Implementing a new electronic system for managing Policies & Procedures or migrating to a new system can be an intimidating and challenging process but it does not have to be if you make the proper preparations and follow these 5 key steps to a successful policy management implementation.
1) Establish a Policy & Procedure committee consisting of key staff involved in Policy & Procedure management and the implementation of the policies in the new system. With a solid team in place not only will your key users have a voice in how the process will evolve to fit the system being instituted but also decisions can be made in a timely manner by individuals that are very well informed and prepared to make such decisions. It is important that this committee contain decision maker(s) that can steer how the system will be used to follow corporate business practices and rules. And you certainly want to invite key system users which will have many policies such as a member of the Laboratory and Human Resource departments.
2) Preparation of the actual policy & procedure documents is typically the most time consuming but important step in implementing a Policy & Procedure system. Before you can start using the new system the existing policies will need to be imported and configured in the new system. The first preparation step is to gather the documents in a folder structure that will be replicated in the new system where documents are organized in folders just as you wish them to be laid out in the new system. Next, the file names should reflect the titles to be used for the policy when published. Finally and most importantly, make sure that you address all changes to the content of the policy & procedure documents to ensure that no further editing will be necessary prior to import into the new system. This would include ensuring that formatting is applied uniformly throughout all documents and that any logo as well as header / footer is uniformly applied to all of the documents prior to import.
3) Installation and setup of key technical aspects of the system involves the typical new technical system aspects such as procurement of hardware and installation. A sophisticated hospital Policies & Procedures publishing and management system will also require some additional technical considerations be made. Specifically a document management system will require enough resources to handle storing and moving large files to/from the user. So network bandwidth as well as server disk space and memory should be generously allocated not only for immediate needs but also anticipated future needs. Security is the most important technical aspect of such a system. It is imperative that the policies are secure from access by those who are not authorized and that the system protects the documents from editing. The most common means of applying security in a Policy & Procedure system is with integration with an organization's Active Directory network so that users and permissions can be assigned network wide and so that user management does not need to occur within the policy management system itself.
4) System Training should take place when implementation and go-live of the system is in reach. You want to make sure that the training not occur too long before the users will actually use the system so it is advised that training only occur after the policies have been prepared and the system is installed. It is recommended that ALL members of the Policy & Procedure committee attend at least the beginning portion of the training even if some of the members will not actually use the system. During training the system's full capabilities will be exposed to everyone and adjustments both minor and major will likely occur to how the system will be used and fit into the organization's business rules and processes. Because of this it is advisable that at least one key member of administration be involved. A successful training would result in both education of the system users on how to use the system but also generation of a policy on policies that outlines how the system will be used by the organization. This policy on policies should be a go-to guide for all employees outlining how the system is to be used within the organization. For example, this document would outline which features of the system are to be used and which should not and it should outline if policy numbering is to be used or not and so forth.
5) Implementation and import of the initial set of policies is the last step to occur before the system can go live. It is strongly recommended that this occur within no more than a month of completion of the training so that the training is still fairly fresh for your users. The first step will be to import the policies into the new system. The policies will be organized and named correctly in the Policy & Procedure system and should be either published or awaiting approval. This means that either the policies should be published and visible to all authorized viewers or the policies should be awaiting approval before being published. The next step is to configure the polices by configuring who the main participants in the approval process are as well as key policy parameters such as when the policy is next up for review.
Finally, any navigation and search related steps should be taken such as implementing an easy to use landing page for your policies that will allow ALL of your employees to locate a policy quickly and easily. Commonly this would involve a list of links or an outline like folder structure to key document areas or departments as well as an easy to find search utility.
Implementation of a robust and easy to use system for Policy & Procedure management does not have to be intimidating or difficult and if you select your system vendor properly the vendor should also help guide you to take the proper steps and involve the right people.