Why policy-making and standardization are critical to document management success

September 26th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Document Management
Philp identified policy and standardization as the third out of four pillars of document management.

In a recent piece for Accounting Web, Brock Philp, president and CEO of Doc.It, delved into the topics of policy-making and standardization with regard to information management.

Philp identified policy and standardization as the second out of four pillars of document management. He defined policy as "the rules regulating how a firm handles work and work processes" and standardization as "the firm-wide adoption of systematic processes and workflow" and "today's practice management keynote among thought leaders," specifically with regard to the aim of streamlining workflows in such a way as to maximize the effectiveness of the resources at a company's disposal.

A good policy should be the foundation of a company
Going more in depth, Philp noted that "policy goes beyond client work; it impacts every aspect of a firm – from business management to how value-based engagements are handled and analyzed to the on-boarding of new employees, and it goes as far as every aspect of document management."

With this in mind, it's critical that all decision-makers are on board with company policy, and that players throughout an organization – from ground-level workers to upper management – understand and are equipped to implement all of its elements. To ensure policy-making is given the appropriate attention, Randy Johnston, president of Network Management Group Inc., recommended holding regular policy meetings and annual workflow and document management debriefings, according to Philp. As a result of these meetings, companies should come up with written policy documents that clearly delineate core company processes, taking into account aspects such as the size of the company, the technology being leveraged and the level of in-house expertise that is available. Failure to create a written policy invites ambiguity at the most basic level of corporate operations, and this can quickly snowball, resulting in the delivery of inconsistent products, services and customer relationship management that could ultimately go as far as to compromise a company's success.

If there is no definitive policy in place, individuals will begin to fill in the blanks by ad-libbing, and their approaches will eventually be absorbed by their respective teams as gospel. Once this happens, it can be very difficult to train workers out of learned behaviors. After all, people tend to cling to what they know, and employees are no exception. With this in mind, it's much easier to put a complete, coherent policy in place now than put it off and have to battle inefficient, undesirable or otherwise inappropriate "unofficial policies" at a later date.

Build upon a strong policy with a system of standardization
Only once a solid policy is in place can a system of standardization be built upon this framework. In terms of document management, for instance, standardization affects aspects such as the process of naming files and the practice of archiving records.

"Standardization is impacted by technology and unique for each firm, based on workflow rooted in industry best practices and regulatory compliance," explained Philp – and because each business' approach differs from those of others, it is especially important for companies to get everything straight. After all, even if a firm is operating with a robust, comprehensive records management policy, the effort it took to put that policy in place and ensure it was being adhered to on a company-wide scale will be for naught if, for instance, the formatting of the information wildly vacillates from document to document, or one file name includes the date while another only lists the name of the entity it is regarding.

Brought to you by Image One Corporation, providing complete information governance since 1994.

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