“Ignore this warning at your peril!”
Have you ever come across a sign like this? Perhaps at the beginning of a harrowing mountain trail. Or the sign with a picture of a snake baring its fangs?
Watch where you tread lest you stand on a viper!
This is a little like the warning signs of ignoring compliance rules. Perhaps not deliberately ignoring them, but just being so overwhelmed with paperwork and spreadsheets that you lose sight of what must be done when and by whom.
What is regulatory compliance?
Regulatory compliance is an organization’s adherence to the industry-specific laws, policies, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business processes.
Each industry has its own set of compliance regulations which are determined by the nature of the operation, however there are standards that the government applies across the board.
These compliance laws cover areas such as:
– Human Resources (hiring, firing, etc.)
– Accounting and financial probity
– Workplace health and safety
– Production methods
– Procurement methods and ethics
– Due diligence
– Freedom of Information
– Risk Management
– …and more…
Why do you need to be compliant?
Besides the obvious reason that being compliant keeps you on the right side of the law, compliant companies can leverage this in other ways, such as:
– Being compliant builds trust with your customers.
– Secure processes improve efficiency.
– Compliance across industries promotes fair competition.
– Data is more secure.
– Legal problems are significantly reduced.
– There is better health and safety at the workplace.
– Better quality products and services are produced.
– There is less risk.
– Being compliant can be used as a marketing tool (proven by audit reports and certifications).
– Reputable companies have a better corporate image (PR).
– …to name a few
In the end, compliance rules are there for a reason –
to protect customers, consumers and the industry.
Ethics and sustainability?
These are reasons on their own and deserve a little more attention.
Beyond staying legally safe, there is the fundamental question of ‘ethics’ and its partner, ‘sustainability’. In recent times, these have become buzzwords, but the truth is that companies do indeed have social and environmental responsibilities. Organisations cannot be just about profit at the expense of people and the natural world.
Transparency reduces corruption.
In a world where underhand corruption and bribery still festers, monitoring regulations to enforce compliance rules can be a hard task. However, the days are (hopefully) coming to an end where you say:
“Everyone is doing it, so I have to in order to be competitive.”
If the bent of human nature means that there will always be criminal dealings, at least the pressure on governments and companies by consumers can help put into place stricter controls. And should companies be thinking just with their “profit” heads, if they are exposed for their suspect dealings, the negative PR effect should give a direct blow to the bottom line. This will hopefully be a motive for responsible business practices.
Most companies would rather compete on a fair, level-playing field and corruption undermines that. Organisations need to have confidence in their service/product and not resort to devious means to gain business or contracts.
The global marketplace (and each industry and region) needs to create a business environment where policies and procedures are respected and enforced, due diligence is carried out, audits are clear and there are open reporting lines.
Management has the task to create a strong culture of reputable behaviour with swift discipline for any contravention. As leaders, they need to raise the bar and lead from the front, rewarding exemplary behaviour and not tolerating dishonest conduct.
What happens if you don’t comply?
To be compliant, you are required by an outside authority (often a government) to perform certain obligations to comply with regulations – and there are consequences for not doing so.
Fines and Imprisonment
Compliance regulations are legislated by a government, a trade association, or certification body and following these protects a company from legal entanglements and financial consequences. If you do not comply, you will have to face the force of the law with fines and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violation.
Besides the financial hit, there is a fundamental loss of credibility and the trust of your customers, which means a loss in profit. A company’s name and reputation directly affect its business performance.
Health and Safety
By not following health and safety regulations, people could get hurt, sick or lose their jobs.
Ignoring standards could result in an inferior product.
Uncompetitive, Unfair Business Practices
By circumventing the rules, even going as far as outright bribery, for example in procurement, you are stepping into unfair dealings which undermine competitive markets.
If you are a government organisation, you need to be aware that you are dealing with public money and will have to give an account for how you handled it, especially in terms of ethical and sustainable procurement, fair labour practices, and clear financial audits.
How the right compliance software solution can help you
What does compliance software do for you?
If you haven’t been stranded on an island for the last 10 years, you will most certainly be aware of the need for “digital transformation” in business, with particular emphasis on business process automation to manage business procedures. Here are some of the reasons BPA helps ensure compliance.
Secure Audit Trails
How can process automation help with compliance? In multiple ways, but fundamentally –
“By tracing every action.”
Bert Myburgh, founder of EBMS, a VendorPanel company
Every action – from a log-in to a contract renewal – is digitally recorded in a secure database. This creates a secure audit trail.
With all the data digitally secured, it can therefore be reported on in many different ways depending on the insight you which to gain.
Automated Workflow and Encoded Compliance Rules
By using a solution that allows for configurable workflows, compliance rules can be encoded into the automated process.
By digitising and storing company data in a secure location, it is more secure and more reliable.
Besides data security, by having a clear authority structure in place access permissions can be set by role and thus help with security controls and establishing lines of responsibility. Also, it is easier to see the red flags if something is not as it should be.
Automating compliance puts in place checks and controls to make it hard for that chance – the one who walks close to the line and likes to step across it – to find a gap to dodge compliance rules.
Other Benefits of Automation in Compliance Control
With automation comes a range of useful benefits:
– Automated notifications and reminders (never miss a deadline)
– Task assignment
– Electronic signatures
– Searchable data records and a document repository
– Searchable libraries of policies and procedures
– Fewer human errors
– Faster and more efficient procedure/process flow
– Quick to update as compliance regulations change, especially if using low-code development
– No unnecessary duplication and double-handling
– Task assignment and follow-up
Online government applications, e.g. online/cloud-based procurement gateways, reduce the face-to-face discretionary choices by making everything emotively neutral and the choices are made on merit alone.
Don’t suffer by being ignorant of potential compliance breaches and blatant corruption – there are ways to feel secure that you are fully compliant. Make wise choices and use the tools out there, such as the software solutions available, which will save you a lot of trouble and pain.
By Jeannie De Vynck