The stakes are high when it comes to creating, implementing, maintaining, distributing and documenting policies. Complex business operations, global expansion, employee litigation and the continuous expansion of legal and regulatory requirements create a variety of risks. As a result, organisations need to take a thoughtful approach to policy life-cycle management.
The survey data highlights current strategies and challenges with policy management programmes across many industries. The following key themes emerged:
- Policy management is a maturing business function. Twenty percent of survey respondents do not have a centralised approach to policy management, and 48 percent have no automated processes for tasks such as authoring, reviewing and publishing policies. The majority of respondents are still handling policies within departmental silos, thereby limiting access to policies, creating unnecessary re-work and exposing their organisations to significant risk.
- Organisations dedicate few resources to policy management. Many respondents note that their organisations have very limited funding and staff dedicated to policy management. This is true even for organisations managing hundreds—or even thousands—of policies. However, there is some evidence that policy management is becoming a higher priority, with almost a third of respondents saying they expect their policy management budget to increase over the next year.
- Policy management effectiveness is a blind spot. 58 percent of respondents indicate that they track no metrics related to the use or effectiveness of their policies. Respondents that do use metrics most commonly track only the accessibility of policies (24 percent). This indicates that many organisations have little or no information about the impact, accessibility or awareness of their policies.
- Training is practitioners’ biggest policy-related challenge. “Training employees on policies” was the top challenge cited by respondents, followed by aligning policies with regulations and improving version control. These challenges are even more difficult to overcome for organisations who have not centralised policy management.
- Very few organisations have guidelines for policy creation. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents reported that they do not have documented guidelines (sometimes called a “policy on policies” or a “meta-policy”) for creating and distributing new policies. Without these guidelines in place, organisations face serious operational and legal risks and may suffer misalignment between governance, strategy and execution.
- Organisations that use automated policy management software report dramatically better policy–related outcomes. Twenty-five percent of the survey respondents report that they use policy management software. These respondents are far more likely to rate key aspects of their policy management programme as very good or excellent than respondents without automated software. Of particular note:
- Access to policies: Respondents with software rated their effectiveness as twice as high than respondents without (56 percent versus 28 percent).
- Compliance with policies: Respondents with software rated their effectiveness nearly three times as high than respondents without (52 percent versus 15 percent).
- Defensibility of policies: Respondents with software rated their effectiveness nearly three times as high than respondents without (29 percent versus 10 percent).
- Workflow between writers and approvers: Respondents with software rated their effectiveness nearly three times as high than respondents without (30 percent versus 10 percent).
A strong policy management programme results in improved performance and enhanced corporate culture. It also empowers employees, vendors and executives with the tools and knowledge they need to support an organisation’s standards for individual and business conduct.
A high-functioning policy management programme does not have to be complex. Overall, the data presented here underscores the importance of having a centralised approach to policy management. It also reveals that leveraging policy management software for authoring, implementing and maintaining your organisation’s policies can yield substantial benefits and business value.