protocol document

It can be a costly shock to realize years down the road that the detailed data collected in relation to your project does not meet the needs for the reporting you now need to produce. Maybe some data was not even collected at that time, or even currently as nobody updated to the collection protocols as requirements changed over the years. Is the current database meta data even setup to meet these reporting requirements correctly? What were the details, outcomes, and commitments made? Meetings, stakeholder outreach, even emails between a former staff member and stakeholders – how was it all transcribed and entered at the time? How was follow-up ensured? Did staff enter the information in a consistent format?

Going back over reams of documents from the past takes a lot of time and budget – and that’s IF your team can manage to find everything you need. It comes down to either a lack of adequate thought in the early days about how you need to manage stakeholder information, or nobody taking ownership of the information management protocols and communicating them to staff; but rest assured you can take clear action steps to avoid this chaos through a well-designed protocol document.

Protocol documentation ensures that all team members understand and use exactly the same data collection parameters, formats and meta data when using your information management software. This allows you to generate consistent reports that meet industry standards and expectations – even many years later.

Take a look at these protocol document guidelines that can help set up your project tracking and reporting for success from the start.

The business goal of a protocol document is to meet the specific stakeholder information management needs of your project – efficiently and consistently managing communication with stakeholders, rights-holders, communities, and the public. It’s especially essential when you get to the reporting stage, when needing to run reports you didn’t even know about at the start.

1. Developing a protocol framework.

A protocol document aligns consultation and engagement processes to your software, ensuring that all information is captured and entered in a consistent manner by all users. It sets up your project to comply with industry best practices and regulatory requirements from the beginning, and is customized to your individual business reporting requirements.

It really is the single most important document that ultimately determines the success of the implementation of stakeholder information management software such as StakeTracker. Taking into consideration the processes specific to each stakeholder, department work flows, informational and reporting needs, that are all brought together into a single document used in order to enter data in a consistent way.

2. Increasing efficiency and reducing risk.

A detailed protocol document helps to maintain the integrity of your stakeholder data. Ensuring that all users gather and enter information in a consistent way, and aligning this process with your organization’s engagement and consultation information tracking and reporting systems, helps to increase efficiency and mitigate risk.

Inconsistencies in the collection and entry of data can impact your organization’s ability to effectively keep proper records and generate accurate, relevant reports. This can lead to serious regulatory compliance and reputation management issues.

From an organizational efficiency standpoint, effective protocol documents help with project succession and ease the impact of staff turnover – as new users can refer back to protocol documentation to ensure consistency. In addition, training new employees and contractors is easier, which improves productivity.

3. As needs change over time.

Processes and regulatory requirements evolve over the life span of your organization’s consultation and engagement projects, and the evolution of protocol documents need to follow suit.

Ongoing protocol document management is a work in progress, so it is important to assign protocol ownership to a central person or team within the organization. This helps ensure stakeholder information is kept up to date and relevant, while continuously improving data usage.

4. Protocol document questions to get started.

These are just some of the protocol document questions that will help your team define the needs specific to your project.

  • What is the business need for stakeholder information management software?
  • What data needs to be entered and managed, what formats, and using which filters?
  • Why does this information need to be collected? What reports will need to be generated?
  • How should the data collected be entered into specific fields in the platform?
  • Who will be involved? Who will be responsible for training, and what happens when a team member leaves?
  • Who will be responsible for updating the protocol over the lifespan of the project?

5. Examples of protocol specifics.

These are examples of finer points to consider. A word of caution that without this level of protocol document detail, users will inevitably develop their own ways of doing things over time which introduces data inconsistencies.

  • What date format to use? (yyyy/mm/dd, or dd/mm/yyyy, or mmm/dd/yyyy, or…)
  • What naming conventions and formats best describe records
  • Whether to use accented characters? (some users may, others don’t).
  • How will you deal with email threads? (summarize all, or enter each one as a separate communication).
  • Should communication be summarized, or be recorded verbatim what each person said?
  • How will you deal with emails with threads from different time-zones? (what date/time zone do you enter).
  • Who maintains controls and approves the Master Data? (under topics, for example, someone will select ‘trees’, others choose ‘forest’; do you need both?)
  • …and many, many more!

6. Protocol documentation support services.

At SustaiNet, we offer professional protocol documentation guidance and implementation assistance for our StakeTracker clients. We have experience working with many types of industries and can help you set up the framework that will work best for you – now and in the future.

Different levels of government have different requirements, and over the years, regulations and reporting needs change. Our team has up-to-date experience dealing with regulators and the ever-changing political environment.

Working closely with your team, SustaiNet data services team helps to develop a detailed protocol outline customized to your project. We share our extensive experience and knowledge of industry best practices to ensure your organization has the highest standard of communications management and reporting in place.

7. A last word on protocol documents.

Establishing a robust, consistent and streamlined process for how your data is collected and entered to your stakeholder information management software is invaluable, and absolutely essential. Taking the care and time at the start allows you to create all kinds of reporting, without having to go back to research and re-enter information years down the road!

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