By Susan Eilefson, Deluxe Corporation
Reposted with permission. Originally posted on Deluxe Blogs.
As the Compliance Enablement Documentation Specialist in the Business Risk & Compliance Department at Deluxe Corporation, one of my key responsibilities is to ensure that all of our documentation will stand the scrutiny of external auditors. All departmental documentation – written policies, procedures, compliance overviews, executive summaries, etc., – must be properly written, reviewed, and updated in order to ensure that we’ll satisfy auditors’ requests, thereby eliminating the need for remediation. In general, our documentation must speak to our compliance programs and provide evidence that we are compliant with applicable laws, regulations, and program requirements.
Any corporation that provides products and services that are heavily regulated should be very concerned with effectively managing its compliance documentation no matter what the segment: healthcare, consumer protection, identity theft prevention, Internet compliance, etc. I have compiled a list of five tips, aka “best practices,” for ensuring that my department’s documentation is able to weather the external auditing storm.
USE TEMPLATES/STANDARD FORMATTING
Take the guesswork out of drafting these important documents! Create standard templates to use for all departmental policies, procedures, processes, guidelines, compliance overviews, etc. This will ensure that the right content is included in each type of document in a consistent manner. This is especially important if you have multiple individuals writing your documentation.
MAKE SURE YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE ACCESSIBLE
It shouldn’t be difficult for your employees to access important documentation! Create a master list of all documentation with the path to where it is located on either the team shared drive, a SharePoint site, or in your company’s electronic documentation management system. Document accessibility will greatly reduce time and frustration during onsite audits for your employees to provide auditors with the documents they are requesting.
STAY ON TOP OF YOUR DOCUMENT REVIEW CYCLE
Ensure that your documents are being reviewed on an annual, or more frequent, basis! There is nothing worse than presenting outdated documentation to an auditor. You can prevent this by creating a departmental documentation review calendar which will ensure that all of your critical compliance documentation is reviewed and updated on a pre-determined schedule. Use your electronic documentation management system, or appointed compliance documentation manager, to send out notification emails and monitor the document review process.
CREATE CLEAR AND USER-FOCUSED DOCUMENTATION
Make sure that your compliance documentation is straightforward and easy to understand! Confusing policies, procedures, and overviews will only open the door for questions during an audit and the need for remediation. It is also crucially important that your documentation aligns with what your employees are actually doing. If your documentation says one thing, and your subject matter experts (SMEs) say another, this is a huge red flag for an auditor.
ENSURE THAT YOUR DOCUMENTATION IS ACCURATE
Always, always, always check all of the content in your documentation for accuracy when you are performing a review! Make sure that all SMEs have had a chance to review the documentation to ensure that the information is still current and relevant. Don’t risk inaccuracy for the sake of efficiency. It is better to prolong the publication of a critical document than to push it out with inaccurate content.
In today’s heavily regulated, audit-focused climate, it is more important than ever to ensure that your company’s compliance documentation is ready for the strict scrutiny it will certainly endure. It is no longer okay to adopt a “hope for the best and cope with the rest” approach to audits. Auditors are expecting more detailed, consistent compliance documentation from all industries – financial, health care, pharmaceuticals, and the list goes on. By following the above five simple tips, you can help to ensure that your company passes its next audit with flying colors!