Intranet Policies and Procedures Development for Multiple Departments

Companies are using a wide variety of intranet software solutions to develop policies and procedures for multiple departments.  Common policies and procedures software solutions include editing in MS-Word, publishing in PDF, and managing files in SharePoint.  You can try putting most of your information on a wiki, but a wiki can be an inefficient solution for keeping documentation up-to-date and under control.  Adobe has a product called RoboHelp that’s good for maintaining a single source and distributing various versions and revision changes to a mixture of channels.

An alternative to RoboHelp is Flare, produced by MadCap.  Flare supports DITA and XML, independent of whether you use Word or FrameMaker, to maintain your printable documentation.  Some companies are using DITA-based technology to distribute documentation revisions to multiple channels (including marketing collateral).  Adobe RoboHelp with FrameMaker in structured mode supports DITA and XML.  So what are DITA and XML?

Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an eXtensible Markup Language (XML) technical documentation authoring and publishing architecture for creating topic-oriented content that can be reused and single-sourced in a variety of ways.  In other words, you can tag <xmp> your text with special codes </xmp> the xmp tag set indentifies the text as part of an example.  I’m not sure how popular this is today, but it is very portable.  The Internet exploded through the use of HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which is still the predominant markup language for web pages.

Why not just put all your policy and procedure documents into an Access database? If you have the technical skills, you could build your own document management database solution.  SharePoint is an MS-SQL database solution that requires MS-Server administration and SharePoint designer capability.  If you’re using SharePoint, you can add Nintex to provide advanced workflow capabilities.

SharePoint is not perfect, though. Version control is weak in SharePoint. Documents can be edited without a new version being created by simply opening/editing/saving.  It can be difficult getting users to check out documents correctly. Since checking in/out is optional, you need to continually remind your users that they have to check out and check in documents for version control to work.

Authoring and Publishing Workflow

Most companies use an Authoring site with restricted access, where all MS-Word versions are maintained, and a Published site, containing the approved PDF documents that your staff can see. Your policies and procedures workflow will allow you to easily add approvers and submit documents for review and approval. Reviewers/approvers are generally notified automatically (by email, for example) that a document is “awaiting review”. If the notification contains a link to the document, the reviewer can click on that link to retrieve the document for edit and review. You can also designate the final approver, the person responsible for publishing (releasing) the document for general use.

All previous versions of the document should be maintained on the Authoring site for review and/or restoration. A document review log shows all approver comments, revision comments, workflow change dates, and any administrative histories for a document. Reviewers’ comments on version changes should only be visible to people with access to the Authoring site. The end users only need to see the approved PDF version on the Published site.

A robust search capability is critical — many people prefer e-documents because of search capabilities built into them, like Google search.   You’ll also want some form of browsing navigation, perhaps alphabetical or categorical, to give your users options. The same user may come to your policy and procedure software portal two different times with two different goals.

Keeping people coming back to your policy and procedure intranet portal will be a challenge.  Try adding a workgroup collaboration section to increase traffic.  Establish a policy that encourages everyone to link to the PDFs on your portal rather than keeping separate electronic or paper copies.  If you bring people to your intranet portal for policies and procedures, you minimize the likelihood of incorrect or outdated policies floating around your office on computers and desks.

Acrobat Professional with Multiple Contributors

PDFs are great for reviewing and sharing documents.  Acrobat doesn’t change the original text, so there’s no problem with multiple contributors editing the same text, overwriting one another’s changes.  Acrobat accumulates all reviewer comments as “sticky notes”, using identifying numbers inserted into the text. You can consolidate all comments by simply answering a prompt for each one making it very easy to review and manually make the changes in Word.  It can be more time consuming for the editor, but it is an easy way to manage comments from multiple contributors.

Now when you print a consolidated version of the PDF, all the comments are annotated on separate, inserted pages for each page of content, with “mapped” numbers tied to the text location making multiple comments on the same text easy to understand.  You can easily share your final copy (with change summaries) with all contributors. And of course, this review technique works for all document types, not just Word. Use it on Visio process maps and your reviewers won’t even need the Visio software.  PDFs created using Acrobat Professional preserve embedded hyperlinks.  But, if you use Acrobat Distiller, your PDF documents will not have active hyperlinks.

What alternatives are there to Intranet software solutions for developing policies and procedures for multiple departments?  Next, we’ll talk about Software as a Service or SaaS policies and procedures applications; they can reduce your reliance on your IT department and allow you to “pay as you go” only for what you actually use.

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Posted by Chris Anderson on

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4 Comments on the post
Intranet Policies and Procedures Development for Multiple Departments

  1. Cris says:

    My section only develops policies and procedures for multiple departments so the article is very informative. We are currently using an outdated Access database to capture our workflow for procedure development and issue. But all the data entry is manual with no check-in/out capabilities.

    Sharepoint sounded like a great solution, but since checking in/out is optional I think it would be too hard to manage. Does the Nintex add-on to Sharepoint solve this problem?

    Looking forward to next weeks article. Keep up the good work.

    • chris says:

      SharePoint is ok, but it’s really just a glorified file sharing portal. You should check out our new Policies and Procedures Management Software product. It’s much better than an Access database or Sharepoint server for managing the document control workflow.

  2. Cris says:

    I was really looking forward to the release of your Management System.
    It’s a shame that your Policies and Procedures Management Software is not sold as a program that can be loaded and managed on the company server. It sounds perfect but my companies IT department would not accept an external server with a monthly fee to maintain the service. So instead we are spending a lot of money creating our own inferior management system in Acess, which is very time consuming and expensive!
    Are there any plans to sell your management software to clients so they can load onto their own server and manage independently?
    I wonder how many other companies will not be able to consider your management system because of this?

  3. Dan says:

    Hello Cris,

    Thanks for commenting on Chris Anderson’s article: http://www.bizmanualz.com/information/2010/02/23/intranet-policies-and-procedures-development-for-multiple-departments.html

    We would be happy to discuss licensing a version of our software that your company could host in-house. The difference is that our on-line solution shares the cost of the hardware and software across many customers, so we can charge $100 a month per editor/ author and nothing (FREE) for view-only access. But if your company wants a server all to its own, your company would not enjoy the cost-sharing advantages, and would incur the entire cost of that infrastructure. I certainly understand that some customers will have this need, and we are available to support you.

    Depending on your number of users, our software-as-a-service might be priced to you at $1,200 to $6,000 a year. But the server license alone starts at $15,000. In a sole-user situation, your firm would pay the server license costs. Additionally there might be customization costs, depending on your server software. All together it could run $25,000 or higher. Of course, these dedicated server prices are comparable to what is charged by other software companies in our industry, and as I said we would be happy to discuss your needs. In fact, since our software runs on open-source database and operating system components, our solution would probably be cheaper to own and operate than competing applications running on Microsoft or other proprietary server and application components.

    Regarding IT Department objections to paying monthly subscriptions, under a dedicated-server approach, IT departments typically pay annual license and maintenance fees of about 20% to 40% of the up-front license fees. So our SaaS (on-line) solution is actually much cheaper to maintain from a IT’s perspective. And because Bizmanualz fully supports the SaaS solution, your IT department would not have to allocate scarce technical time & talent to maintaining any infrastructure that the dedicated solution—ours or any other—might require.

    In a nutshell, SaaS as a business model enables you share most of the costs of the hardware and software across all our customers, while protecting your data. That is why a SaaS solution is very practical for most customers. As a matter of fact, many customers are surprised when they approach their IT department and find that they have initiatives underway to identify applications that can run on vendor’s SaaS applications, like ours. It is certainly the trend in IT. If you approach them with a SaaS option, they may consider you to be a real forward-thinking user!

    But it is possible that some companies support SaaS as a concept while not wanting their data to reside outside of their own firewall. If that is the case here, I would make two points. Our hosting provider is fully compliant and audited to SAS 70 Type II standards. Under those standards, your data is fully protected. Has your in-house IT department met the SAS 70 standard? SAS 70 was established specifically to address data security concerns in a distributed environment. Secondly:it is true that working files and all drafts are stored on our secure server outside your firewall. But at your option your company can designate that released documents be stored on your in-house server. Your IT group would provide an ftp address pointing our software to a drive on your network. In that way, you could use our workflow management tools and still publish the released files to a location behind your firewall. Authors and editors would gain workflow and compliance tools, and the majority of employees would not have to change the way they access released documents.

    That way, users would simply read the released documents as they have been doing in your Intranet or SharePoint for example, and released documents would reside within your firewall.

    But most customers tell us that their operating policies and procedures are not considered sensitive documents. Our system stores Bizmanualz templates, any changes you make or other documents that you upload. There should be no reason to upload sensitive documents.

    With the trade-offs in mind, we are certainly available to customize a solution for you. Just email sales@bizmanualz.com. Please let our sales staff know if we can address any of your concerns with a site evaluation for an on-premises solution, or a demonstration of our SaaS solution. It would be a great idea to include the IT folks referenced in your comments.

    Best Wishes,

    Dan Davison
    VP Sales & Marketing, Shareholder
    http://www.bizmanualz.com
    An ISO 9001:2008 certified company
    tel. (314) 863-5079 x23
    Dan@bizmanualz.com

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