A Policy Management System (PMS) is a software platform, typically hosted in a cloud environment, to centralise access and administration.
Having clear and consistent company policies in areas such as cyber security and compliance is an established norm in the modern workplace.
The statistics reflect this situation, with 80% of companies having policies on data storage and 76% on remote or mobile working practises in the UK. In the USA, almost all larger companies have a cyber security policy.
Policies are the company’s go-to authority on a given matter such as cyber security and act as a handbook to work by. Policies contain vital information to allow your organisation to meet regulatory compliance, respond to cyber-threats, give guidance on how to report incidents, train employees, and so on.
However, the changing state of regulations and cyber security can mean that policies can quickly go out of date.
Also, knowing who has and who hasn’t read and agreed to existing policies can be an onerous task. This situation can easily escalate and place a company into regulatory non-compliance. Policy Management Software prevents this situation from arising.
Here is a look at what a Policy Management platform can offer your company and why you need one.
The Three Pillars of a Policy Management System
The PMS will host, manage, distribute, and track a company’s policy content. It acts a little like a document management platform but is focused on policies. A PMS typically has an inbuilt digital signature capability to capture employee attestation. A policy management system will stop your company from having a scattergun and suboptimal approach to policies.
As such, a good Policy Management System is structured upon three important pillars:
Cloud-based: providing a centralised pivot to store, manage, and distribute policy content. This stops the reliance on emails distributing policy documents and updates by adding a layer of control over versions, storage, and distribution: this ensures that only the latest version of a policy is being used.
Integrated accountability: policy acceptance and approval are important aspects of policy management and compliance. A centralised, automated, and distributable service that delivers policies to employees and other entities, use digital signatures and audit functions to ensure accountability and capture agreements.
Measure and improve: a Policy Management System should be designed to provide the measurement and audit needed to adjust and improve policies as events change the compliance and security landscape.
Policy Management Systems should also be easy to use. This ease of use should be augmented using levels of access, from full edit to view-only access options.
Version control is a Policy Management System fundamental used to keep track of changes: policy creation is often a collaborative process; the teams working on the policy documents must be able to track changes as the document goes through its lifecycle – this must include ongoing revisions.
Benefits of Using a Policy Management System
Apart from the obvious control features that come with using a centralised, automated, Policy Management System, some general benefits include:
Protect your Reputation
According to a 2021 survey by Invisibly, privacy is important to consumers. A Policy Management System helps to protect your company against litigation and fines, which, in turn, helps to maintain a good brand reputation.
Reduce Cost and Effort of Managing Policies
The days of printing out tens of thousands of pages of policy documentation are long gone thanks to the cloud-based Policy Management System. This not only helps in the climate change battle, but it saves a company money in the long term.
The effort is also reduced, as policy administrators can more easily manage the lifecycle of a policy, update it remotely, audit its movement and access, locate it easily, and ensure that employees have agreed to its content, all from a central console.
Maintain Compliance with Data Protection Regulations
A centralised way to manage policies makes keeping up with data protection regulation updates simpler. Policies can be updated quickly and reissued to employees and others that need to have sight of them.
By using digital signing technology, agreement with any changes can be captured. Also, using a centralised management system to handle policies ensures that you can quickly provide documentary and audit evidence of compliance. In other words, a PMS provides the paperwork and audit trail needed to establish and maintain compliance with regulations such as PCI.
Capture Employees’ Buy-in and Confirm Accountability
A Policy Management System should be able to distribute important policies to employees and record their acceptance of the policy. For example, security policies often have clauses that require employees to understand that certain actions could lead to disciplinary measures.
It is an important legal point that employees understand this aspect of their job and accept it by digitally signing the policy to demonstrate they have read and accepted it. A Policy Management System offers an automated method of tracking the movement of a policy as it is created, distributed, updated, opened, read, etc. The additional digital signature capability allows employees and other staff to affirm a policy.
This lifecycle and signing event results in an audit trail that is available as a report from the PMS, quantifying employee buy-in and providing a method of accountability.
Demonstrate Continued Improvements in Security Awareness
Compliance and security awareness can be measured using metrics generated by the Policy Management System. This provides evidence to demonstrate to regulators that your company is fully engaging staff in policy requirements, including expectations around security hygiene and data privacy.
Systems are so much more than just a place to store and access policy documents: a good Policy Management System will empower your security champions to create optimised policy documents across a lifecycle that often experiences ongoing changes; centralised policy management is used to automate compliance too, by generating documentary evidence of Security Awareness Training; a Policy Management System is an essential tool used to capture employee buy-in to a policy.
It provides a framework to capture and disseminate the expectations carried by an employee’s role in terms of cyber security, data, regulations, and privacy.
By using a Policy Management System to handle policy documents, a company can ensure policies are up to date, maintain regulatory compliance, and engage employees in the process.