How technology simplifies the accreditation process

In this article, we’ll explain the different technology tools that simplify the accreditation process and save you time.

May 21, 2021

Accreditation can be challenging to achieve and maintain, especially if you're using paper to update, distribute, and track your policies.

If your agency has never pursued accreditation, be careful not to underestimate it.  This isn’t meant to frighten, but rather to help you approach the process realistically. As seen in our previous articles, there are numerous benefits to accreditation, tips to streamline the process, and ways to get funding

Ask yourself these questions before continuing:

  • Is your agency using some combination of paper, internal shared drives, and email to manage policies? 
  • Has your agency developed workarounds to compensate for paper-related inefficiencies?
  • How long would it take to sift through filing cabinets and binders and map your policies to state/national accrediting standards?
  • If your agency was involved in a lawsuit, how long would it take for you to collect copies of policies, signatures, and training during a specific period of time?

Paper may be the comfortable choice. It may even appear to be the more affordable option at first blush. But after factoring in paper, printing, and time costs (not to mention added salaries if you need to hire a dedicated accreditation manager), you realize something – paper isn’t all that affordable. Not from a cost perspective, and not from a time perspective.

With the right technology, accreditation management solutions can pay for themselves. For many PowerDMS customers, it even generates a return on investment.

You may be wondering what types of technology exist to help with accreditation? Or what features do they provide that can simplify the accreditation process? In the rest of this article, we’ll look at these two questions and more.

Technology that helps with accreditation

There are five types of solutions that can help you achieve and maintain accreditation. There is overlap between the solutions listed below, and some of the vendors have more than one service or product. But generally speaking, these are the five types of technology you’ll encounter and what they provide.

Document management software

Document management software is a central repository for storing your compliance documents, policies, files, etc. You can share, collaborate on, and control access to these files. Examples of document management software include Google Workspace, Box, SharePoint, OneDrive, and more.

Policy management software

Policy management solutions are similar to document management software, but they come with additional, and sometimes automated, features and functionality designed to simplify your day-to-day policy and accreditation tasks. Examples of policy management solutions include PolicyTech, ConvergePoint, PowerDMS, and more.

Accreditation management software

Accreditation management software lets you link your policies to your accreditation standards to prove compliance. Most solutions, if not all, include some policy management functionality, though it’s not always as robust as what policy management software offers. Examples of accreditation management software include PolicyTech and PowerDMS.

Training management software

Training management software is a supplement, not an alternative, to the solutions mentioned above. Most accrediting programs require agencies to provide more training to officers, as well as hold officers accountable to that training. Examples of training management software include Apty, Docebo, PowerDMS, and more.

Content Providers / Compliance Consultants

Achieving accreditation sometimes requires new or updated policies. Content providers offer state-specific policies that are researched, written, and regularly updated by subject matter experts. Examples include Lexipol, Daigle Law Group, and The Rodgers Group

The difference between policy and accreditation management software

Of the five technologies listed above, policy and accreditation management software are the most important for achieving accreditation. Let’s explore the features and functionality of each so you can better understand what your agency needs.

How policy management software helps with accreditation

The key focus of policy management software is the central repository of policies, procedures, and other proofs of compliance. From there, you can distribute policies to staff, track signatures, revise policies as needed, and collaborate on revisions via workflows. 

Here is a more comprehensive list of features, but remember, not all solutions will offer all of these features. Even if they do (or say they do), functionality boils down to how user friendly the app is for admins and staff, which varies greatly between solutions.

  • Central Repository: a single source of truth for all your important documents
  • Uploading: the ability to upload policies, procedures, and other file types
  • Distribution: the ability to disseminate new and updated documents to staff
  • Access Control: search functionality and control over end user permissions
  • Search: easily navigate folders, keywords, and tags to locate files
  • Signature Capture: tracking who has received and signed policies
  • Workflows: automated processes for collaborating on policy updates 
  • Policy Tracking: the ability to track actions taken on policies across their lifecycle
  • Version Control: ensure only one version of every policy is published/accessible
  • Version History: access archived versions of policies, including related analytics data
  • Reporting: the ability to pull and schedule reports on key compliance data, like who has or hasn’t signed a policy
  • Mobile: the ability to access and interact with policies from any device
  • Integrations: keep using your favorite programs like Google Drive or OneDrive
  • To-do List: create to-do lists and/or a calendar of tasks
  • Alerts: create automated reminders to review, update, or archive current policies

How accreditation management software helps with accreditation

The key focuses of accreditation management software are mapping policies and proofs of compliance to standards, and showing/proving which sections of which documents fulfill each requirement. The better solutions also send alerts when standards need updating, and notifications when a policy is affected by an updated standard.

Here is a more comprehensive list of features, but remember, not all solutions will offer all of these features. Even if they do (or say they do), functionality boils down to how user friendly the app is for admins and staff, which varies greatly between solutions.

  • Central Repository: a single source of truth for all your important documents
  • Uploading: the ability to upload your policies, standards manuals, and other file types
  • Standards Manuals: electronically access the accrediting bodies standards manuals and any future updates
  • Mapping: connect your policies and proofs of compliance to accrediting standards
  • Proof: show with highlighting and labeling how a document meets standards requirements
  • Task Assignment: assign one-time or recurring tasks for specific standards
  • Dashboards & Reports: track and report on self-assessment progress
  • Assessments: conduct mock assessments and remote file review
  • Access Control: let assessors access proofs of compliance before an onsite visit
  • Status: set statuses for each standard to track if it’s been met
  • Alerts: Receive alerts when standards need updating
  • Notifications: Be notified of every policy impacted by an updated standard
  • Carry Over: copy your tasks and proofs of compliance from one cycle to another

How a compliance management platform helps with accreditation

For the accreditation process, your policy management software needs accreditation management functionality, and vice versa (your accreditation management software needs policy management functionality). Otherwise, you’ll only have half of what you need. For example, you’ll have a central repository for organizing, updating, distributing, and tracking your important documentation, but you won’t have an easy way of showing how those policies meet each requirement of the standards manual.

Creating that connection between policy and accrediting standards is the most important part.  Some solutions do both, but very few do both well.

Fortunately, there is another type of technology, not mentioned above, that connects policy and accreditation. It’s called a compliance management platform.

A compliance management platform creates a living connection between policy, accreditation, and training to automate and simplify your compliance processes. Through partnerships and publishing agreements with accrediting bodies, some solutions even provide standards manuals and sample policy content from other agencies. Depending on the solution, they may even offer industry-specific integrations with companies such as Agency360, Guardian Tracking, and LEFTA Systems.

By connecting the key pieces needed for accreditation, a compliance management platform automates and simplifies tasks that would otherwise be extremely time consuming. 

One example of a policy and compliance management platform is PowerDMS.

PowerDMS for law enforcement accreditation

When searching for a policy management solution, there’s a lot to consider. If you have a limited budget, or if you’re new to the software, purchasing a solution may feel intimidating. But with the right vendor who understands public safety, you can be confident in your ROI.

Forged in the public safety sector, PowerDMS has 3,000+ law enforcement customers. Our policy and compliance management platform was built with you in mind – to simplify the accreditation process, and to mitigate risk of litigation, labor disputes, damaged reputation, and federal oversight.

PowerDMS is the gold standard for law enforcement agencies. Our solution is locked and loaded with nearly every feature listed above, and our U.S.-based customer success team will support you every step of the way.

Here’s just one example of how PowerDMS helps agencies streamline the accreditation process.

“I just completed my first accreditation assessment using electronic files through PowerDMS. Previously, I had only used paper files for my onsite assessment and mock assessments. PowerDMS simplified my accreditation prep by allowing an efficient, remote mock assessment (which was crucial during the COVID pandemic), as well as a much faster onsite assessment. Previously the onsite could take anywhere from 3 to 4 days, but with PowerDMS that time was cut in half! I just started the set up for my next assessment cycle and thanks to PowerDMS, what normally would have taken weeks to accomplish now only takes a matter of minutes.”

- Emily Johnson, Policy & Accreditation Manager, Purcellville Police Department

Visit our law enforcement page to learn how PowerDMS is specialized to meet your agency's specific needs. 

Questions to ask before buying

The right software for your agency will pay for itself, and even generate ROI, over time. Here are some questions you should be asking before you buy.

Does the solution meet your requirements for must-have features? Was the solution designed for your industry? Does the vendor have many customers in your industry? Are any customers located near you, and can you contact them?

We are confident that PowerDMS can meet your agency’s needs. Schedule a free demo today to find out how we can help. Or if you’d prefer to keep learning, check out these articles on policy and accreditation management.

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