Happy Ombuds Day from ADR Notable

It wasn’t long ago that referring to an “ombuds” would have led only to puzzled expressions in most common conversations. There has been a lot of progress however, and today the role of an ombuds has been more firmly established in government and educational organizations, and increasingly in private industry as well. This progress should be welcomed, given the clear contributions ombuds can make to the functioning of our organizations, and the skills ombuds may impart in providing their services.  

As the ombuds profession matures and gains greater recognition however, organizations are beginning to seek more accountability. Even organizational leaders who believe in the role of an ombuds are required to explain the function and justify the expense of the ombuds within the organization. This demand for accountability runs somewhat counter to the traditional way many ombuds have performed the service – with complete confidentiality and little record-keeping.  

Just a couple of years ago, it was not uncommon for an ombuds to tell me they had no use for a case management software like ADR Notable because they never kept any notes or case records. Not that they didn’t take notes – the need for some notes was acknowledged in the process of understanding complex conflicts as details emerge – only that they didn’t keep them. My reply was always the same. We designed ADR Notable to facilitate the secure storage of confidential materials, both notes and party documents, along with the ability to delete them from the case record with a click of the mouse.  

Today, we are hearing from those in the front lines of workplace conflict management that they need to address the requests for greater accountability – a means of keeping sufficient records while preserving the essential confidentiality of the process. With a little creativity and the right flexible software tool, this tension between confidentiality and accountability can be successfully addressed.  

ADR Notable allows a matter to be opened with minimal information. One ombuds noted that the party names could be initials or even fictitious. Once the matter is opened, the software affords all of the helpful features for managing a conflict, providing coaching or other comparable tasks. Checklists to ensure all of the right questions are asked and issues explored can be accessed from the Library. All those individuals involved can be identified (with or without pseudonyms), relevant documents securely gathered and stored, notes can be added, ‘to-do’ lists and ‘homework assignments’ tracked and any documentation of the outcome or agreement created efficiently from stored template forms or built in the application with clauses stored in the Library.  

Confidentiality is preserved by ADR Notable’s secure storage in Microsoft’s cloud, coupled with our one-click deletion for all notes and one more click to delete all uploaded documents. What remains is a framework record of a matter without confidential information. Over time, these records are gathered in a database of matters handled by the ombuds. Reports can then be generated from the database that are anonymous but provide details like the numbers and types of issues addressed or services provided, the time spent and the outcomes. The ombuds can use these reports to address the growing requests for clarity and accountability within their organization.  

We admire the work of ombuds and wish to extend our congratulations and acknowledgement on this Ombuds Day. We are also hopeful that ADR Notable can contribute to the continued growth and acceptance of the profession in our society. 

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