving it up to employees to remember when a policy needs renewal – as there is no formal process in place to remind them. This means outdated policies go unnoticed leaving the organisation exposed. Manual processes don’t allow for quick visibility into approval status, and they don’t prompt employees in the approval chain to make their comments – resulting in stagnant processes.

5.    Policies lack ownership & accountability

Organisations that approach policy management without clear ownership & accountability face significant risk to their business. Ownership must be defined at all levels of the policy lifecycle. Policy creators, approvers, owners and the staff the policy applies to, must be clearly defined – this ownership and accountability ensures that any breaches of company policy are dealt with swiftly. This enables policy owners to grant exceptions, monitor incidents & violations of policies, and extends to policy governance, and acceptance responsibilities. Today’s organisations require an enterprise view of policy accountability & collaboration that can only be achieved using an integrated GRC platform with clear ownership and escalation routes.

6.    You have no structured process for circulating policies & collecting attestations

Employees can’t follow policies they are not aware of – but getting policies in the right hands and ensuring staff have read and attested to relevant policies can be a challenge without a formal tracking process. Paper policies and shared drives & folders do not provide a structured process for circulating policies. Employees can have issues with accessing shared documents, and files can get overwritten and amended incorrectly. Collecting attestations can be problematic using manual processes like email, as there is no central overview of approval status and outstanding actions, and any chasing is also done manually via email which takes valuable time. With a specialist GRC tool, when a policy is created, the burden of getting acknowledgement is transferred to the software.

7.    You don’t have a holistic view of policy status

When policies are created on an ad hoc basis, and amends, approvals, and circulation are conducted via email there is no central overview of the status of each policy and who attested to it and when. When policies are managed using a specialist GRC software tool, leaders can easily pull a list of out-of-date policies or policies that are due to expire and get real time views of policy approval status and any outstanding actions.

8.    Reporting on policies is time-consuming and cumbersome

Trying to run reports on policy status and expiry dates is nearly impossible when using manual processes. Teams would need to manually extract the latest data, plugging it into countless spreadsheets to make sure the right people have access to the information, only to repeat the process all over again be it on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis. This exhausting and unproductive process – not only takes up valuable resources – it hinders management and growth efforts and is riddled with human error and inaccurate data.

9.    Your policies don’t address the top risks in your risk register

There is a deep connection between risk and policy management. Policies, procedures, and best practices can only be successful if your organisation has a clear set of stated objectives and policies that address the top risks in your risk register. Policies & procedures are often designed as specific controls or plans that are put in place to mitigate risks or avoid them altogether.

Ultimately policies & procedures are responsible for defining your organisation’s risk culture. Failing to understand this intrinsic relationship is where a lot of companies fail – in both addressing risk and implementing effective policies & procedures.  This lack of integration between risk and policies can also lead to a knock-on effect in the creation of what has been termed as rogue policies – created in an ad-hoc manner meaning that they are not aligned to objectives or defined risks, often impeding an organisation, and leaving it exposed to risk.

10.    Your policies do not address your compliance obligations

When done correctly, policy management drives everyday compliance, minimises risks & liabilities, and builds company culture. Policies define how an organisation meets regulatory obligations and compliance requirements. Linking policy management and compliance ensures that internal procedures dovetail with compliance obligations and ensures policies are continuously updated with the latest regulatory requirements. Failing to link these functions could result in non-compliance with external laws & legislation as well as with your own internal policies & procedures.

Key Advantages of Bringing your Policy management Process Online

Establishing effective policies does not begin and end with regulations. It requires the right type of distributive mediums, the right methods to measure understanding, and the right amount of collaboration. All of these things take an enormous amount of time and energy – which is why automating them with a software solution can increase efficiency and ensure compliance with your policies & procedures. Here we explore 3 advantages of bringing your policy management process online using a GRC platform.

1.    Access to a centralised digital library of all policies

By bringing your policy management process online using an automated GRC tool, you will create a centralised searchable library of all your policies online. As policies are uploaded, staff will be prompted to enter essential information about each policy including the author, owner and approvers, and the creation, approval, and expiry dates. These important details can be used to run policy management reports around, policies that are due to expire or policies that require approval.

Your central repository will serve as a single source of truth and will mean you have intuitive search capabilities and quick access to your entire policy collection – all in one location. And by using an online policy management solution you can say goodbye to version control issues – as staff can view the full document history and any changes or outstanding actions online.

Without a central policy management software solution, you run the risk of having different procedures being followed across different parts of your business – not to mention risking poor version control with various departments working with outdated versions of the same policy. Centralising your document storage greatly reduces these risks – it provides a single source of truth for everyone to work from – ensuring all relevant functions have immediate access to the latest policies & procedures – making managing internal policy compliance significantly easier for your teams.

2.    Automated workflow approvals

When using a GRC tool for policy management, when a policy is uploaded, it is automatically added to an approval workflow. Therefore, when a creator uploads a policy to the system, automatic notifications will be sent to any policy approvers to review & authorise the policy. Any amends can be sent to the creator, and the policy can start the approval workflow again, if policies are approved, they get automatically published can circulated. This creates a fast, efficient policy approval process. The system can even be linked to your active directory of staff, locations, and departments – ensuring policy approval workflows and owners are always up to date.

When using manual policy management processes, the lack of visibility into the policy status causes delays. By automating these workflows your policy management team can gain immediate insight into policy updates via real-time dashboards. This automated approach allows them to focus their time on value-led activities to further enhance & protect the business, rather than time spent on admin – chasing emails and overdue actions.

3.    Online attestations

A major part of your policy manager’s role probably involves chasing the applicable staff for attestations to provide proof that employees have read and agreed to the relevant policies. Online policy management tools make this easy. Once a policy completes the online approval workflow and is published, the policy becomes live on the system, and workflows can be set up to automatically send emails to the applicable staff so they can read and agree to the policy online. If they don’t do this by the required deadline the system will automatically send email reminders. Management can easily get visibility of how many employees have read and attested to the policy and who they are. This evidence can be used in employee tribunals where staff are in breach of a particular policy.

Taking Policy Management to Another Level

Policies are created for a reason. Many policies are built around compliance requirements & legal obligations, others are created to mitigate risk or implement specific processes or instil company values. Some are even created to help a company work towards achieving its strategic goals & objectives. Therefore, having a policy management solution that is built-in or can integrate with your GRC solution is becoming increasingly popular. Combining all of the advantages of a dedicated document management solution with a GRC tool keeps everything under one roof and allows for complex mapping to understand the links between each function. Therefore, when a risk becomes critical or a new regulation comes into effect, policies can be created or amended to address the new requirements.

Business leaders can break down operational silos by linking policy management data with risk registers, compliance obligations libraries, incident management portals, and strategic plans to ensure policies are always up to date with the latest laws and guidance.

A well-developed, dedicated policy management tool or built-in GRC policy management solution allows for policy changes to be made and clearly communicated. The  real-time reporting & dashboards keep you organised when preparing for an audit - minimising the risk of non-compliance.

The Camms policy management solution enables organisations to access policy creation templates and establish an online policy library – capturing key information regarding policy owner, expiry date, approval stage, and version number. It enables businesses to automate the entire policy management life cycle including policy creation, version control, approval, publishing, and attestation – creating a comprehensive log for audit purposes & employee tribunals. The solution is part of our wider GRC platform allowing organisations to link policy management to risk management, compliance, and strategic planning to further mature their current processes.

Our team would love to learn about your policy management challenges and wider GRC priorities – and explore how technology can help you achieve success. If you are looking for a comprehensive tool to manage your policies as part of the larger risk and compliance picture, reach out to our team today and schedule a demo or discover more here

Tom Kerin

Chief Product Officer

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