The Compliance Management Debate: Automated vs. Manual

The benefits of automated compliance could help move your organization forward and create a better environment for compliance.

December 23, 2020

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As a compliance manager, you play an important role in your organization.

It’s your role to create a compliant environment, which ultimately leads to safety, success, and professionalism within your organization. So it makes sense that you take the processes surrounding your policy compliance very seriously.

Your policy and procedure documents are essentially the backbone of your organization.

You’ve probably spent a good deal of time and resources developing them to ensure compliance across your company. Still, compliance management can be a debatable and often painful topic.

Every organization develops a tried-and-true system that works for them and their team. So the idea of implementing a new system and then training everyone on it can seem stressful, at best.

Although tackling a new system for compliance tracking takes some work up front, it can also be beneficial in the long run. Think of moving from manual compliance to an automated policy compliance system like any other investment.

By increasing efficiency and ensuring optimal compliance, the benefits of automated compliance could be the force that moves your organization forward in new ways.

The Problem With Manual Policy Compliance

Manual compliance is fairly straightforward, and quite frankly, that’s likely part of its appeal.

However, this more traditional route is also more time-consuming, more expensive, and generally less effective than automated compliance management.

Consider all the steps involved in developing and managing all of your documents manually:

  • Forming a committee to cover topics of importance and establishing pertinent policies and procedures
  • Getting compliance documents approved by necessary personnel
  • Printing policy manuals and any other documents that need to be signed off on
  • Chasing personnel members down to read and sign said documents
  • Filing all of your documents in binders and file cabinets around your office
  • Meeting to review and revise outdated documents
  • Starting the entire process all over again

Though you may be used to the manual method of tracking compliance, it has a few potentially problematic aspects.

Time consuming

Your policy documents exist to promote compliance. So it’s important they are easy to create, distribute, find, and use when you need them.

Simply put, manual policy compliance makes all of this more difficult and time-consuming. Throughout their life cycle, your documents much less accessible and convenient to locate.

Whether you are trying to find a specific document or compile a report, manual policy compliance means passing documents around the office or thumbing through stacks of paper.

As a result, looking for, navigating, and working on your documents could end up being distracting and time-consuming. In the long run, it could also potentially compromise your employees’ ability to do their job well.

You may be using a local server or another home-grown system to manage your policies. These systems can certainly be helpful for storing and managing your documents.

However, it’s likely that only a few people in the office know how to operate them.

This type of compliance setup isn’t sustainable or transferable, and could end up being time-consuming for everyone involved.

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Expensive

It may seem less expensive than automated policy compliance systems. But with manual compliance management, costs add up over time.

At first, the process seems fairly simple: you create compliance documents, then print and distribute them. However, as you know, these documents rarely stay static.

Since laws and best practices always evolve, so will your policies and procedures. This will naturally increase paper and printing costs, which can get quite expensive over time.

Did you know the average employee uses 10,000 pieces of paper per year? That’s $800 of annual overhead you could prevent.

Along similar lines, constantly re-printing policy and procedure manuals harms the environment, contributing to deforestation and landfill waste.

Ineffective

In addition to the added time and costs, manual policy compliance is a generally ineffective method.

Think of it this way – what good are your documents if you and your employees don’t actually have access to them when necessary?

To do their jobs well – and to comply – your employees always need to have your policy documents on hand. Paper documents, whether a training report or the latest version of a policy, are simply difficult and time-consuming to locate.

There’s also an out of sight, out of mind effect. When an individual knows finding a document will take time, they are less likely to look for it.

This could have a negative effect on your compliance with your organization and, by extension, compromise safety and professionalism.

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Automated Policy Compliance Systems

There’s no silver bullet to solve all your organization’s compliance issues.

Optimizing compliance will always require some work and energy. However, you can take important steps toward making improvements in your processes.

Moving from manual compliance to an automated policy compliance system could be one of these steps.

Whereas manual compliance involves more time and cost over time, automated compliance increases efficiency and streamlines your processes.

Consider how much simpler the following steps are.

  • Disseminating policy manuals and compliance documents to the entire organization with the click of a button
  • Using policy templates to maintain consistency on all your documents
  • Establishing workflows for automatic document approvals
  • Assigning documents to specific users to obtain electronic signatures
  • Setting reminders for document revision or re-sending to selected users
  • Creating and running custom online training courses and testing
  • Running reports to quickly see who hasn’t signed off on documents, completed training courses, filled out surveys

The beneficial features of automated policy compliance management certainly make things easier for everyone involved.

Ultimately, though, how you manage your policies plays a larger role in your organization. When your policy compliance processes are streamlined, you can focus on policies themselves rather than the stress of managing them.

Here are a few of the features of automated policy compliance management that could benefit your organization.

Distribute policies and track employee signatures

At the most basic level, policy management software makes creating your documents easier for everyone.

You can collaborate on documents and get necessary approvals without printing and pass around papers. Automated policy compliance also makes distributing documents simpler.

With cloud-based software like PowerDMS, you can make sure you know who has the most recent version of every document – it’s all online.

You can also track who has signed off on your documents all in one, secure place, which plays a big role in ensuring compliance. Without the added stress of shuffling papers in the office, you can focus on doing your job well.

Workflows to streamline policy changes and approvals

As the compliance manager, you’re the one responsible for updating policies and getting approvals.

With an automated system, you won’t have to deal with scribbled notes or post-its. You can keep all your changes and comments in one location, and you’ll know who made each.

This feature could be a major time and headache saver through the policy creation and editing process.

Get a complete view of compliance

An automated policy compliance system gives you a bird’s eye view of compliance within your organization.

Gone are the days of complicated, time-consuming reports. Using a software like PowerDMS, you will be able to quickly pull reports and see who has (or hasn’t) reviewed or completed compliance-related tasks.

Everything you need to ensure compliance and mitigate risk will be all in one, simple, accessible location.

Reduce paper, reduce costs

Simplifying processes is a game-changer for everyone in your office.

Financial savings is another important consideration of going digital.

When you are constantly creating and revising documents, it’s inevitable you will be printing. However, automated policy compliance can make a major difference with paper and printing costs, not to mention impacts on the environment.

All told, PowerDMS has saved more than 833 million sheets of paper (and counting). This means PowerDMS customers have saved more than $25 million in paper and printing costs.

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Make it easy on your team

By leading the way toward automated policy compliance, you can simplify life for everyone in your organization.

Too often, compliance becomes a necessary evil. However, making things easier for employees to find, view, and acknowledge policies removes an unnecessary burden.

You will also make it much easier to know where to find answers to questions, which ultimately improves compliance. This could play a big role in improving morale, which benefits everyone.

Moving Forward With Your Policy Compliance

Are you ready to take the new steps toward improving your organization?

If you opt to implement a new system for policy compliance, there will be upfront costs, not to mention a learning curve.

Like any other investment you make, though, you will receive a return over time. Chances are, you’ll discover that an effective and compliant work environment is worth the work it takes to get there.

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