Key features of the most comprehensive policy, process, plans and procedures (PPPP) programs include but are not limited to:
Support for all users (e.g., subject matter experts, managers, document owners, webmasters, administrators) should be provided in the same program.
Formatting should not be necessary, as it is provided by the software, once the local administrator predefines the output type for each category, content type and medium (e.g., printed on paper or cardstock, digitally online via website, etc.).
Interfaces for all related documents created (policies, processes, procedures lists or plans, procedures and common work instructions) should be the same. This allows knowledge content to be stored as re-useable, interchangeable modules.
Communication of information from the management software should be in a form suitable for all those who need it. For example printed “document” or “management” reports may serve the needs of some personnel while website delivery, Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) Rich Text Format (RTF) or Portable Document Format (PDF) files may be needed by others.
All content should be web-ready, automatically, without any additional action by originators of content. For example, when maintenance is scheduled using a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS), the planner of the work should be able to download applicable procedures for the work package from the policy, processes, plans, and procedures program with ease (one click, ideally) or provide a link so the person performing the work can download or refer to it quickly at the work site if cyber communications permit.
Status of policies, processes and procedures under development, revision or superseded should be available within the management software at all times (to those requiring it) and be suitable for the type of organization and culture served. Some organizations may not require review and/or approval after a subject matter expert originates a policy or procedure. Others may require multiple levels of review and approval. Identification and status tracking tables should contain at least the following entries:
- Document general description, business process/applicable department(s), key words (e.g., Maintenance, Operations, Sales, Advertising)
- Outline of content, applicable regulation(s) and/or policy, distribution listing
- Identification of attachments and whether internal to the software or externally acquired
- Document name, number, content type, dates originally created, last updated or reviewed, revision history
- Primary owner, author and contributors (with titles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers)
- Users, performers, groups involved, supporters, reviewers, review manager and final approver (by names, job titles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers)
- Status of document (in development, in review for change, obsolete, approved)
- Only currently approved versions of each document should be available to users.
- Documents under revision for safety reasons should be “flagged” to avoid mishaps affecting personnel, assets or environment.
- Dates for action item completion, approval, and distribution along with any pertinent notes or instructions.
Communications concerning responsibilities of originators, reviewers, approvers and those responsible for distribution should be automatically generated by the software program in the form of e-mail notifications in advance of due dates for required actions and reminders periodically thereafter when deadlines are missed.
Rules for data entry are available in some programs, so that mistakes and inconsistencies are minimized. Some programs allow for developing customized advice to aid in training those assigned to develop documents. Any PPPP program selected should have word processing, table creation and image insertion capabilities as close to the programs most commonly used by the organization as possible.
Standardized “Pick Lists” and Boilerplate entries should be available to minimize the time needed to build required content of a document.
Steps and Sub-steps of a Procedure should be auto-numbered so that users can concentrate on developing content that is concise and easy to follow.
Numbering for new documents should be automatic using the system developed by the organization. For example, if an alpha numeric system identifying department or system by an abbreviation (e.g., HR = Human Resources, AC = Air Conditioning) and each document (POL = Policy, PL = Plan, PR = Process, PC = Procedure) and a number (001, 002, etc.,), the software should be able to track each number series and issue the last unused number in each for new documents.
Links between documents that are related should be easily identified and hyperlinked. Work instructions applicable to multiple procedures must be linked effectively by the program so that when changed, all affected procedures are revised automatically (or at least flagged for review because of a change).
Assembly into compilations of categories of documents should be easily accomplished so that digital and/or hardcopy (printed) “manuals” can be prepared for training.
Revision tracking and numbering should be automatic for all categories of documents managed using the software.
Security and access using login and passwords for users should be provided under direction of an administrator who authorizes navigation privileges within the software and various archives.
Acronyms, abbreviations, conventions and terms unique to an organization should be described in a glossary available within the PPPP program so any user who needs to can confirm their meanings.
Accountability for personnel reading and acknowledging understanding of important policies and some procedures should be built into the management program. After being notified that a new or revised document(s) have been issued and available for reading and acknowledgement, individuals must comply by a certain date or receive automated e-mail reminders thereafter until the requirement is satisfied.
Reports on status of various documents to be created, updated or superseded should be readily available from the PPPP Management software in digital and/or printed forms.