- How easy is it to use your software?
- Can we differentiate between levels of access?
- Is revision management or version control possible?
- Can you collaborate via workflows?
- Does it come with reporting features?
Many organizations are researching the best policy management software for their needs. They need it to create their first digital policy manual, to update their current paper-based system, or to switch from an inefficient or outdated policy management solution. Asking questions is an integral part of the research process, and we’re happy to help.
The most frequently asked questions revolve around how the software works, who can use it, its benefits and shortcomings, where the content is stored, how secure it is, and how easy it is to access. Oftentimes, they can be clustered into larger topics of discussion, which we answer quite frequently for prospective customers.
These are the five most frequently asked questions we get about our software. They're also the first five you should be asking before you ask about price.
1. How easy is it to use?
Almost without exception, organizations are looking at our policy management platform because they're transitioning from their current processes. Whether it's a paper-and-binder process, sharing PDFs via email, publishing documents on a shared hard drive, or posting everything to a cloud-based server, organizations are increasingly transitioning to the efficiency of policy management software.
Over the years, their employees have learned how to deal with these inefficient processes. Everyone has learned the tips, tricks, and workarounds to function, and now these organizations are asking, "How easily can we break these old habits and processes? How intuitive is it for leadership to click the right button and access and approve the content? Can our employee base navigate the system and access the content?"
The goal for any policy management software is for people to quickly access information with ease.
So, the bottom line for these champions of change is: 1) what's in it for them and how will it change their lives? And 2) how much will it take to learn and master this within the organization? (Because they're the ones who are going to help the organization transition to this system.)
Anyone who wants to be sure about the ease of use should ask their prospective software vendor for some referrals to clients, and then ask those clients how easy it is to use. Because the software company will always tell you their software is easy to use. So you want to hear it from the users and the admins who set it up and worked with their colleagues to get it up and running.
Many organizations have identified their needs and now they want to know the next steps. It starts with finding the right team members – subject matter experts and leaders across the organization who will make up your policy or accreditation management team – and showing them how easy it is to use, helping them understand how this will help them. Having allies and evangelists among your colleagues will help make the transition that much easier.
2. Can we differentiate between levels of access?
The right policy management tool should provide access and security control to your content. Not everyone needs the same level of access for viewing, editing, approving, or reporting the content.
- You have employees who need quick and easy access to your policy manual. That level of viewing access should be given to everyone.
- You'll have a policy management team that needs editing access to manage that content. They're collaborating, editing, revising, and approving new policies. They're putting out new revisions to old policies and getting them into the hands of the staff.
- Your leaders need to approve new content and changes before they're being distributed. They may not have the editorial and revision level access of the management team, but they're the only ones who can give final approval.
- You also want to be able to report on who's seen the different content and demonstrate that the required number of people have seen the important policies, read them, and signed off on them.
Bottom line, you need to be able to control access to those documents and processes. You want to have granular control that you can turn on and off for individuals, rather than just giving everyone the same level of access and hoping for the best.
3. How do we make sure the most recent version of a document is available?
Some policy management solutions provide triggers and cycles for when content is updated or should be updated. It could be once a year, twice a year, or every two years. One question we often receive is how easily teams can manage the revision process.
Whether they're drafting new content, accessing previous versions of documents in archives, or controlling the document life cycle, teams need revision control.
Revision control means managing a policy's life cycle from draft to archive, from cradle to grave. Your organization has teams managing the content and staff who need to access that content. So your policy management software should provide collaborating and revising capabilities, as well as let you track and show all the changes you made.
Once all the individual changes have been made, you need to get the updated sections into the hands of your employees and show them what has changed. So even if you have a five, 10, or 20-page document, but only a couple of lines that have changed, you can highlight the changes and make them obvious for your staff.
It's especially important when they're small but critical changes. For example, if you were to change a few words in a 20-page policy – and that was the only change in the entire policy – you don't want to resend that policy and expect your staff to spot that change. Highlighting makes all the difference.
4. What does collaboration look like?
Policy creation doesn't exist in a vacuum. You need a policy management team comprised of subject matter experts, advisors, and leaders. You need their insight on new and updated policies and procedures. And you won’t get it quickly or efficiently by emailing revised documents back and forth.
Collaboration is one of the most important tools in your policy management software since policy revisions can sometimes take more time than creating the policies in the first place. Since typical collaboration methods tend to be chaotic and hard to manage (e.g., emailing different versions of a policy to all team members), your policy management software should include a workflow tool to streamline the process.
Workflows should include a place to give feedback, and to notify the team about that feedback. It should take the normal collaborative process that happens in the real world, where it's done with whiteboards and dry-erase markers, and put it into software where people can be more efficient and effective.
There are reviews and approvals to consider, including annual approval processes that need to be done by different people all along the chain of command. How can you make it easier for each person, as well as speed up the review and approval process?
The PowerDMS workflow tool lets you assign roles for each reviewer/approver, work from a single version of the draft, leave comments on the draft, automatically notify the next person when it’s their turn to review, and more.
5. What kind of reporting features do you offer?
Your leadership needs to be aware of what's happening with the policies and your accreditation compliance efforts. Your policy management team needs to understand who revised which content, who made the last edits, who approved them, and who reviewed them.
Reporting is another core feature of a good content management tool. Having an audit trail is critical, whether it's a policy management team collaborating on a policy or the system admin being able to see who created the latest version and what has changed since.
It also helps with accreditation compliance because you're able to show that your organization is up-to-date on certain policies and that they were read and signed by a certain date and time.
Reporting is the rising tide that lifts all boats. It not only lifts accountability for employees but for leadership as well. Everyone is on the same page, and you have the proof as to what took place and when. There's a paper trail to show a policy's creation, changes, updates, approvals, and sign-off. You're not relying on memory or digging up old records and emails.
Ultimately, a good policy management tool will empower compliance champions (accreditation managers, policy admins, HR directors, etc.) to better manage important documents and give employees ownership of their role in the process. This is accomplished through access control, revision/version control, reporting, and automation.
By making policy creation easy to complete, and putting the content into your employees' hands, you can make sure your organization is meeting its accreditation requirements, reducing its liability risk, and protecting its reputation and operational standards.