Art Weeast has helped a number of organizations to “think beyond the task of documenting policies and procedures to the intelligence of the information that is in those documents.” In other words, think of the value or purpose that the documents serve. One of his objectives, as he trains organizations on how to create valuable documentation, is to “keep what’s in it for me, from the end user’s or the employee’s perspective, in mind as you develop content”. The end user and all stakeholders might consider, “What problems and questions can this documentation solve?”
To demonstrate the application of Process Intelligence practices (as Mr. Weeast termed his work), consider three common problems:
- Employees and Management do not value the documentation (mainly the procedures).
- Work tasks are not clearly connected to executive priorities.
- Business Units/Departments/Functions do not collaborate on cross-functional processes, often leading to tension and decreased productivity.
With Art Weeast’s help, let’s tackle each of these problems one at a time.
The problem faced by many (maybe most) organizations: Employees and Management do not value the documentation.
Consider how you can make your documentation useful. Follow this three step process:
- Set a course to establish more comprehensive documentation. Rather than tracking just the steps of the procedure, frequency, who performs…think of all of the everyday business questions that come up related to the procedures. Add Roles and Responsibilities, Applications Used, Definitions, Procedure Input and Output–these fields will help you to address common problems. Read further to see how.
- Make it easy for process owners and your front-line doers to capture the documentation. You don’t have to complete the fields in consecutive order. Starting with the procedure, then considering what leads into the procedure and what the outcome of the procedure is before moving on to the purpose and other data is a much easier thought process.
- Make use of the intelligence that is inherent in your documentation to solve business problems. With updated, comprehensive procedures, you can address common problems…effectively and efficiently!
Another common problem: Work tasks are not clearly connected to executive priorities.
The front line doers, on a day to day basis, do more repeatable processes than executives do. At the executive level, it is unlikely that you will see procedures. This is the root cause of the disconnect between the tasks and executive priorities. It’s no wonder that executives generally don’t feel the value of the documentation and therefore, the employees don’t feel the priority from the executives to create and maintain the documentation. So, per human nature, documentation becomes an unwelcome task to do, and usually it is tackled at the last minute with a mad rush to get it done.
Help your organization to establish the connection between top priorities of the business and the tasks that hardworking employees carry out day after day.
A master at translating the complex into simple steps, Art Weeast developed a method for creating this connection. He calls it an Operational Map. To build your Operational Map you will:
- Interview the Business Owner and document Primary Functions and Sub-functions from her perspective
- Prepare List of Procedures for each Process Owner’s Area
- Create a visual representation of Functions and their related Sub-functions
- Map Procedures to related Sub-Function by playing “Operational Bingo” with Process Owners—you hold and call out the Procedures while she identifies the related Sub-function.
- Validate the mapping with the Business Owner.
- Executives come down to a level that they rarely visit—they better understand what it takes to get things done! They begin to appreciate the value—and the NECESSITY—of the documentation in a more highly regulated and complex world.
- Process Owners (the everyday do-ers) appreciate the collaboration with executives. They sense the tone from the top and the priority becomes clear. The do-ers begin to understand the bigger picture—the risks that the organization faces and the importance of what they’re being asked to do. And they are very curious about what other departments do!
The final problem we aim to address: Breakdown in cross-functional processes.
Frustrations build in an organization when communication and collaboration breaks down or does not exist among certain parties. You can tell this is happening when you or others can easily blame someone for inadequate, inconsistent or untimely inputs into your process—or others who put disruptive demands on you to produce an output with a nearly impossible delivery date and provide inadequate information needed to meet the demand. It is natural for all of us to personalize the process under these circumstances.
The art of establishing collaboration among cross-functional parties can be reduced to four main steps. The following steps serve to “de-personalize” the process and issues, and allow parties to focus on the desired end result.
- Meeting: Bring functional representatives together for a collaborative process review mediated by a neutral party.
- Current state: Have them describe the standard process; first without the history, exceptions or problems. Then revisit the standard process with issues.
- Future state: What does it look like? How is it better?
- Transition state: Outline steps to get from where we are today to where we need to be.
Think about what’s happening here. Typically, if anyone ever does dare to address the communication breakdown among parties, what do they typically do? They work to identify the issue(s) and to problem solve against those issues. The process outlined by Mr. Weeast, an expert in operational and change management, takes an opposite approach; helping parties to very quickly begin working together effectively.
Applying these practices outlined by Art Weeast results in an efficient and effective organization that can:
Art Weeast has decades of impressive experience in enterprise-wide leadership, technology & data expertise, Lean Six Sigma methodologies, organizational change management, and in defining and refining operational processes. Art has been a client of policyIQ with three different organizations. When I met Art, I had been involved in the work of streamlining, refining, re-engineering, and automating processes for many years, myself, and—while it was my responsibility and mission to help him in any way that I could to solve his organization’s business problems using our software—I was forever changed by what he taught me!
This post was originally shared following a policyIQ-sponsored webinar in which Mr. Weeast shared his Process Intelligence practices. The policyIQ team continues to share the lessons of his Process Intelligence session year after year. If you’re interested in more information or hands-on support with applying Mr. Weeast’s methodology, reach out to us and we’ll connect you with the appropriate tools, information, and resources!
Regulatory environments are constantly changing, influenced by economic, political and environmental factors beyond your company’s control. It might seem like a daily battle to deal with the push and pull of complying with changing regulations. So how do you stay focused, prepared and sane in the world of regulatory compliance?
One critical step is to ensure that you have well documented, well communicated and well understood corporate policies.
Policies provide the foundation, governing the way in which your employees will work and how they will meet new regulatory requirements. When the foundation is strong, with clear policies that are followed and enforced consistently, additional external expectations and requirements are much easier to incorporate.
Here are just a few best practices to consider:
- Ensure that policies are written clearly. Avoid company jargon or acronyms that may be unclear to new employees or external regulators.
- Make policies easily accessible to all employees. If you are already using policyIQ, ensure that a policyIQ link is posted or communicated regularly.
- Clarify whether any exceptions might be approved to the policy, and communicate the process for approval for exceptions. If it is not clear, employees may be more likely to decide it will be easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
- Document how policy violations will be addressed or how policies will be enforced.
- Revisit, review and revised policies regularly. Do not allow policies to become outdated or appear to be outdated. Even if no changes are made, regularly note that content has been reviewed, so that employees
- Map policies to your regulatory requirements or other compliance programs. As regulations change, you can more easily identify any changes that must be made in your policies to address those changes.
What other best practices would you highlight for a clear corporate policy platform? Add yours in the comments and share ideas! Learn more about how to utilize policyIQ’s various read-only options by checking out a recent blog post by policyIQ Product Manager, Travis Whalen.
Many organizations have used policyIQ for their Policy Management needs, and each client of ours has their own unique needs and for providing transparent and accessible policies to their users, public website, auditors, or other audience type. However, the process is largely the same, regardless of the unique needs.
In nearly all cases, the policy content is created in policyIQ, reviewed, approved, and then published. Making that content available is where the differences come in to play. There are a few options for doing so:
A shared, Read-only account:
Create a Read-only user account in your policyIQ site (which is free, by the way), and apply the Read-only account as a viewer only on all applicable pages in your site. Be sure to make sure that this account also has view access to the necessary folders, as well.
Then, share the Read-only account credentials with your user base. Once logged in, the policyIQ view this user will have is a scaled down look – just folders and policy content, in this case. Because the very nature of the account is Read-only, there is minimal risk in sharing the credentials with a large group of people.
A shared, Read-only account accessed via policyIQ Reader:
A similar process to the one above, but with a different look to the program and no login needs.
After creating the Read-only user profile and applying the user to security where necessary, edit the user profile. Under the “required” tab of the Edit User window, scroll to the bottom to find a unique link called “policyIQ Reader“. This hyperlink can be placed anywhere you like: bookmarked in your browser, stored on your desktop, placed in a shared network drive, or even on your intranet. Once a location is selected, anyone that clicks the link will gain instant, read-only access to your policyIQ site. No login required, and the “reader” look – a straightforward, no nonsense look at content, which is displayed in the table area to the right instead of a separate window, as seen below.
Individual Read-only accounts:
Create an individual Read-only account per-user, which allows for greater flexibility in terms of seeing policies that are applicable to certain divisions, but not others. Perhaps your finance and accounting folks have policies and procedures that apply to them, but not to the vast majority of other employees. Creating separate accounts for everyone ensures the user experience in the product is directly related to their role.
Individual policies accessed from an outside source:
Some of our clients choose to have their policies accessed from their primary company website. In this case, the policyIQ pass-through link is ideal: eliminate login needs, access individual policies, and don’t display the main policyIQ site from which the policies were created. Instead, display only the pages themselves.
Create a primary Read-only user account, and again add it to the view security on all applicable pages. Now, view a page of your choice that is published. A the very bottom, the page ID sits, and contains a link. Click the link to open a small window that contains the policyIQ Passthrough link . Copy and paste this link to the destination of your choice. Selecting this link from an outside source will open the policy page only, and not require a login to the system.
Did you know policyIQ also handles Policy Sign-offs, as well? It’s a simple process at a minimal cost. Add Standard Users to your site in bulk (50 to over 10,000+) to completely revamp the way your organization automates creating, approving and storing certifications and sign-offs.
Does something here sound like it might be right for you? If so, let’s talk about it! Scheduling a half hour with a policyIQ expert on our team is not only free of charge, but will pay dividends moving forward as the management of your processes becomes easier by the day. Many adjustments to existing sites take minutes to change, and new sites are even simpler! Contact us at Support@policyIQ.com or 412-263-3330 to begin.
Spreadsheets, email, shared network drives…
…this is where most of our critical work starts! With the deadline to comply with the Revenue Recognition Standard now in our sights, many of your corporate accounting peers have met the harsh reality that these commonly used tools are not meeting their contract review needs. Disconnected spreadsheets do not keep their reviewers in-step with each other’s developments. They are habitually shared via insecure channels and we often find, even with the best of intensions and development, lists, formulas, and formatting within a spreadsheet can be compromised resulting in an unreliable tool. Aggregation of data for analysis and consolidation of conclusions for management review are nearly impossible feats with dozens (or, certainly, thousands) of manual spreadsheets.
For those of you who are relatively new to the policyIQ community, you might not have heard that policyIQ has been a constant in the RGP toolbox, serving to solve our clients’ problems for nearly 15 years. We don’t make commission on software sales and are not incentivized to upsell you or to sell you a new tool or module. In fact, we work hard to make it possible to serve all areas of your business within one platform—we don’t have extra modules to sell you!
The flexibility of policyIQ to be easily customized for various initiatives has made it possible for our clients to hit the ground running in applying our web-based technology to their pressing Revenue Recognition needs.
A company may utilize policyIQ for the full contract cycle or simply as a contract repository, centralizing access and simplifying assignment of contracts to reviewers for ASC 606 analysis. In addition to guiding the reviewer through the 5 Steps outlined in ASC 606 required for each detailed review of contracts that are in scope, policyIQ also provides a place to document evidence of the reviewer’s considerations and tools to leverage that information for necessary analysis. Key conclusions from each step are automatically pulled out into a summary. Reviewers add final notes to the summary and systematically route all related content for review and approval, as desired and customized for each client.
The ability to report on results of contract reviews in aggregate gives way to analyses not possible in spreadsheets. Look across all Performance Obligations by Revenue Stream, Geography, Business Division, Over Time vs Point in Time, Sales Channel, or Reviewer, for example. Reports also aid in the management of contract reviews—in the assessment phase and with ongoing reviews. Report on issues as they are being identified, assignment of contract reviews, progress of reviews, and impact of the standard on various divisions or revenue streams. Use reports to easily identify those contracts that warrant follow-up action.
We delivered many new features in 2016 and some were developed specifically to sharpen the Revenue Recognition solution. We are wrapping up another release for spring and have an impressive road map that will go into development while the spring release is undergoing formal testing. And did you hear that upgrades are included free-of-charge?
We’re here to serve and grow with you.
Can you say that about your Revenue Recognition tool? Reach out to schedule a tour of policyIQ’s capabilities for ASC 606, compliance, audit, policy management or your other pressing information management needs!
Auditors and testing teams have been asking for an even easier way to view information about the associated Control or Procedure that they are testing. Rather than having two screens open side by side in policyIQ, auditors would prefer to see critical details about the control that they are testing right there on their test screen.
Now you can make that happen – with NO DUPLICATION OF DATA! And it literally takes less than 2 minutes, with no additional data entry required.
How? If you are a Site Administrator, you need just 2 minutes, I promise!
On your Test page template, simply add a new field and select “Linked Field” as the field type. Select the field that should be linked from another page template, save it and VOILA!
If you’ve added the Control Description field from the Control template, for example, you’ll automatically see the Control Description displayed on a Test page for any Control that is linked to it. If there are multiple controls linked to a single Test, you’ll see multiple Control Descriptions, identified by the page name.
This function does not apply to audit testing alone! Consider these other ideas:
- Pull vendor information into a Contract page.
- Bring risk descriptions to Control pages.
- Create Process pages that pull in linked Control Descriptions.
- Pull project task descriptions into Action Items.
- Bring issue details into a Remediation Plan.
Want more information? Contact us at support@policyIQ.com.
In a number of blog posts, we’ve highlighted the ways that policyIQ can be used throughout the entire SOX process – from risk assessments through issue remediation. This past Thursday, July 28th, we took an hour to walk through the entire process in a CPE webinar to highlight ways to create efficiency at each step.
Did you miss it?
Before we hit the highlights below, we want to point you to the session recording and the slides, both of which are available for download.
The Big Picture
We highlighted a number of big picture advantages of using policyIQ not just for SOX, but for all of your compliance initiatives. We talked about…
- Simplicity of rolling out and managing a cloud-based
- Advantages of being able to assign security and access
- And the efficiency of a single source of information through the entire compliance and audit environment.
A single source means that when you make a change in one place, that change feeds all of the different perspectives on the data.
Efficiency at Every Step
We also dug into the efficiency that can be gained at every step of the process. Just some of those ideas are presented below. We also mentioned additional training available for some steps, and have linked those training sessions.
- Risk Assessments
- Tie risk assessments at the 10K line item level to your risks and controls for ease of scoping.
- Control Updates & Review
- Allow your control owners to make updates directly in policyIQ as things change, or require regular reviews of control documentation.
- Walkthroughs & Testing
- Collaborate early (and often) with external auditors to ensure that your testing is capturing all of the detail expected.
- Issue Tracking & Remediation
- Assign remediation plans to owners and use automated reminders to ensure responses are provided.
- Conclusions & Reporting
- Utilize flexible reporting capabilities to trace issues back to the vulnerable risks and compensating controls to make a final determination about significant deficiencies or material weaknesses.
We also included the supporting functions that feed the process.
- Map to COSO 2013
- Link Entity Level Controls to COSO Principles
- Evidence Collection
- Assign evidence requests, utilize automated reminders, and track receipt of documentation
- Time & Expense Tracking
- Report on budgeted versus actual hours and cost, and use the data for next year’s planning
- SOX 302 (Sub)Certification
- Assign role-specific questionnaires, utilize automated reminders, and report on exceptions
We’re ready to help you build more efficiency into your SOX program. Contact us today and ask to speak with our client service team to walk you through implementing some new ideas! Not yet a policyIQ client? Contact us and ask us for a personalized demonstration!
An often under-utilized part of policyIQ sites is the Snapshot feature, found in the Tools & Settings menu on the left hand navigation.
A Snapshot is a virtual and complete backup of your policyIQ site database, containing all of your data at the time the Snapshot was captured. Clients can schedule and store up to 5 Snapshots for FREE each year.
Many clients will elect to have Snapshots taken at quarter-end, or after testing periods and a large amount of work has been completed in the site. As various testing periods continue and build up over time, old ones can be deleted off of the site. To schedule a Snapshot, simply click Snapshots, and then click Add in the toolbar. Select a date that you’d like to have the Snapshot taken. Because you are able to schedule many in advance, you could, in theory, schedule your whole year in just a couple of minutes. Then, click Save.
So what do you do with Snapshots once they’ve been taken, and how do you access them? Snapshots can be restored and reviewed for free for a period of 30 days (once each year). The Snapshot will be presented as a standard, up-to-date policyIQ site (even for older versions of policyIQ) and made available via a separate, unique URL.
Clients that want to go back and review previous year’s work that has since been deleted can rest easy knowing that they took Snapshots along the way.
Questions? Give us a call at 866-753-1231, and we can talk you through the process.