March 9, 2021

Policies are the “rules of the road” for running an efficient operation. From signs and traffic lights to speed limits, inspections, and cops, we need driving regulations to help us get to our destinations quickly and safely. Similarly, as team members in a work environment, we need structure to make sure we stay in our lane and reliably reach our goals. Policies provide that structure. Organizations that are successful in implementing policies strike a balance between a cop on every street corner and the open highway.

Two areas where policies can increase organizational effectiveness are time and expense management. Requiring employees to categorize how they spend their working hours and account for what they purchase are foundational policies that nearly every organization embraces. A basic complementary policy is that activities should be carried out with at least reasonable efficiency. Today, such an Efficiency Policy would mandate that activities such as time and expense management should be automated. There are no longer any excuses for manual systems. Do-It-Yourself spreadsheets now fail to meet the ever-rising bar of automation standards.

The automation of policies for time and expense management depends, of course, on software that is flexible enough to accommodate the range of policies you need. It should also enable segmentation, so the workforce only sees policies relevant to them. For example, a policy that mandates a ten-minute break every hour for hourly employees working in a cold storage warehouse doesn’t apply to executives at corporate headquarters.

Experimenting with and fine-tuning policies is key to developing a control environment that is truly responsive to your organization’s goals and culture.

In addition to flexibility, the policy “engine” of whatever software you’re utilizing should be easy to work with. Experimenting with and fine-tuning policies is key to developing a control environment that is truly responsive to your organization’s goals and culture. This process of adjustment and continuous improvement will not happen if IT is called in every time a rule needs to be tweaked.

Successful automation also depends on developing policies that serve your objectives. What really works is to take a top-down approach of identifying what behaviors you want to encourage and which you want to discourage. These become your policies. You then proceed from the broad objective of each policy to determining how you can measure and thereby automate it. There might be ten or even 100 rules for a given policy.

What you implement in your system to flag transactions for review or prevent employees from filing incomplete or erroneous reports are “indicators” or “applications” of policies. It’s important to make this distinction between the rules in system and the policies that they support.

Taking the Right Approach to Policy Formulation can have a Huge Impact on Your Ability to Evaluate and Thereby Engineer their Effectiveness

The point is: if the rules are linked back to a limited number of policies, you can readily see how well you are covering the range of activities associated some aspect of your operations, such as employee resource management or travel. Have we articulated policies everywhere we need to? Are the rules associated with those policies comprehensive, overburdensome or scattershot? Taking the right approach to policy formulation can have a huge impact on your ability to evaluate and thereby engineer their effectiveness.

GRF partners with DATABASICS, a powerful solution for digital time & expense management. DATABASICS not only has the software to manage detailed rules at all levels of granularity, but it also has a team that will work with you to ensure you implement best practices for your policy coverage. With DATABASICS Time & Expense, policy management is almost self-driving.

To learn more about digital time and expense management or DATABASICS, please contact Jim Norton, CPA, Senior Manager, Accounting Technology Services at