American invasion

Environment Business looks at web-based management tool imported from the US

The growth of the market for environmental management software is demonstrated by the entry into the UK/European market of Zequel Technologies, an American vendor which is taking on the likes of Enviros and Entropy International on their own turf.

The company says its main product, DynamicPolicy, provides "state-of-the-art web-based policy management for all sizes of organisation". The suite is used in North American by customers varying between 50-50,000 employee users in number, including organisations such as Xerox, pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough and the US government.

Zequel CEO Tim Wickes is confident the UK and European markets are growing and that DynamicPolicy will be a success. He says: "With organisations being more decentralised, plus the requirement to adhere to more and more government-enforced legislation and regulatory bodies, traditional systems have become cumbersome, ineffective and costly.

"In fact, the need for regulatory compliance makes traditional methods an administrative and management nightmare."

Lifecycle of policies

The program is designed to help management to create, review and approve new policies or amend existing ones, distribute them, and know that they have been received, understood and that their recipients agree to comply with them. It covers the lifecycle of policies from drafting, reviewing, approving, publication and reinforcing recipients' understanding with multi-choice testing.

Similarly to UK products such as Corporate Benchmarking Services' Trilogy suite, it is aimed at helping to reach compliance with regulatory and legislative requirements as well as internal corporate policies, standards and procedures. Zequel claims that through its 'comprehensive reporting system', it is able to give management a complete overview of the status of each policy and procedure, level of understanding and acceptance for each individual employee.

Licences and charges

DynamicPolicy is available on one and three year licences or outright purchase. However, additional charges are made for software maintenance and support. Pricing starts at £400/month for a one year licence, £230/month for a three-year licence and £9,400 for purchase. This pricing is for 50 users and includes staff training and implementation.

The company also provides a library of sample policy content to speed up policy creation, which includes the new Sarbanes-Oxley rules introduced in the US in the wake of the Enron and Worldcom scandals. The software suite is web-based with one central server database, so only a single copy of the most up-to-date version of each policy and related documents are published and available across the organisation.

Eliminating risks

This eliminates the risk that employees are singing from different hymn sheets, and makes accessing policies straightforward. Draft policies by participating line management; the approval of policies once reviews have been completed by assigned approvers; the publishing of policies; the education and testing of recipients to ensure policy understanding; the recipients agreement to comply with received policies.

Zequel provides a range of services including an initial assessment study investigating the current effectiveness of policy management. From this, a plan to improve and maximise the use of policies and procedures is produced.

This is followed by the presentation of a detailed report on the situation together with recommendations. There follows a management workshop to review the findings, test them, finalise priorities and a produce a policy focus action plan.

Web-based policy management

The company also offers a Customer Lifecycle Review Service, which includes audits and reviews of policies and procedures, recommending changes where necessary to ensure continued optimum performance. Ian Rickwood, chief executive of the Institute for Management of Information Systems, believes web-based policy management and compliance systems mark the birth of a new generation of IT management solutions.

"This is one area within most organisations where hard copy technologies are still in use. The corporate manual may represent the wishes and desires of management, but usually it is in the bottom drawer, hidden by all the updates piled on top," he says. "I welcome any such system solution that aids effective and efficient management - it is a major step towards the Holy Grail of good governance."


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