7 reasons to use SharePoint for policy management

Pushing out mandatory policies and tracking reads is perhaps the most requested feature in policy management. But before we get into that, let’s look at the other commonly requested features and examine how SharePoint (and Office 365) addresses these.

Having one source of truth for key policies, procedures, forms and other key organisational documents is important. Employees and managers need to regularly access information such as your staff handbook, IT usage policy, holiday request process, social media guideline or supplier due diligence checklist and more and be confident that these are accurate and up to date. In regulated industries such as financial services there can also be strict guidelines for interaction with customers or processes which must be followed to reduce risk.

Most organisations provide access to policies via their intranet but all too often these are:

  • Scattered across different department sites and are hard to find
  • Do not get updated with the very latest version
  • Simply do not get read, even if they are mandatory to read
  • Are not trusted by employees so they request a copy or rely on a version on their own file network or inbox, that may not be up to date.

Policy management is important. Not managing your policies and procedures carefully or making them easily available in one central place leads to risks for organisations and individual employees, as well as inefficiencies. Sometimes it can also be an requirement for industry regulators or other external third parties, and may even be the subject of an external audit.

Seven reasons why SharePoint policy management is the best approach

If your organisation is using Microsoft 365 or SharePoint on-premises, then it makes sense to leverage the power of SharePoint to help better manage your policy documents.

1 SharePoint is likely to be your existing and secure document management solution

If you use SharePoint or SharePoint Online, then that is likely to be at the root of how most people manage documents their documents and files in your organisation. Documents can be easily shared, collaborated on and there is also effective version control, meaning that you can avoid issues such as duplication and ensure there is one source of truth; this is a critical factor in manging your policies. Leveraging SharePoint for policy management also means that your existing users will be already familiar with the system in place used for managing documents. Of course, SharePoint will also be fully secure.

2 You can automate lifecycle management processes

Lifecycle management is absolutely key to successful policy management. For example, you need to make sure that policies have owners who regularly review the documents they are responsible for. SharePoint is excellent from this perspective and you can leverage its integration with Active Directory as well as Power Automate (Flow) to create clear ownership, notifications and workflow to ensure polices are kept up to date and also create views that show admins the status of policies.

3 You can get a complete audit trail

As well as lifecycle management you can also get a complete audit trail of updates to your document, showing when and by whom. This transparency is very important for minimising risks, underpinning accountability, and even for external auditing purposes.

4 You can easily provide access to all

It is critical to provide easy access to policies for your employees. As most organisations already use SharePoint for their intranet or for communication sites, it is easy to integrate a policy document library into the channels that employees already have access to.

5 You can integrate it into your search

Policies also need to be findable and discoverable. Again, most organisations are leaning in on SharePoint or Microsoft search options to allow employees to find what they need. Using SharePoint for policy management means that these documents will be included in your main search, perhaps through the intranet.

6 It can integrate with your wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem

If you are on Microsoft 365 you will likely be using a wide variety of different collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, Outlook and SharePoint team sites. The obvious integration between a SharePoint-based policy library and the rest of the Microsoft 365 platform means its easy to embed and share key policies from the library in the places where every day work happens.

7 You can track usage and get data

Using SharePoint for policy management means it is also possible to track usage and get data on different policies, for example numbers of views or when they were last updated. By leveraging integrations with Active Directory and PowerBI you can also start to create reports and track critical data such as whether a mandatory document is being read and by whom.

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But what about mandatory policies and tracking reads? Introducing Xoralia Policies

Overall, using SharePoint for policy management is the way to go. Having deployed many policies libraries on SharePoint and intranets over the years, we decided to combine all our knowledge into an app which can help customers fast track to a secure, user-centric and robust policy management library.

Xoralia Policies is a brand-new app designed, developed, and managed by Content Formula. It provides organisations using Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online a quick-to-deploy central policy library than can be accessed via a SharePoint-based intranet or SharePoint site. Xoralia Policies can also be installed by on-premises SharePoint customers.

The app is a simple but complete solution that provides:

  • Easy, central access to the latest version of organisational policy and procedure documents for all staff
  • Robust policy management with assigned content owners and regular reviews across different departments and functions
  • The ability to track the progress of mandatory reads for particular documents, as well as other useful analytics
  • All you need for auditing purposes.

How it works

In a nutshell, Xoralia Policies works in five simple steps.

Policy management software - SharePoint, Office 365 & MS Teams

Main features

1 An attractive, central policy library

Xoralia Policies acts as a central policy and procedure library that can be reached via a SharePoint-based intranet or via a SharePoint site, such as a communication site. When accessing Xoralia Policies users are presented with an attractive and intuitive interface that has been designed to help employees find that they need.

Each policy is listed with salient details including the title, the owner, the document format, the date it was last updated and any related instructions, such as whether it must be read. These instructions are personalised to the user. A handy summary at the top of the page also lets a user the number of policies that they have to read.

2 Complete auditability

Organisations may need to demonstrate to regulators or other external bodies that they both have robust processes in place to manage their policies but also that all employees have read policies that are considered to be mandatory. Xoralia Policies leverages the power of SharePoint to provide a complete audit trail of document changes, and also shows clear review policies in place with the ability to track these. This should satisfy both your own internal and external auditing requirements.

Xoralia Policies also has the ability to ensure employees are carrying out mandatory reads. If a policy is mandatory to read, employees can access the document within the app and then make a simple declaration confirming once it has been read. In-built analytics show policy owners and admins the percentage of those who have read the policy.

3 Robust policy management with automated notifications

At the heart of Xoralia Policies are robust policy management features to ensure that documents are kept up to date and your library remains the one source of truth for policies. Each policy has an identified owner and a defined regular review period.

Notifications ensure that owners are reminded to review the policies they own; Xoralia Policies also has a simple dashboard that shows a policy owner their policies that are due for review or have expired. Transparent ownership and review information displayed on each policy also encourages accountability.

4 Analytics for mandatory reads and more

Xoralia Policies also comes with powerful analytics. Xoralia Policies shows policy owners the percentage of users that have read a policy, while administrators can access a more detailed analytics dashboard showing the status of all mandatory reads as well as other salient analytics relating to document status, for example. There are options to use Power BI for more detailed and custom reporting.

These analytics can help teams to prepare for audits, making interventions where necessary, but also get a better understanding to building engagement with employees.

5 Strong findability

Findability is critical. Employees want to be able to find the right policy quickly and effortlessly. The app includes a strong search facility where an employee can enter keywords to find the policy they are looking for. Additionally, employees can filter by different categories including mandatory and non-mandatory reads, the function who owns the policy (IT, HR, Legal etc.) as well as custom tags defined by you.

6 Easy set-up and deployment

The app is quick and straightforward to implement. Because Xoralia Policies can be applied to an existing SharePoint library it means you can convert an existing policy library to the app. It can also be deployed from within any SharePoint intranet or other SharePoint site.

Simplified Policies takes a few days to implement. Content Formula can handle the whole implementation or work in partnership with your IT function to deploy the app.

7 Options for customisation

If you have special requirements around managing and presenting your policies, there are options for customisation. Call us to discuss.

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Customer case study

Policy management software example

Gama Aviation provides global business aviation services and support to individuals, corporations and government agencies. The global workforce require access to one source of truth for technical documents, polices and procedures. Building on the Wizdom intranet already introduced by Content Formula, Gama Aviation chose to upgrade their existing policy library to Xoralia Policies to take advantage of the improved UI, mandatory reads capability and decentralised policy management.

Content Formula worked closely with Gama Aviation’s IT function to enable them to carry out most of the implementation themselves. The new policy library is now accessed through the Wizdom intranet and is already getting good feedback and frequent visits.

Policy management software example

SharePoint is made for policy management

When it comes to managing your policies and ensuring your employees can find and access them, SharePoint is a strong option.

If you’d like more information about using SharePoint for policy management or about Xoralia Policies, and would like a product demo then get in touch!

Webinar video: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

Webinar: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Webinar details

Date: 24th November 2021
Time: 2:00pm UK time

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

Register now!

How to use Office 365 for policy management

A key requirement for the digital workplace is for employees to be able to find the trusted, authoritative information and documents they need in order to complete tasks and be fulfil their role. This includes policies and procedural information covering everything from the staff handbook, to Health and Safety procedures, to travel expenses, to rules about how to use social media channels. Policies can also cover areas relating to professional development, as well as required reading for new joiners as part of an onboarding process.

Managing your policies in the digital workplace is very important, albeit not particularly glamorous! It requires attention to four different but overlapping areas:

  • Dissemination and storage: Ensuring everybody can access and consume policies and procedures easily.
  • Findability and discoverability: Allowing employees to find the right policy at the time of need.
  • Governance and workflows: Creating clear ownership and authoring processes so that policies are always up-to-date and employees trust the policies they access.
  • Reporting and tracking: Tracking policy authoring and consumption, including covering mandatory reading of policies.

If you do not employ effective policy management, you can run into both inefficiencies and risks, with people using out-of-date policies and not carrying out tasks correctly. The consequences of this can be anything from relatively unimportant to severe for example, health and safety policies, procedures and related information must be up-to-date so it’s critical to spend time perfecting policy management across your digital workplace.

Using Office 365 for policy management

The backbone of most organisational digital workplaces is Office 365 / Microsoft 365, so it’s unsurprising that we’ve recently been asked about the best way to deliver effective policy management within the Office 365 environment. Thankfully, there are a variety of different 365 tools that can support all four elements of policy management already detailed, and in this article, we explore your options.

Note that we’ve used many of these technologies (and relative approaches) in developing our Xoralia policy management solution – an easy option for organisations who want an off-the-shelf product that can fit effortlessly into their 365 digital workplace (including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams), and support best practices in managing policies across the digital workplace.

Let’s explore each of the four elements of policy management.

Dissemination and storage

Disseminating policies to employees is best done via a central policy library that can be accessed through a central channel that every employee can easily reach, such as a corporate intranet, Microsoft Teams or a mobile app. The best option for creating this library is through SharePoint, which can be integrated seamlessly with your other 365 channels. For example, LiveTiles intranet software comes with its own policy library feature based on SharePoint, while our Xoralia solution can integrate with a SharePoint intranet and Teams. If you have a frontline workforce, there is also the potential to use the intranet app or build a dedicated Power App so policies are available through mobile devices.

Because of SharePoint’s flexibility, you can disseminate policies as pages, documents or both; for example, you could present the essential points of a policy on a page for readability, along with the ability to download the document from the page to access more detail. SharePoint’s in-built version control for both pages and documents helps ensure users are viewing the very latest version of a policy.

Another essential strength of SharePoint is the ability to target policies to particular audiences based on Active Directory profiles. Just as you want to ensure internal communications are relevant to locations, divisions, roles, levels of seniority and language, policies must be targeted for relevancy. For example, in global companies that have been built up through acquisition, HR policies will often differ from country to country, and it is critical that employees see only the policies which apply to them.

Findability and discoverability

Strong findability is a foundational principle for both a successful digital workplace and a reliable central policy library. Employees must be able to find the right policy at the time of need. Here, you can use Microsoft Search to ensure your policy content appears in your intranet or SharePoint search; applying the right metadata will allow your users to filter and refine the search.

A central policy library should promote good findability, with a dedicated contextual search for the policy library with appropriate metadata and filters, as well as the right categories and labels. Applying targeting through AD profiles to personalise the search for different groups can also improve findability here.

When we came to build the Xoralia policy management tool, feedback from clients continually stressed the importance of robust findability and discoverability. Bearing this in mind, we included the ability to:

  • Filter results by different tags defined for the organisation, including subject categories, departmental owners or intended audience
  • Filter by contact name, such as the owner of a policy
  • Browse through policies alphabetically
  • Assign appropriate views for policies that must be read or need to be reviewed by a policy owner
  • Access a Teams app where policies can be searched for and appear as cards.

Governance and workflows

Any good policy management solution needs to have robust governance, principally around the authoring and content management processes. Here, you can use both SharePoint and Power Automate to ensure that policies are always up-to-date by applying the right permissions, and introduce workflows to make it easier for policy owners and authors to remain on top of this task.

Establishing clear ownership of a policy to drive accountability is dependent on supporting governance; the permissions that can be applied in SharePoint at the page and document level mean that only defined owners have the rights to update the policies they are responsible for. A good approach here is to display the name of a policy owner or appropriate contact on the policy itself, as this supports accountability, transparency and trust. In our Xoralia solution, there is a clear contact displayed not only on the policy itself, but also in the policy listing view.

You can use Power Automate to define appropriate workflows and automated reminders around the authoring process. This includes approval workflows where review and approval are required before a policy can go live, as well as expiry workflows which send automated reminders for policy owners based on defined review dates. These are all features we chose to build into Xoralia, as well as the views for policy owners to see all the policies they own and those that are approaching review. To further underpin governance, Xoralia also displays when a policy has expired because the policy owner has failed to check it by the review date.

Power Automate can further be used to support repeatable dissemination workflows. For example, perhaps you want to push out a particular policy to a specific audience that for compliance reasons you require to be read at a set time each year, or whenever it goes through a substantial update. You could use Power Automate to trigger this process every time the policy goes through an appropriate update or on a particular date.

Reporting and tracking

Reporting on your policy library and tracking its usage is beneficial in ensuring that employees are using it, but it becomes particularly important when you need to ensure there is a mandatory read of a policy. This could be for compliance reasons from a regulatory body, or for internal purposes such as when you need everybody to urgently read the new flexible working policy introduced to support hybrid working. Mandatory reads usually work by presenting a user with the policies they must read, and then requiring them to complete a declaration that they have read each one.

The reporting becomes important to:

  • Track who has read a policy so you can carry out interventions to make sure everyone has done so
  • Provide updates on progress to senior stakeholders
  • Use reporting to show external parties read rates for compliance purposes.

As you might expect, in Microsoft 365, the versatility of Power BI allows for the required tracking and reporting, enabling filtering by location and department and allowing administrators to filter based on group, specific policy or group of policies. Strong reporting is at the heart of Xoralia, with quick views for policy owners to get the headline statistics to track the progress of mandatory reads, and support the flexible reporting you need. Users also see the policies they must read.

Automating this tracking and reporting is excellent news for anyone who has had to use a combination of email and spreadsheets to keep on top of who has read a policy – a thankless and highly inefficient activity.

Going further

The beauty of Microsoft 365 is you can also integrate your policies into other areas where relevant, such as:

  • Creating an employee onboarding app using PowerApps that includes mandatory reads of policies
  • Creating a chatbot using Power Virtual Agents that references your policies
  • Providing access to your policies within Teams channels
  • And more!

If you’d like to discuss our Xoralia Policy Management tool or managing policies across your Office 365 digital workplace, then get in touch!

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