The policy creation process at colleges and universities—much like most other processes in the higher education system—is notoriously complex. To implement a new policy, or make significant updates to an existing one, requires navigating workflows that contain a diverse group of stakeholders and several feedback loops. If it were just one workflow, perhaps it would be manageable, but the policy libraries of higher ed institutions include an array of different policy areas, each with their own unique workflow requirements.
To further complicate the situation, policy management efforts colleges and universities are under increasing pressure. While funding of many institutional endeavors has declined in recent years, regulatory requirements have not. The challenge that policy administrators at colleges and universities have today is managing the web of policy creation workflows they’re required to navigate. In this day and age, automation is almost a necessity for schools to continually create, update, and manage the myriad of policies and procedures you must have.
The Building Blocks of the Policy Creation Process
The requirements of the policy creation process differs from institution to institution, from department to department, and even from policy to policy. The building blocks are the same when it comes to forming your policies, however.
The role of policies: At your college or university, a policy should help you ensure compliance with rules and regulations, enhance the institution’s mission, or reduce risk in some way. It accomplishes this by mandating or constraining actions of a group of individuals, whether they be students, staff, faculty, members of the board of trustees, etc. Policies shouldn’t change frequently; think of them as setting a standard for the foreseeable future.
Policy templates: While most organizations will take advantage of policy templates or develop a policy framework, it’s especially important for colleges and universities. In addition to helping the policy to be identified as belonging to the institution, it will make policy rollout go much faster in the event of an emergency. Sometimes, you may have to quickly make a policy change in response to an unforeseen event, and having the basic scaffolding of a policy ready to go saves a lot of time.
A formal review process: All new policies and policies that have undergone substantial revisions are required to be reviewed and approved by the appropriate policy committee for consistency, readability, and format. In addition, some policies will need formal review from other individuals such as the provost, the dean, or the president.
Defined roles and responsibilities: In an effort to keep the policy creation process as organized as possible, most universities take the time to outline the roles of the individuals involved and what they’re responsible for managing. The specific roles are just as varied as the workflows used, but they generally include:
- Primary policy contacts: These individuals view and approve final policy drafts for a specific policy area. When appropriate, they’ll also propose new policies or work with the policy office to write policies and procedures.
- A policy office: This office develops and maintains the process to administer policies and procedures, and ensures the accuracy of information contained in policies and procedures. They’re also responsible for communicating approved policies and procedures to the university community.
- Policy coordinators: These individuals serve as a policy resource to anyone proposing policy, whether they be a primary policy contact, a compliance officer, or another member of the university community. They assist with policy development, route and coordinate copies of draft policy, and assist with dissemination. They also participate in post-approval policy management including, maintaining a master list of policies, maintaining files of the approved copy of each policy, and containing supplementary materials applicable to the development of each new policy and procedure.
- Policy review committee: When necessary, members of the policy review committee review policy drafts and make recommendations based on readability, consistency, and format to the policy coordinator.
Tailoring Your Process
It’s often difficult to refine and tailor your processes when you have so many different components to juggle. Throughout development, review, and approval, an automated policy software application will have the tools to enable you to streamline your activities.
This is the point in the policy creation process in which a policy is proposed, researched, and written. Once a policy need is identified, possible issues and solutions are researched, stakeholders and functional experts are consulted, and policy language is drafted. When you build your policy in an application designed specifically for that purpose, you’ll be able to streamline and centralize communication. Everyone can collaborate on the same policy document, offering their suggestions and feedback. You’ll also be able to save and reuse policy templates and template components, ensuring policies always have a consistent look and feel.
At this stage of the process, you invite others to review and offer feedback on your initial policy draft. At colleges and universities, review workflows are especially complex, including one or more comment periods and several levels of formal review. The appropriate review and approval groups will likely be unique for each policy, as well, depending on the nature of the policy. For instance, policies related to gifts and donations require different subject matter expertise than policies related to IT security.
A robust policy management software will allow policy coordinators to create and save review workflows, no matter how complicated they may be. Since the review process is intended to gather feedback and make revisions in order to obtain approval, a policy can move through this phase multiple times. When you coordinate this process with policy management software, it’s much easier to keep track of activities and ensure reviewers are always seeing the most updated version.
Automated workflows will take the pressure off the policy coordinator to ensure the review process stays on track. Once you determine who is reviewing and for how long, the process will basically run itself. This means that the time it takes to gather feedback and implement the desired changes will be significantly reduced, decreasing the amount of time between a policy being proposed and eventually published.
Approval and Publishing
After a policy has gone through the appropriate channels (policy committee, department chair, president, provost, board of trustees, etc.) and has been approved, its journey isn’t over. It must return to the policy office to be published. It’s extremely important that higher education institutions make their policies convenient and easily accessible. Not only must a new policy be shared with the affected groups, they need to be published to the policy library.
Rather than asking your IT department to manage the posting of new policies to your public-facing policy repository, automation can assist in the process by allowing you to seamlessly post new policies directly from your policy management platform. This means that the same application you use to draft your policy can be the same place in which you manage review workflows and ultimately, implementation. From start to finish, you keep the policy creation process in a central location, enabling you to save a complete record of your policy efforts while speeding up the overall process.
ComplianceBridge: A Higher Level of Policy Management
If you’ve ever participated in policy development at a college or university at any level, you’ve experienced firsthand how involved the process is. With automation, many tasks can be improved and simplified, and ComplianceBridge has the tools to help you do it. On our platform, stakeholders can work together to draft new policies, create and save automated workflows they can use to quickly gather feedback and make the requested changes, and once approved, it only takes one click to publish a new policy to your public web portal and share it with the right people.
ComplianceBridge also includes several features to make the job of university policy office personnel that much easier. Version stacking ensures everyone always sees the most up-to-date document. Automated review notifications make sure no policy is allowed to become outdated and irrelevant. A centralized policy library keeps all of your documents in one secure location. A Microsoft 365 integration makes creating and editing documents in our application straightforward and familiar. We could keep going.
If you’re tired of juggling the building blocks of the policy creation process while trying to navigate convoluted approval workflows, it’s time to tailor your policy creation process with ComplianceBridge. Request a demo today to get started.