Best practices for buying policy management software

Policy management software can make a drastic, positive impact on your organization. Learn how to find and buy the right one.

May 26, 2021

Article highlights:

You know why you need policy management software. You already understand that it helps your company avoid expensive lawsuits and fines.

You already understand that it helps your organization run more efficiently and avoids potential problems.

You already understand that policy management software can save you tens of thousands of dollars in printing costs. And that training software can save you additional thousands in training costs.

You understand all this, and you're ready to buy your policy management software, but you're still not sure which one you should get.

Like most organizations, yours probably has old policies scattered throughout the office in different binders, with everyone holding different versions of the same policy, and no one is sure who has the latest version.

So how do you find the right policy and procedure software that will let you:

  • Update/create and share policies?
  • Access your policy manual from anywhere on any device?
  • Provide access to training and testing on those same policies?
  • Track signatures and training completions in one location?

In this article, we'll talk about why you need buy-in from your executive leadership, how to audit your existing policy process, create your list of must-have features (your non-negotiables), what questions you should ask during the decision-making process, and how to synthesize all of this into making the best possible decision for your organization.

Get buy-in from leadership

This step will vary between organizations. Your executive leadership could be on board with this idea already. Maybe they asked their policy administrator, HR manager, or accreditation manager to find policy management software. Or you could be in one of those roles looking into it on your own and hoping to pitch it to your leadership.

If it's the former, then it's just a matter of finding the best policy management software to fill the organization's requirements. (Check out the list of non-negotiables below to help you figure out what some of those requirements are, and then check out our buyer's guide.)

If it's the latter, you may need to prove the value of the software to your leadership and show them why you think it's smart to implement the software.

Here are a few other issues you should consider.

Determine budget

How much can you spend on your training and policy management software? How much will your proposed solutions cost? Can you get the one to fit within the other? And if you can see a positive ROI and immediate savings, will that figure be included in your budget?

That is, if you could save $10,000 per year in printing and training costs, would you be allowed to fold that figure in your software budget? If you were already given a budget, it certainly doesn't hurt to ask for extra if you find a platform that can increase your savings, which will help pay for the software in general.

Research short-term and long-term ROI/benefits

As you research your policy management software, come up with a list of statistics that support your argument, like how much you can reduce the costs of lawsuits, settlements, and fines. Or how 40% of employees who receive poor training leave their job within the first year

As you use the software, you'll be able to show things like reductions in dangerous incidents and violations, improvements in accreditation responsiveness, and the time it takes to meet all accreditation requirements has decreased.

That means you want to show the cost benefits of these statistics, so even if you are looking at policy management software that costs more than the others, you can show how your performance improvements can offset the software costs.

Have an advocate before you pitch to leadership

You'll have a greater chance of success if you can have someone in the executives' room who supports your efforts and can argue on your behalf. Find an advocate who believes in the idea of policy management software.

Maybe it's the HR director, or an accreditation director, or even the COO of the entire organization. Educate them on the merits of your software selection and help them to understand all the benefits implementing it will have. You can persuade them through education, and they can help you push your program forward.

Audit your policy process

To identify what kind of policy management software you need, you should first understand where you're starting. Do you have a fairly robust policy management process in place, or are you still using the old binder your predecessor gave you in 2003?

If you don't know where you're starting from, you won't know what you can improve. So ask yourself and a few key stakeholders these questions. 

  • What kind of policy management system are you currently using (paper, digital, mixed)?
  • What are its benefits and shortcomings?
  • Is your policy process automated, or are you still using less-efficient analog workarounds?
  • Are you able to manage a policy across its entire lifecycle, from creation to archive?
  • Do you have a centralized source for all your policies?
  • How many hours does it take to prepare for an accreditation assessment?
  • Have you stored, and can you easily access, historical data and documents?
  • How do you ensure all employees have access to the one correct version of any document?
  • How do you currently train people (in person, digital)? How much does it cost? How long does it take?
  • How easy is it to get employees to meet in person for quarterly/annual training?

The idea is to identify all gaps and risks in your current policy management process, which is not possible to do in a silo. You need a team of policy stakeholders who can either speak to, or are affected by, your new policies. Your team should include an IT Representative, Content Manager, Training Manager, Accreditation Manager, as well as frontline employees who actually know how the policies should be applied and how they work.

List your non-negotiables

Start by creating a list of non-negotiables. Use the list below to help you get started. Compare your must-have features to the pros and cons listed in this buyer’s guide, then eliminate options that don’t meet your criteria.

Here are 15 common criteria that may or may not be non-negotiables for your organization:

  • Cost-effective: Pays for itself quickly, high ROI.
  • Central storage: Everything is stored in one location. No more searching for who's got the latest version of which policy.
  • Easy to use: Intuitive user interface that people can use on any device or operating system.
  • Training: Create high-quality training content or use third-party training content.
  • Testing: Create tests to measure employee understanding of new policies and training.
  • Access control: Control levels of access based on user permissions.
  • Acknowledgment: Track who has received and signed policies.
  • Workflows: Advanced workflows let you collaborate with your policy team across the entire organization.
  • Smart editing: Able to make side-by-side comparisons within policies and highlight changes. so employees can see the difference
  • Version control: Publish the latest version of each policy and archive the old versions.
  • Tracking: Able to track policies across their entire lifecycle, from cradle to grave.
  • Security: Strongly protected from internal and external security threats.
  • Mobile: Accessible on mobile phones and tablets, both Apple and Android.
  • Integration: Easily integrates with your favorite office productivity programs.
  • Customer support: Access to friendly, knowledgeable support staff all day, every day, 24/7.

Will you need to train your employees on the policies or other material in the policy and procedures manual? If so, you may want your policy software to include a training management component.

Do you need to be able to prove that employees have received and read all policies? Then the acknowledgment and the testing features are critical.

Do you frequently have to contend with different policies that conflict with each other? You're probably going to need version control and smart editing to make sure people know the latest version of a particular policy.

By identifying your non-negotiables, you can then start asking the right questions of the different policy management software vendors to make your best selection.

Ask the right questions

Every policy and procedure software vendor will have their demo and list of features and benefits. (We're no different. You can get a demo of our software here.)

But you should have some of your own questions to ask, and those answers will tell you a lot more than the typical dog-and-pony every software vendor puts on.

List of questions to ask

Here are a few questions to ask your policy management software vendor:

  • How much money will the software save us?
  • How easy is it to reach your customer service?
  • Do you have manuals available?
  • Do you have access to third-party content for training and policies?
  • What's involved in doing an upgrade? Do you handle it or do we?
  • What security precautions do you take on your end?
  • Can I build my own reports?
  • What kind of dashboards do you have available?
  • Do you have a mobile app and what functionality does it provide?
  • How scalable is your software? Can I easily add users? What's the maximum number you can manage?
  • How easy is it to integrate with our preferred productivity software? Which programs do you support?
  • Do you provide training content or will I need to provide my own?
  • Can I deliver training digitally and track employee progress?
  • Can I create and issue custom tests?

You can find additional questions here on our blog.

Also, be sure to sign up for as many free trials and demos as you can. Test out the software, upload some policies and try out the user interface. Ask other members of your policy team or your compliance department to try out the software with you. Find out what you like and don't like, and see if you can live without the "likes" or can't live with the "don't likes."

Choose the best policy software

After you've gone through the above sections, now is the time to start narrowing down your policy software choices to the top two or three best options for your organization. They should meet your list of non-negotiables, they should be able to scale, and have hopefully even shown you how you're going to see a positive ROI in your organization.

Your list of two or three should be able to meet every requirement and non-negotiable you've listed. If they can't, it shouldn't be on your list. After all, these are your NON-negotiables, not your "it would be nice to haves."

If your software vendor can't meet 100% of your non-negotiables, then they don't belong on the list. (Of course, if no vendor can meet certain non-negotiables, then maybe you're shooting a little beyond anyone's technical capabilities.)

You should also talk to current customers of your short-listed vendors. They should be more than willing to put you in touch with any of them. Speak to the people in those organizations who use the software the most and ask them about what they like the most and the least about it.

Share your list of non-negotiables with them and ask them if their chosen software would meet those requirements. Ask them how well they think their software meets them, and even if their own non-negotiables turned out to be as important as they originally thought.

Choosing the right policy management software can be an arduous process. But if you have buy-in from your executive leadership, you audit your own policy process, create a list of non-negotiable features, and come up with good questions to ask your vendors, you should be able to make the right choice. Ultimately, you'll help your organization be more successful, improve its performance, and save a lot of money and time. Most importantly, you'll help reduce their risk for lawsuits, fines, and penalties.

For help in choosing the best policy management software, be sure to check out our buyer's guide to get you started.

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