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What is policy management?

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What is policy management and why is it important? 

Policy Management refers to the creation, communication, and management of all the policies and procedures implemented by an organization. Policies are the foundation of governance, risk, and compliance (or GRC) strategy. Every business consists of various departments, and policy management governs the creation and distribution of policies, so other parts of the organization don’t create their own policies that might contradict objectives from senior executives. 

Policy Management is also vital for risk mitigation. Even well-intentioned employees can create risk by not being aware of proper policies and procedures and how to stay in accordance. It also lays the foundation for enterprise compliance risk management and should align with other factors, such as a company’s ethical values and business goals. 

Essentially, Policy Management allows senior management to direct the entire company in a certain direction and make sure everyone is on the same page. Using manual policy management leaves your company exposed to risk and increased litigation from employees. In periods of disruption, as we’ve recently seen, Policy Management becomes even more important as organizations pivot to address new demands, such as implementing work-from-home strategies and office access permissions. 

All these changes require Policy Management and efficient and streamlined processes for developing, reviewing, and implementing those policies consistently and enforceable across an entire organization. 

Policy management challenges 

Corporations today must follow many complex and ever-changing regulatory requirements – failure can take the form of penalties, fines, and potential reputational harm. These changing requirements impact internal policies and processes in many areas such as privacy, ethics, cybersecurity, and financial crimes. Regardless of the scope of an organization’s compliance culture, the ability to stay apprised of evolving regulations and manage the change can be overwhelming. 

Organizations can be burdened with intersecting requirements, increasing the potential for conflicting policies, as well as gaps in the (GRC) structure. As regulatory pressures grow, leading businesses are taking action towards a more focused, centralized, cross-regulatory approach to managing compliance. This can alleviate increasing costs and the uncertainty and complexity that fragmented processes create. Managing organizational GRC processes yields valuable insight into risks to key business processes 

How do you implement an effective policy management solution? 

To do the job right, you need to have the right tools. If you’re still using outdated solutions like paper and binders, a fax machine and email, or even Sharepoint to distribute and track your policies, you expose your organization to a lot of risks. In addition, risk exposure you must deal with: 

  • Dealing with spreadsheets which should only be used to make budgets and not managing policies. 
  • Emails that go unread and are difficult to track with any reliability. 
  • Trying to set up and use Sharepoint. 

Therefore, policy management software can store, manage, distribute, and track your policy documents. Everything is centrally located. There’s no question about who has what policy. Everything is stored in the cloud digitally. There’s one version that you must check and update. 

With policy management software in place, you can follow these best practices. 

Write consistently 

Uniformity and consistency when writing policies is extremely important, you want to keep the same layout and language across all policy documents. This way, when an employee sees a policy document, they will recognize its importance and be able to understand the terminology throughout. 

Consistency is also critical for policies outlining disciplinary action. When written consistently, the discipline can be carried out fairly and without bias, regardless of who was involved or the incident. This helps employees understand what’s expected of them, and it protects you from aggrieved employees who claim other employees didn’t receive the same level of discipline. 

Stakeholder buy-in 

Approval from the organization’s stakeholders and top executives will not only give your policies legitimacy, but it helps ensure consistency with current company-wide expectations. 

If your leadership doesn’t consider the policies important, no one else will either. 

 Track employee engagement digitally

Most companies require employees to sign the receipt of their policy manual, but forms can be lost, and you must store all those forms for years, which takes money and valuable space. 

Tracking signatures electronically can not only show you instantly who has signed off on your policies, it helps you create a culture of accountability. It also protects your organization from future liability. You can show that you have provided employees with proper information and that they have acknowledged it but chose to violate your policies anyway. 

Make policies accessible 

We are always connected, and we can find information about nearly every topic from anywhere in the world. Do your crucial documents have the same level of access? Your employees should be able to have secure, cloud-based access to their own policy manual, and be able to instantly search for what they need. 

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A cloud-based solution allows your policies to be accessed by mobile phones and tablets, as well as laptop and desktop computers. This is especially important for remote workers and those who spend most of their time out of the office. 

Train to your policies 

Take into account the ways in which your employees learn the best and make sure you provide the accommodations needed to train them effectively.

The training should be matched to your very own policies. The scenarios should be relevant to your culture and your team. Using cookie-cutter training programs often fall short in their effectiveness, after all, how good can they be if half the references and scenarios don’t even fit your own circumstances? 

You should also track your employee training to see who has received the latest information and to ensure compliance with your liability coverage. 

Plan for more than just the short term 

Policies should not be set and forgotten about. They’re a living, growing document that changes as your organization and our times change. The pandemic showed us that organizations need to adapt and change with the times, and your policies need to reflect the new normal. 

It is virtually impossible to create a policy for every incident or change in the business or social climate. However, you should set up a regular review process that includes team members throughout the organization to ensure the policies are correct, relevant, and effective. 

Centralize and manage policy processes with ease  

IBM OpenPages Policy Management is an enterprise policy management solution that reduces the complexity and cumbersome nature of policy lifecycle management. It helps organizations follow many industry and regulatory requirements. With IBM OpenPages Policy Management, organizations can implement an enterprise risk management framework. IBM OpenPages Policy Management drives a consistent approach to policy management while reducing the cost and complexity of compliance with multiple regulatory requirements and corporate policies. Using a core, shared services, and open architecture, IBM OpenPages Policy Management automates the ongoing management of the policy lifecycle process. At the same time, it helps find similarities between regulations to reduce inconsistencies, find gaps and supply a greater understanding of requirements impacting the GRC process.