Depending on whom you ask, compliance either means an unpleasant duty keeping you off your daily tasks or a means of optimizing your business workflows and generating benefits for your company. Whichever side you pick, one thing seems to be certain: Compliance always goes hand in hand with a lack of flexibility. The measures required to meet compliance standards seem to make it impossible for organizations to organize workflows flexibly.
Crazy Little Thing Called Compliance
In simple terms, the word compliance describes the adherence to rules, regulations, norms and guidelines, as well as to voluntary codes. Being compliant means sticking to rules. Not being compliant can mean penalties, sanctions and a damaged company reputation. The financial crisis and recent events in investment banking result in repeating calls for laws enforcing responsible behavior, especially for the financial sector. Bankruptcies also call for improved compliance and risk management in companies and tighter laws. Not only manufacturing companies are affected by these, well, irregularities, as the FIFA corruptions scandal once again proved.
In recent years, compliance standards have gained importance because changing forms of company organization require processes and measures intended to guarantee compliance. Steep hierarchies are on the retreat while flat hierarchies based on loosely connected units are on the rise. This new way of structuring organizations leads to changing requirements for the adherence to rules, external as well as company-internal guidelines, rules and corporate policies.
For certain sectors compliance is of specific importance, e.g. medical technology and the healthcare industry. Healthcare compliance is paramount when it comes to developing new medical products.
Benefits of Compliance
Compliance loses its sting when one considers the numerous benefits it offers:
- Compliance means security
Raised skill levels of staff lead to improved profitability and a positive company image
- Compliance minimizes risks
Potentially dangerous developments can be identified more quickly
- Compliance creates confidence
An ethical code of conduct and legal security leads to credibility which in turn leads to confidence. Being trustworthy and reliable is an important market advantage.
- Compliance saves money
Compliance is a sustainable investment. Changes initiated by compliance measures can be transformed into improved rentability, e.g. by executing audits more quickly and avoiding financial consequences of non-compliance.
What Time Is It? Compliance Time.
According to a study by Aberdeen Group1, only one in three companies regards compliance as a company-wide concern. It is not surprising that Best-in-Class (BiC) companies more often than not do so. On a related note, successful companies often do not need external requirements to become active, internal policies as well as the desire to protect the company and its brand already results in compliance measures.
In the study mentioned, aptly named Sustaining Compliance. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Security Audit., one of the interviewees remarked, “They asked me, ‘Are we compliant?’ and honestly I wasn’t sure. We were compliant on Tuesday at 3 pm, but who knows what has happened since then?”
A strategic, organization-wide approach to compliance can be found in BiC companies significantly more often than in the industry average. The analysts conclude that a well-conceived and integrative system is the prerequisite to meet compliance standards, a system that integrates all of the staff and that creates a common awareness for the importance of compliance.
My Name Is Compliance, I Come In Peace
Existing rules and regulations lead to concrete requirements for organizations. In order to implement compliance requirements organizations must
- define processes and operations,
- guarantee availability of information and
- monitor processes and operations.
These measures apply to organizations as well as to small organizational units, departments or projects. For many, the biggest concern is the loss of flexibility in the execution of projects. Pre-designed workflows, rules and processes create a stiff system in which all staff members blindly follow orders.
This concern is unfounded; at least if you design the system in a way that supports flexibility from the onset. Laws, rules, norms and guidelines only provide a framework, designing individual activities is completely up to you. The best way is to establish a workflow that helps you to meet standards and is independent from individual persons while at the same time supporting the work of individuals. This will help you to master audits and implement changes to your processes and operations. At the same time you’ll want to support each team member and grant freedom.
Compliance and Flexibility
Compliance and Flexibility can go hand in hand if the processes and operations are designed to do so. Software allowing you to plan, execute and manage your project based on your methods is a decisive factor. This way you establish workflows and keep track on compliance at all times.
Genuine flexibility requires software that is highly customizable. Only then can you design workflows the way you want and define processes and operations according to your needs and requirements, and provide your team members with a working environment enabling each and every one to meet the requirements of all the ISOs, DINSs, ANSIs and SPICEs out there.