Let’s face it, not much has changed in the world of policy writing. The medium has changed (handwritten, typewriters, computers), but the linear nature of writing has remained. Most policy shares common elements including a numbering system with an established hierarchy and a title or header to help the reader know the topic. Organizations crafting policy face a similar set of problems once they embark on the writing process. Let’s explore the pain points in more detail.

Formatting

The blog you are reading contains formatting. It has a designated font, size, spacing, and text decorations (bold, underline, italic, bullets etc.). Traditional word processors give users unnecessary freedoms during the writing process. This leads to final documents that are inconsistent. This in turn increases the administrative overhead required to regain that consistency. It’s difficult to automate and means that policy can only be released once it has passed a rigorous manual process.

Structure

The presence of structure is mostly an illusion when crafting policy in a traditional document format. I’m defining structure as how articles and sections interrelate throughout a policy document. Forcing an appropriate structure results in a proper table of contents. It also enforces order. Policy is frequently a hierarchy of ideas and is paramount to help ensure that all bases have been covered.

The linear nature of storing policy is the single greatest impediment to harnessing its true potential. Why?

  1. We are unable to “point” to a specific idea in a data driven way.
  2. We are resigned to build table of contents based on H1, H2 header types rather than on unique indexes.
  3. We are unable to update versions for each article, but are instead forced to version an entire policy.
  4. We are unable to grant permissions on an article basis which effectively allows any user to edit any part of a policy.

By redefining our definition of policy as a collection of related, ordered, articles, we resolve these problems. We also receive the added benefit of compartmentalizing the permissions structure ensuring that only those qualified to write specific areas of policy are able to do so.

Collaboration

Prior to services like Google Docs, collaboration meant writing your part of a policy and then saving it to a file-share or emailing it to a project manager or clerical staff member. Google Docs improved upon this by allowing multiple users the ability to edit the same document in real time. Its usefulness is somewhat limited at scale because performance degrades noticeably with large documents and many shared authors.  Collaboration in this manner further degrades accountability back to the specific author. Changes to policy with a verifiable approval chain is critical to satisfying the baseline requirements for policies tied to control matrixes.

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PolicyCo will change the way you write, edit, and manage policy. Further we plan to enhance procedures and revolutionize evidence gathering for compliance activities.