Compliance in Dynamic and Distributed Business

Compliance is not easy. Organizations across industries have global clients, partners, and business operations. The larger the organization the more complex its operations. Adding to the complexity of global business, today’s organization is dynamic and constantly changing. The modern organization changes by the minute. New employees come, others leave, roles change. New business partner relationships are established, others terminated. The business enters new markets, opens new facilities, contracts with agents, or introduces new products. New laws are introduced, regulations change, the risk environment shifts (e.g., economic, geo-political, operational), impacting how business is conducted.

The dynamic and global nature of business is particularly challenging to compliance risk management. As organizations expand operations and business relationships (e.g., vendors, supply chain, consultants and staffing) their risk profile grows exponentially. To stay competitive, organizations need systems to monitor internal risk (e.g., strategy, processes and internal controls) and external risk (e.g., legal, regulatory, competitive, economic, political and geographic environments). What may seem insignificant in one area can have profound impact on others.

In an ever-changing business environment, how does your organization validate that it is current with legal, regulatory, policies, and other obligations? 

Compliance obligations and ethical risk is like the hydra in mythology—organizations combat risk, only to find more risk springing up. Executives react to changing compliance requirements and fluctuating legal and ethical exposure, yet fail to actively manage and understand the interrelationship of risk and compliance. To maintain compliance and mitigate risk exposure, an organization must stay on top of changing regulatory requirements as well as a changing business environment, and ensure changes are in sync. Demands from governments, the public, business partners, and clients require your organization to implement defined compliance practices that are monitored and adapted to the demands of a changing business and regulatory environment.

The Inevitable Failure of Compliance Silos

Compliance activities managed in silos often lead to the inevitable failure of an organization’s governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) program. Reactive, document-centric, siloed information and processes fail to manage compliance, leaving stakeholders blind to the intricate relationships of compliance risk across the business. Management is not thinking about how compliance and risk management processes can provide greater insight. This ad hoc approach results in poor visibility across the organization and its control environment.

A non-integrated approach to compliance risk management results in these phenomena, each one feeding off the last:

  • Redundant and inefficient processes. Managing compliance risk in silos hinders big-picture thinking. Little thought goes into how resources can be leveraged for greater effectiveness, efficiency and agility. The organization ends up with a variety of processes, applications and documents to meet individual compliance needs. The result: a major drain of time and resources.
  • Poor visibility across the enterprise. Siloed initiatives result in a reactive approach to compliance. Islands of information are individually assessed and monitored. Departments are burdened by multiple risk and compliance assessments asking the same questions in different formats. Limited visibility across the risk landscape ensues.
  • Overwhelming complexity. The lack of integrated processes introduces complexity, uncertainty, and confusion. Inconsistent processes increase inherent risk, more points of failure, and more compliance gaps leading to unacceptable risk. Mass confusion reigns for the organization, regulators, stakeholders, and business partners.
  • Lack of agility. Reactive risk and compliance strategies managed in information silos handicaps the business. Bewildered by a maze of approaches, processes and disconnected data, the organization is incapable of being agile in a dynamic and distributed business environment.
  • Greater exposure and vulnerability. When compliance is not viewed holistically, the focus is only on what is immediately in front of each department, at the expense of enterprise-wide co-dependencies. This fragmented view creates gaps that cripple compliance management and a business ill-equipped for aligning compliance initiatives to business objectives.

Compliance Risk Management: Does Your Organization Walk its Talk?

Organizations operate in a field of ethical, regulatory, and legal landmines. The daily headlines reveal companies that fail to comply with regulatory obligations. Corporate ethics is measured by what a corporation does and does not do when it thinks it can get away with something. Compliance risk management boils down to defining – and maintaining – corporate integrity.

Most companies today at least try to address the legal requirements and compliance obligations bearing down on it. However, the role of compliance is quickly changing. Compliance today is more than checking boxes on regulatory to-do lists, more than finding and fixing problems. Compliance and governance is evolving from scattered silos to a strategic enterprise pillar.

Today’s business entity must ensure compliance risk is understood and managed company-wide. That its obligations are more than written policies, but part of the fabric of operations. That a strong culture ensures transparency, accountability, and responsibility as part of its ethical environment. A strong compliance program requires a risk-based approach that can efficiently prioritize resources to risks that pose the greatest exposure.

The Bottom Line: Yesterday’s compliance program no longer works. Boards desire a deeper understanding of how the organization is addressing compliance risk, whether its activities are effective, and how they are enhancing shareholder value. Oversight demands are changing the role of the compliance department to an active, independent program that can manage and monitor compliance risk from the top down. The breadth and depth of compliance risk bearing down on companies today requires a robust compliance program operating in the context of integrated enterprise risk management.

Check Out These GRC 20/20 Compliance Management Resources . . .

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