More Minds on Your Business

By Katie Wilcox

Do you ever feel like you have to do a lot of hand-holding with your colleagues to help them understand a company process? Are you receiving a barrage of the same simple questions over and over, forcing you to copy and paste an inane, canned email response? Do you have certain team members who refuse to share status updates and key data points? And to get vital information, do you look at your calendar, hoping to find the star-crossed schedule opening that aligns with the planets so you can get the material you desperately need? I’ve worked in organizations on both ends of this peculiar spectrum: businesses with wide-open sharing policies and companies where information is locked down tightly with only a few people holding the key to free it up.

There are a lot of advantages to opening up your data—within reason. As a team member who has been both a key holder and a person trying to access sequestered data for my daily job duties, when feasible, an open model is far superior to a closed model. Let’s do a comparison/contrast of the two.

Advantages to Easy Sharing

Self-served answers

When data sources are available for a wider audience, team members can find the information themselves. This helps process owners cut down on unnecessary emails, meetings and chatter. There may be a few questions where an associate needs guidance to find the answer, but they can be pointed to resources to help them, which reduces the follow-up asks. In addition, your team is likely to be more informed about the overall state of your control library. Or if they receive a question about how your GDPR testing is going, access to a general testing status related to GDPR updates can let them know that the compliance team is 50, 75 or 90 percent complete in their testing.

Stakeholder engagement & ownership

If team members are aware of how your data is collected, curated and managed, they can provide direct feedback that facilitates your process. When mitigation plan owners have direct access to provide their scheduled plan updates, they can provide the information proactively, helping your audit team reduce time chasing down the owners and placing the responsibility on the owners’ shoulders.

More timely responses

The fast pace of the working world can make scheduling meetings or even synchronous phone calls difficult. Emails can easily be lost in the shuffle or completely ignored based on priority. With direct data access, constituents can gather information and get instant results. Need to know when a privacy policy was last updated? A few clicks later—instead of sending an email and waiting for a response—and you can see that a review is currently in process with an approval slated for the end of the quarter.

Process transparency

Sometimes your internal clients do not realize the number of steps, reviews and time-based activities required to take their request through completion. When they have at least some level of access to the tool where you manage the process, they can see the various stages and steps to complete a request. If a legal ticket requires multiple steps of review, legal proceedings and other externally timed components, good documentation that is exposed to requesters can help them know their request is being addressed as quickly as possible and not lost in the shuffle.

Considerations

Access concerns

This is probably the number one thing I hear from business owners when we talk about giving more people direct access to their data. What if they mess it up? What if they see data points we don’t want to share? This is where using a tool with configurable access is key. When your system allows access segregation by role, record and field, you can truly tailor the content that is viewable and editable by each user, role and group.

Data Integrity

What if the wider user base adds data in a manner or level of detail not consistent with your team’s standards? Employing mechanisms for data integrity can greatly reduce any anxiety around this conundrum. For example, what are the data points you need to capture? Make them required and of the right type so you can ensure every update or stakeholder contribution is complete. What if you want your eyes on the update before it gets committed to the system in a widespread, distributable manner? You can employ a workflow or sign off process before making the update available to the general user population. You can also vet comments, statuses, thresholds and more before kicking off subsequent process flow steps.

The Challenge of Accountability

More eyes on your data means you have to be more clear in your documentation, more accurate in your comments or responses, and timely with your own internal SLAs. Sometimes, the timing gap of “looking up” information gives leeway time to update a spreadsheet you haven’t modified in a while. The good news is that as you use an intuitive tool and actually perform your work real-time, your reports and subsequent data sets are always up to date with the latest information. You don’t have to worry about translating your daily work to a deliverable better understood by a broader audience. Those mechanisms can be built right into your process flow tool. You’ll find yourself with more time focused on providing valuable data than moving the data around to those who need to see it.

Opening up your process to a more direct stakeholder interaction may feel risky at first, but the potential benefits are worth exploring. Small changes can lead the way to big shifts in how your team works and can eventually divide up responsibilities truly in accordance with titles and job functions. Your subject matter experts and process stakeholders can spend less time in administrative upkeep and more time in value-added analytics and data-driven decision making.

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