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.
Imagine this scenario. Alan makes changes and emails the document back to the committee. Brenda makes her own changes to her own document and emails it back to the committee. Crystal takes Brenda's copy and adds her own changes and additions. She prints it out and returns it to the committee.
So whose version is correct? Which one is the latest? Should Alan add his changes to Crystal's? And what happens if Crystal forgot to send her version to the rest of the committee, but it's the one that has all the important information, and it's locked in her office while she's on vacation?
Now, multiply those problems for an entire policy manual, and you start to understand the problem of not having a centralized repository for information. This scenario is the tip of the iceberg of difficulties that organizations face when they have a decentralized approach to policy management and storage.
In large organizations, different departments will often create different policies, distributing them using their own methods. When policies are updated, no one can remember who had which version, and some people will often forget to print out the new version and replace their old ones.
As a result, no one can be sure which version is the latest one, so everyone is operating from different versions of policies. They're following different instructions, and in many cases, they're not even aware there's a problem.
All of these problems can be solved if you stored your policy manual in an online central repository that could be accessed by all necessary personnel.
In this article, we'll discuss what a central repository is, the challenges you may face without it, and how to solve those problems by implementing one.
What is a central repository?
A central repository is a digital document storage system. At its barest essence, it's an online folder system that stores all of your policies in one place that everyone could access with the right login credentials. Conceivably, that could be everyone in your entire organization.
If you've ever stored documents on Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365, and then shared them with a coworker, you've seen a central repository in action.
In a more advanced central repository, you can limit levels of access and control to different personnel. That is, you could give certain people full administrator access, others can have editor-level access, and still, others can have read-only access.
A central repository is cloud-based by nature because you need everyone to be able to reach the policy manual from wherever they're located, regardless of device, operating system, or location. You can also shield your central repository behind state-of-the-art, high-level cybersecurity.
Challenges you may be facing
There are a few problems you may be facing with your current document management system:
- No version history: People are unable to access archived versions of a policy and to see associated data, like who edited it, approved it, or signed it.
- No version control: Your organization is unable to maintain a single version of every policy across their lifecycles, from creation to archiving.
- Unreliable access to policies and procedures: People aren't able to find the latest versions of all the policies and procedures. No one knows who has the latest version. Different people control different aspects of the policy manual, and each person has a different version, so they’re unaware that there's a problem.
- Limited (and expensive) storage space for paper policies: Providing everyone with binders and printouts of all policies takes up valuable physical space. Keeping old versions of past policies for reference can also get cumbersome. Physical space is at a premium, especially in larger organizations taking up expensive real estate.
Why you need a central repository
Storing your policy manual and policy management software in a centralized document storage system can solve all of the above challenges, and then some.
The central repository will serve as a single source of truth. That is, if it's in the centralized policy manual, it's the most correct version of the policy there is. There's no question about whether it's the latest version, or if someone has a more recent version, or if one person is still mistakenly working off of last year's policy.
That also means you'll have intuitive search capabilities and quick access to the entire policy manual, all in one location. No more jumping around from paper binder to online directory to email message, trying to find that one policy that pertains to your situation.
By using an online policy management solution, you can ensure you are only using one version of every policy. There will be no issues with version control: Everyone will only be able to access the latest version of any policy.
But, administrators and editors will be able to see the entire version history of each policy. They can see who has edited previous versions and who approved them. Plus, everyone can compare the old version with the new version and see what's new.
These features can also protect your organization. Version histories help prove your organization wasn't at fault if there are ever legal challenges. For example, if your organization is ever accused of not having a policy related to a particular incident, you can show that not only do you have a policy, you can show the date it was implemented, and demonstrate that everyone has read it.
Even if an employee claims they weren't aware of the policy or related training, you'll have a signed document that shows they absolutely did read and understand what was required of them. (This is also why you track training management in the same way.)
A centralized document storage system can also facilitate better distribution of new and updated policies. Rather than emailing PDFs of new policies to everyone (which is problematic on its own), a centralized repository lets you upload the new policies and then notify everyone that it's available. You can then keep track of everyone who has read the policy and signed that they have read and understood it. You can then send reminders to anyone who has not signed the new policy by a certain deadline.
This signature feature also simplifies the accreditation process. As you implement new policies based on your accreditation requirements, you'll have to show that your entire staff has read and signed off on all the policies. With policy management software, you can compile all the signatures, show the completion rates, and share that information with your accrediting association. This alone could save you days, if not weeks, in the accreditation process.
Want to know more?
A centralized repository for your policies and policy management software can make life so much easier for organizations, especially for those who are in charge of policy management. Not only can you easily share your policy updates, but you can also protect your organization by eliminating problems with version control and history. You can also save money by not needing to print out policy manuals for every employee or paying for their physical storage.
There are a few different types of policy management systems, and each of them has its own pros and cons. You can visit our website to find out more about them, and why a policy management solution in a centralized repository will likely be your most effective method.
Or keep learning about other important features your policy management software needs to have.