Policy management is increasingly important to govern and manage multi-cloud networks, remote and personal devices, and complex data flows. Add to this regulatory compliance and cyber security threats, and you have an alignment of planets that need effective policy management.
Just the word ‘policy’ may send shivers down your spine at the thought of having to create, distribute, and enforce the resulting documentation.
Fortunately, using best practices and policy management software can help to ensure your policy management process works seamlessly.
What is Policy Management?
A simple definition would include creating, disseminating, and enforcing a policy. A policy is essential to directing an organisation and ensures that a level of readiness within a given business process or operation is attained.
But a good policy management process must encompass so much more. Corporate policies can become out-of-sync, inconsistent, and rogue; GRC2020 describes the situation as a “horde of policies scattered across the organisation.”
A policy should be considered a living document that changes as conditions and environments change. The policy document is usually digitised and provides an operational framework for a specific business area to follow.
Policies reflect many types of business processes, and cyber security is an area that is ideal for enforcement of procedures via policy; for example, a cyber security policy would include areas such as:
- Data classification
- Information Security
- Access control
- Security Awareness Training
- Roles and responsibilities
- Regulations and compliance, etc.
Policies must be managed well to be effective. This includes during times of disruption. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic put many companies through their paces to update policies to reflect sudden changes to working conditions. Policies must be able to be monitored and updated as needed. Policy management is, therefore, a core part of having a policy in place.
To ensure that your organisation does not horde policies but instead creates a streamlined policy management process, follow these five steps:
An Overview of Effective Policy Management
A policy is an action plan and a framework. Policy development typically involves a multidisciplinary team of co-authors who capture all policy aspects. A policy must capture all the elements needed to ensure the covered operations and related areas are symbiotic and dovetail.
It should also reflect a business brand and core values. For example, policies often contain legal elements and may require a legally trained person to ensure that they cover the current legal status quo and regulatory requirements.
A well-written policy should also act to empower employees within the framework of the policy. For example, a cyber security policy should include aspects of the business where cyber-risks are high and mechanisms to reduce those risks; examples include Security Awareness Training and how, when, and why to report a cyber security incident.
A policy is only as good as the communication protocols it follows. Effective policy communication is about being transparent and prescient. Let employees know that a policy is being formulated or updated. Ensure that employees understand the policy and how it will affect them.
One vital aspect of communicating policies is to use modern communication tools that can automate the process of policy dissemination. However, communication of a policy must:
- Include relevant employee views and knowledge at the policy-making stage.
- Inform employees about the reason for the policy and why and how it affects them.
- Introduce the policy across departments when completed. Use these policy meet-ups to re-enforce the reasons for the policy.
- Ask for feedback from employees on the policy content.
- Employ training in the remit of the policy if required.
- Ask for employee sign-off (attestation).
Monitoring Employee Attestation
Policies are only effective when employees buy into a policy and understand the remit. In addition, employees must understand the role they play in the area covered by the policy, e.g., cyber security, regulatory compliance, etc.
Evidence that an employee has accessed and read a policy document is essential in encouraging policy acceptance and effectiveness. Affirmation and attestation of a policy provide proof that an employee has read and understood the policy. Capturing employee attestation can be fully automated using a policy management platform.
Policy analytics can provide a deep insight into the effectiveness of a policy. Typically, these analytics capture events such as policy publication, acceptance and attestation, policy updates, etc.
In addition, analytics should be able to capture events as the policy moves through a natural lifecycle to policy. These analytics form the basis of reports used for internal assessment of policy effectiveness and employees’ understanding. Analytics also form the basis of evidence for regulatory compliance. A policy management platform will capture and analyse these analytics to generate reports.
Compliance with regulations typically requires evidence that a policy has been disseminated correctly and accepted by staff. A policy management platform provides a reporting system that typically offers insights into staff who have attested the policy and when and how often policies are published, updated, and disseminated.
Why Policy Management Software is Vital?
Effective policy management can no longer be done using paper methods. Even relying on manually generated emails and populating policy updates only adds effort and potential errors.
To ensure that policy management in the modern workplace is effective, a company must use automated methods that manage and govern a policy across the entire policy life cycle. An automated, auditable, and reliable system delivers policy and updates, providing “evidential weight” for regulatory compliance and protecting brand reputation against cyber threats.
Policy management software is used to generate an automated policy management process. This cloud-based software helps to increase policy participation, reach out to directly obtain employee attestation to key policies and help ensure compliance with regulations.
Cloud-based policy management software provides a platform that automates policy creation and management. The policy management platform publishes and delivers policies from a centralised console, generates audit logs, and offers reporting across the policy lifecycle.
A policy management platform should provide the following features:
- Manage key policies across the policy lifecycle
- Manage policy versions
- Automate policy reviews
- Create easy collaboration in poly creation and updates
- Capture policy affirmation and understanding from employees
- Ensure a consistent policy lifecycle
- Should be easy to use from a centralised console (cloud-based)
- Perform staff knowledge assessments
Generate reports for Auditors and Regulators
- Quantify staff understanding of policies
- Target policies to specific groups of users
The GRC sums up the importance of using a policy management platform when they state: “organisations suffer when they take a myopic view of policy and training management technology that fails to connect the dots and provide context to analytics, performance, objectives, and strategy in the real-time business operates in.” An organisation can use a policy management platform to ensure its policies are effective.