Why Compliance Management is Process Management and vice versa – and Why It Matters!

There are certain parts of the business that are in the headlines all the time and capture a lot of attention as a result.  There are others which lurk in the shadows until something goes wrong, and that’s when they receive the sort of attention they actually deserved all along. 

Compliance management is one of those.

The term compliance, in this context, refers to how a business complies with relevant requirements imposed on them externally, as well as internal processes that have been set up to manage risk and improve efficiencies.  And when you’re small in size, this is relatively easy to keep a handle on.  But as a company grows, both in size and complexity, compliance management becomes more difficult to maintain – and that’s where you have to be smart about it.

Why Compliance Management is Process Management

Good compliance management is a key operational requirement for any business that wants to remain robust and sustainable over the long term, operating in a uniform yet scalable manner.  So, compliance management is just as much process management as it is about sticking to the rules. Effective management of your processes is the mean for ensuring compliance and running your business efficiently:

  • It ensures that your processes are aligned with your company’s business goals and values. The mission and values of a business have to be ingrained into the fabric of the operations if they are to have any meaningful impact, and compliance management is one of those areas where you can integrate long-term goals and in a way that honours the company culture you’re trying to build and provides guardrails for what is acceptable in the pursuit of those goals.
  • It ensures that your internal and external requirements are enforced effectively. Rules and regulations have no power if they are not enforced, and chance is that they are also not enforced if they internally are perceived as cumbersome and non-value-adding, so good compliance management is about adding structure, support, and continuous improvement. 
  • It creates a unified approach across all operations. As a company grows, it tends to bifurcate into silos, which can lead to a vast range of different processes and systems.  Effective compliance management helps to rein that in creating one unified approach which delivers knock-on benefits in terms of standardization, speed of execution, and reduction of work duplication.
  • It forces you to think in a systematic way. A common misconception is that compliance management only matters for industries that are highly regulated.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Compliance management is very useful for forcing system-based thinking and sound operational processes that help companies scale sustainably, enabling them to grow into something that outlives initial founders or key personnel who may seem irreplaceable.  As far as operational strategy goes, strong compliance management is one of those priorities whose benefits compound over time.

Compliance Management goes well beyond mere rule-following.  It talks about the structural integrity of an organization, its process foundation, and its capacity for growth.

With that in mind, let’s look at what makes for effective compliance management.

5 Principles for Effective Compliance Management

  1. The processes, compliance controls, and documentation level needed to be commensurate with the complexity and criticality of the business needs.  In order to achieve this, it requires efficient use of systems and tools that are agile and flexible – while still maintaining the required level of process control.
  1. Good compliance management helps to unify processes and create standardization across multiple areas.  And once you have standardized your processes, this also opens the doors for innovation and automatization of your processes and controls.  This will be increasingly important with various automation and AI solutions starting to make a splash in the industry.
  1. Compliance needs to have buy-in from the very top if it’s going to be at all effective.  Without the explicit and implicit endorsement of key leadership personnel, the efforts become mere lip service and don’t receive the focus they deserve.  There is a certain perception and company culture that bleeds down from the top here, and compliance and process management needs to enjoy management support because that’s what filters down throughout the organization.
  1. Too many compliance considerations are applied right at the end of a process as some sort of quality gate afterthought.  This is a mistake.  Good compliance management is an integral part of operational processes, right from the start.  If it is not baked into the very nature of day-to-day operations, then it simply becomes a bottleneck that isn’t fit for purpose.  It’s implementations like these that make employees resent compliance.  However, if it’s a natural component of how business gets done, then it achieves its goals and becomes increasingly powerful as a counterbalance to a speed-at-all-costs attitude.
  1. Continuous Improvement. A strong compliance management implementation is not a static one but one that continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.  That is why it is important that the compliance management process includes collecting learnings from the execution of the processes and gathering data about the performance of compliance management and its impact on the overall business so that they can be continually improved upon.  This is achieved through setting targets in advance, and then using those as frameworks for accountability – slowly iterating towards the most optimal strategies.

Now, let’s look at some more strategic considerations when implementing or optimizing your compliance management process.

5 Prompts for Executing on Your Compliance Management Process

Now that you’ve internalised the principles, let’s get a bit more tactical:

  1. Have you defined a role that is responsible for ensuring that the assigned project work is done in accordance with defined processes? If there isn’t anyone who is accountable for ensuring process compliance, then it’s just a wish.  Deploying a specific role to ensure process control in the day-to-day business operation is the key driving force behind executing on the sort of compliance management that will push your business forward.
  1. Does that person have the requisite training, competence, and mandate to execute on what is required? It’s important that you equip your compliance personnel with all the skills and knowledge that they need to execute on what is quite a challenging role.  Without that support and guidance, you are going to get sub-optimal results, and it’s going to impact on the project’s standing within the organization.  Spend the time and resources needed for proper training, and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches down the line.
  1. Does your process ensure that the role is properly onboarded? Building on the point above, the way that the role is onboarded into the organization also matters a great deal.  The timing here is crucial if you are to successfully integrate compliance and process management into the wider company structures.  In addition, the way you integrate the new role says a lot about how much you value it – so keep that in mind from an organizational change management perspective.
  1. Are your processes supported by relevant tools and templates? It’s not to say that you should document things for the sake of it, but there will be a range of activities that need to be documented, so it’s worth systematizing those as much as possible.  Using checklists and templates is really helpful for standardizing processes and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
  1. Do you capture learnings from your compliance management processes? In order for this to really work, be living, and evolving you should be gathering data on a regular basis about how the processes are being utilised.  This feedback is crucial information to continuously refine your setup and make iterations, improvements, and automations over time.

How to Get Started on Your Compliance Management Journey

This can all be a bit overwhelming if you’re looking at this topic for the first time, so here are some recommendations for how to get started, dipping your toe into the compliance management pool:

  • Start small with an MVP. A minimal viable product (MVP) refers to the smallest and quickest prototype that you can develop to test a certain concept.  Identify the low-hanging fruits within your organization: where will compliance and process management be easiest to implement and/or have the greatest business benefit.  Reduce the complexity in the beginning and focus on the principles.  With success, you can continue to build from there – but don’t let perfection get in the way of getting started.
  • Clarify your goals and ambitions for compliance management as a whole. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll never be able to build anything of substance.  Take the time to articulate your goals for the project, and you’ll be much better placed to make it happen.
  • Map out the existing processes as a starting point. As with any change, it’s worth mapping out how things currently work so that you have something to work from.  Spend some time identifying how your business is currently being executed and how mature the processes governing this actually are.
  • Clarify lines of accountability. Makes sure you clearly set out where the responsibility and accountability for compliance and process management should be anchored.  Depending on the nature of your business and organizational structure, this can be a central unit or responsibility built in-to individual business units.
  • Build evaluative capabilities in right from the beginning. Take your time to ensure that learnings can be captured and analysed so that the processes can be measured objectively with as tight a feedback loop as possible.  This will pay serious dividends over the long-term.

We Can Help!

Here at INVIXO, we are passionate about helping our clients build strong process management frameworks that enable them to reach their full potential.  We have years of experience in the space and pride ourselves on exceptional service and world-class implementations that are governed by our internal compliance and process framework.
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