Podcast 81: Writing Business as Usual policies to deal with a crisis

In this episode of the Cherryleaf Podcast, we look at the steps you need to take if you need to urgently create or update your Business as Usual policies and procedures.

AI-generated transcript:

This is the Cherryleaf podcast

Hello I’m Ellis Pratt I’m one of
the directors and co-owners of Cherryleaf and it’s

March 2020 and at the moment we are in

the UK it’s still in the early stages of

the coronavirus and we thought it would

be useful to do an episode for those

people that are needing to create or

update their business as usual policies

so just to set the context one things

that Cherryleaf does is it writes and it

updates policies and procedures for

organizations and sometimes these

policies and procedures are relating to

business as usual and disaster recovery

type activities so what we thought would

be useful would be to share some of the

advice on the actions that organizations

should consider if they find them in a

situation where they need to write and

update their policies and procedures so

that they run their business their

organization effectively during this

time of where for example they might

have people working from home rather

than working as they would normally in

an office and this is going to be about

the process of writing and communication

rather than telling you specifically

what your for example cybersecurity

policy or what you’re writing from home

policy should be now we do have a

podcast recorded on a leadership

communication and we’ll be publishing

that in a few weeks time so like with

all projects you need to have a plan so

the most simplest and obvious thing to

do is to create a list of the documents

that you need to have to ensure that

people know what to do to keep your

business going so that will come

probably from management or the board

but it also can be useful to

ask your staff as well what information

that they need if they’re working from

home or if they’re working in an unusual

situation – what then normally used – so

you create a list of the documents that

you need and you create a list of the

documents that you have and from that

you can identify the gaps between the

two the documents that need to be

written and you can also go through a

process of prioritizing which ones need

to be written and updated and you can

create a spreadsheet and have a red

amber green set of colours to prioritize

the most important documents or ranking

from 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 and again

prioritize the ones that are the most

important ones to get done so you may

find that you also have documents that

exist but are out of date or need to be

improved so having created your list of

the documents that you need you need to

check on the condition of the ones that

already exist so the next step that we’d

recommend is that you create an audit

spreadsheet and if you contact info

at Cherryleaf.com we can send you a very

basic spreadsheet that you can use to

base this on and so what this

spreadsheet can do is it can identify

and contain the list of the documents

for those that exist already it can

identify where they are you can put the

location of that document and you can

also put other sort of metadata

information on there like who is

responsible for the content that is the

policy owner when it was last updated

and reviewed and information about the

condition of it so how do we assess the

condition and quality of a document to

judge whether it needs to be updated or

not well we can use some of the measures

that we use when people do website

content strategy and different criteria

by which they can assess the information

so I shall go through some of the ways

in which you can identify whether a

document needs to be improved on

I’ll go through the list and then we’ll

look at some of these to understand what

they mean so they are is it desirable is

it legally okay is it manageable/governable is it useful is it

relevant is it clear is it credible is

the content findable is it accurate is

it complete as a concise and is it

accessible so let’s explain what some of

those mean is it desirable this means is

there a business reason for publishing

it is it manageable and governable by

that we mean does it contain information

on who wrote it who approved it date of

the publication the version number and

so on useful is can it be used to

achieve its purpose so if it’s a set of

tasks to do something or for somebody to

be able to make a decision

does it give them the information or the

instructions they need to be able to do

that the relevance we’re talking about

is it relevant to the users situation

and needs so for example is it relevant

to them working at home or working at a

branch rather than the head office or to

their job role and is it clear does it

contain any ambiguity anything that’s

obscure can people understand what

they’re meant to be doing and findable

is the information organized in a

consistent way that lets users find the

information they’re looking for quickly

and easily and accurate are there any

mistakes or errors is it truthful as if

factual and complete does it have all

the information that somebody needs and

to an extent you could include in that

is it up-to-date and concise is it at

the right level of detail does it

contain information it’s just not needed

and in terms of accessible you might

have people in addition to those that

have sight impairments or other types of

physical impairments people that are

needing to use this information on a

mobile device or a screen reader or they

got their laptop plugged into their

television and using that as a second

screen is information viewable for those

situations so what documents do you need

to create for this type of situation I

can give you some suggestions some

indications that types of things that

you might need to consider so for

finance when the main issues with a

company in an emergency situation is

keeping staff paid and cash flow so you

might need policies and procedures in

place that are accurate and up to date

relating to payroll invoicing and credit

control for IT particularly people are

working remotely then there can be a lot

of different policies and procedures and

run books in the like that need to be in

place so there’s quite a long list for

that so let me give you a list of the

types of things that you need to

consider so you might need policies and

procedures on your cybersecurity your

system architecture how software is

configured and deployed your support

procedures your administration and

maintenance activities restart

procedures event management licensing

user access and user profile management

procedures and within that the critical

ones of adding and removing users and

you could also have information around

issuing laptops and acceptable use if

people are away from the office diagnostics and troubleshooting

procedures

backup and recovery failover planning

request fulfilment problem management

access management testing service

acceptance criteria project control

locks released in deployment management

so this level management capacity

management skills matrix supplier

contracts and service reporting in

governance and if you contact us we can

email you a list of first

topics and from an HR perspective you

may need to check that your information

is correct relating to you’re working at

home policy sickness policy working

hours and roles and responsibilities in

terms of who should do what if somebody

is off work and you might also need

content around risk management and again

resource management so you have your

list of the documents that you want

you’ve got a list of the documents that

need to be updated and prioritized then

the next stage is really to look for

commonalities see if there are common

document types so that you can establish

skeleton documents and regular standard

headings so that you have consistency

across the different types of documents

so you might find that there is a

consistent approach that you can

establish for policies process documents

or procedures for each of these document

types you can identify or so the

audience that might be using particular

different types of documents the purpose

of the documents and also common

metadata that you might want to include

with those particular documents

information about the information aren’t

being metadata so at that point you have

your list of the documents that you want

to create an approach of what you want

to include in each document and perhaps

the order in which the information is

going to flow then there’s the issue of

identifying and authoring platform now

in this type of situation time is

limited so it’s probably not practical

to move away from the tools that you

already have so let’s talk about what

you may be using today so one popular

tool is Google Docs it’s free it’s

familiar to many people within

organizations that use it and that can

be a good tool to use what you can do

within Google Docs is you can embed

other content such as spreadsheets and

no chance from other applications and

there are a couple of add-ons that you

can get that can help you with that side

of things to help you do flowchart study

describe from beginning to end the key

steps in a process the what to do and

there are tools like Draw.IO and

Lucidchart that you can add as

extensions to the Google suite to do

that type of thing and with Google Docs

built into that you can roll back to

look at the history of a document who

wrote what you can track who’s been

adding content and you can have the

ability for people to write comments

asking for clarification on certain

parts of the document and you’ve

downside with having content stored in

Google Documents is that it can be hard

to find particular documents so you

might want to have a document that

provides links I baked if you like a

table of contents or an index to help

people find the different documents that

are there and the same is true for

people that use Word and specifically

the online version of word that can come

with Office 365

again you have document history and the

ability to add comments again it’s

familiar and with Word documents again

you can have some basic document

metadata and if it’s stored on

SharePoint you can set up some rules

within SharePoint to flag up to certain

people to approve or review the content

at certain dates again there are some

issues because a document approach to

writing content it can be hard for

people to navigate and find information

now in terms of extensions and add-ons

that’s also possible within the Office

365 environment there is another tool

that you might want to consider which is

a desktop application called doc-to-help

what doc-to-help can do is

it can combine Word documents together

and generate HTML versions and

mobile-friendly versions of the content

it can create tables of contents that

provide navigation links to a collection

of different Word documents and they can

also add things like breadcrumbs and

indexes and if you need to localize the

content to different languages it can

integrate quite well with one of the

localization tools that is available now

you might have a technical writer or

technical author who works in your

organization they will have access to

more sophisticated tools and for example

they might be using tools like fair or

Robohelp and what those tools can do is

they can import again a collection of

different Word documents and break them

up into small chunks of contents to

appear as web pages you can have content

that can pop up you can have hot spotted

diagrams to navigate around to more

detailed information and again they can

integrate with localization tools within

the context of a dealing with a crisis

you probably don’t have time yourself to

familiarize yourself with that

particular tool but if you do have

somebody in your organization such as a

technical author who’s using that tool

today then you could call on their

expertise to make the content more

accessible and easier to use by using

that particular tool the other option to

Google Docs and to word is to use a wiki

and wikis can be easy to use in terms

of writing the content and they can

create the content in a way that’s

optimized for online viewing and you can

break the content into small topics or

small web pages and you can navigate

directly to a particular section rather

than to the front of a particular

document so one of the popular wiki

tools or wiki like tools is confluence

and that does have again add-ons for

doing flowcharts and that is a popular

tool within Microsoft teams which you

may get bundled with Office 365 there is

a very basic

Wiki I’m sorry one that in general we

will recommend but it does have the

advantage that you can use it within the

context of teams so you can have teams

chats and you can link to Word documents

within a particular team to chance as

well as the wiki so that might be worth

considering and Git and Github or Github

in particular has a wiki that you can

use again fairly straightforward to use

available and accessible over the web

can be sent if you are on the paid plan

for get up to be private and you can

have again document history who wrote

particular sections collaborative

authoring although it’s not necessarily

great if you’ve got hyperlinks and they

go into the wrong place and it can be

quite easy to have broken hyperlinks

within that particular tool but that’s

another consideration you don’t need to

know the normal branching and

forking capabilities of Github is just a

straightforward wiki the attraction of a

wiki is that the content is online it’s

designed to be viewable as web pages and

it can be easy for teams and of people

to write content in addition to those

tools ones that you might want to

consider are some tools for creating

screenshots or doing little videos that

show people the stages on how to use an

application and tools that we like on

that are Snagit and Camtasia and in fact

the makers of Snagit have announced that

they will provide free to organizations

up until the end of June they snake it

down

so we’ve mentioned a couple of flow

charting software applications you could

also use business process modelling

that’s something that we talked about in

episode 30 of the Cherryleaf podcast with

Terry Hooper and there are different BPM

business process modelling applications

that are available some that are free of

charge so you’ve identified the

documents that you need to create Eve

identified

some standard document types and ways to

organize and structure the information

you’ve identified an authoring platform

for writing the content there are a

couple of other steps that you also need

to consider as well

one is pushing roles responsibilities so

you’ll need to identify he’ll be writing

the content you may need to also

identify the policy owners for each

document who’s responsible for saying

yes this is the correct policy or not

the personal rights may not necessarily

be the person that approves publication

particularly if you want there to be a

gateway that the policy owner signs off

any content before it goes live so you

might have a publication approver and

you might also need a governance team

just to check that all the different

people creating content are doing it in

the same way to the quality that you

want so in the publishing approval

process you might have some checklists

that you create for the writers and

reviewers to take off that the content

is ready to go live and again that can

be the same checklist of quality checks

that we had when we were doing our audit

of the content for example you know is

it desirable is it legally okay is it

useful and so on and I mentioned

governments and maintenance and having a

process for that it may be sensible to

set up a review process to have a team

that creates these document quality

checklists perhaps even if you’ve got

time to establish a voice in tone or a

standards guide for the writers and to

establish things like version control

and change control processes now if you

had time and in an ideal world you might

want to consider moving away from a

document approach to more of a service

delivery approach to content more

focused on the tasks that people want

rather than explaining as they were from

a top-down audit perspective with

different Navigation routes for

different audiences those audiences

being staff managers and auditors for

example but in this context at this

moment you may not have time to do

and another thing in an ideal world that

would be good to do would be to train

staff the types of things that you might

want to cover if you do want to take

on training if you have the time is

things like how to write clearly how to

use the standard documents that you’ve

created how to document the changes that

have been made and how to think about

the users and writing for their

particular needs how much detail to

include how to structure and sequence

information and to explain the approval

process and review process that you have

in place if you’re sticking to the tools

that you already have today then you may

not need to go into too much detail

about the authoring tool apart from

maybe some tips on how to use the tool

correctly for example using styles

within tools like Microsoft Word of

course you need to identify who’s going

to write the content again this is

something that we do normal situation do

bear in mind that you might have people

such as in-house technical those are

technical writers or courseware

developers who have skills available for

writing this content and there’s always

the option of pulling them off what

they’re doing today to update the

policies and procedures or help people

through that process so an unplanned

unscheduled episode really just to give

some advice a list of actions to

consider

I hope it’s useful I hope everyone stays

as well as they can be if you have any

questions relating to this then do

contact us info at Cherryleaf.com if

you’d like that spreadsheet then contact

us for that in terms of auditing your

existing content and again the list of

the types of documents you might want to

create we can send a list over

– for that otherwise thanks for

listening

 

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