There’s a tension between how company leaders and employees see compliance. For leaders, the question is “How?”—or, more to the point, “How quickly?” (As in, “How quickly can we put a compliance program in place?” “How quickly can we provide reporting for this audit?” and so on.)
But for employees, the question is too often, “Why bother?”
Before learning about the “How” of compliance, company leaders need to look at the common sources of compliance failure. Once those are pinpointed, we get a better sense of what’s missing. As it turns out, investment in compliance activities need not focus on more leadership, more adults, or more binders filled with policies. When dealing with compliance failures, simple and efficient workflows are everything—which means investing in automation.
The Sources of Compliance Failures
Whatever the structural reasons, most compliance failures come down to a single employee or team failing to take the necessary steps. The daily compliance workflow is where the rubber hits the road, and if that workflow is burdensome or complicated, it often doesn’t get done at all.
Creating rules or policies is one thing. Many enterprise-sized companies can boast binders full of company policies and procedures created for compliance purposes. But unless those obligations are properly integrated into employees’ daily workflow, there will always be steps that “fall through the cracks.”
On the other hand, having an efficient and automated compliance workflow makes compliance tasks less burdensome.
Compliance Workflows and Compliance Automation
Compliance workflows, then, are the specific, concrete steps needed to ensure the organization is aligned with both internal controls and external regulations. Which steps are required in a compliance workflow depends on the regulations and controls involved.
Take, for example, the steps necessary to comply with data privacy laws (such as the GDPR, CPRA, parts of HIPAA, and so on). These laws are often a balancing act between right-of-access provisions and provisions for ensuring that private information is kept secure. To keep in compliance with both, any handling of documents needs to include a compliance workflow, including steps like:
Identifying the relevant workflows is just the first step, however. Even the most meticulously defined workflow will suffer from compliance failures if those steps have to be done manually for every document. This is where compliance automation comes in.
Compliance automation is the process of simplifying compliance procedures through the use of intelligent software. Taking the above example of document management, such software could automate compliance by:
Document management is just one example of an area where compliance tasks are routinely forgotten or ignored, simply because the compliance workflow can be overwhelming. Automation centralizes workflow tasks and ensures that the right activities are prompted at the right time, throughout the document’s lifecycle. The same can be done, in theory, for things like marketing and sales collateral approval, certification processes, attestations, financial reporting, and more.
Cards on the table: Our own data-archiving platform, Omni Archive Manager, was specifically designed to do the above: Automate data management capabilities, including compliance tasks, to reduce risk and satisfy legal and regulatory requirements. It was created specifically because we saw how much financial services firms were losing, either due to manual processes that were too complex, or due to outright compliance failures.
To really get serious about compliance, company leaders have to do more than ask “how” questions. They must take a hard look at what compliance looks like on the ground.
When one does that, it becomes clear that most compliance failures are a matter of compliance workflow issues. Creating a better user experience through compliance automation can relieve many of those workflow issues. Fewer compliance failures are what will truly fuel greater savings for the organization.
So many other areas of business have been profitably automated—why would compliance be any different?