Why and How to Move to Tech-Based Compliance

Mary Oyerly

For compliance management teams today, the phrase “doing more with less” is both a pressing priority and a seemingly impossible dream. Proliferating regulations in business areas from cybersecurity to fraud are adding to their workloads, which are often already cumbersome due to manual processes across spreadsheets, email chains and multiple cloud platforms. Talent and budget shortages exacerbate the situation even more.

A recent survey illustrates the costs. Nearly half of respondents said they spend 20,000 employee hours a year on compliance activities, and a majority said that compliance eats up at least 40 percent of their security budgets. Compliance obligations can also put a damper on business growth. In fact, a full 58 percent of survey respondents called them “a significant barrier” to entering new markets.

If there was ever a time to optimize compliance management with a tech-based approach, that time is now. Resources are out there waiting to be leveraged: robotic process automation for repetitive tasks, optical character recognition for searching and extracting data, centralized platforms, intuitive dashboards and one-click reporting capabilities — the list goes on.

The benefits add up as well. Shifting from manual to tech-based operations improves a compliance team’s efficiency and effectiveness, freeing them up for activities that deliver long-term value.

Why Move to Tech-Based Compliance?

Here’s a breakdown of the many ways technology can strengthen compliance operations.

Centralized — and Streamlined — Management

For tasks involving multiple parties and data sources, disconnected manual processes slow things down and make things unnecessarily complicated.

Know your customer (KYC) checks are one example. To get the information they need, compliance teams may need to search multiple public databases and reach out directly to customers via numerous disconnected email chains. These inefficiencies add up — and compromise the customer experience.

Then there’s storage to consider. Teams may manually file documents into one SharePoint system, then need to retrieve them and upload them into yet another portal — all tasks that take time.

Employee turnover complicates the situation even more. Without a good document management system in place, processes like customer onboarding might take longer than necessary and important information might fall through the cracks.

A centralized, technology-powered platform address many of these challenges: consolidating information, accelerating processes and improving visibility across a single source of truth, for both individual customer accounts and overall operations. Moreover, maintaining a consistent set of policies and regulatory data across the organization improves incident mitigation.

Increased Accuracy

Consolidating compliance activities into a single place enables an accurate, data-driven picture of an organization’s compliance status. But that’s not all.

Manual processes in areas like data input introduce the chance of human error, with one typo potentially proliferating across multiple reports and systems. Automation decreases this risk. It also decreases the odds of something slipping through the cracks when you rely on employee-sent nudges and emails for infosec audits, security questionnaires and evidence requests — particularly as regulatory obligations and requests for information increase.

Optimized Reporting

Gone are the days of periodic reports with the same metrics year after year. Today’s regulatory requirements are ever evolving, especially in areas like cybersecurity standards. Also increasing are stakeholder demands for data.

A tech-driven approach to compliance management enables organizations to meet expectations on both fronts. Tools like continuous monitoring solutions and automated reporting can help your organization efficiently share the right information with the right people at the right time.

Improved Transparency and Alignment

How do compliance activities align with the rest of the business, particularly in terms of outcomes? External stakeholders like investors want to know. How do business controls map to regulatory requirements? Internal leaders need to know so they can identify gaps and develop a plan for remediation.

Tech-enabled tools for functions like entity and third-party management can help your organization achieve visibility and transparency, especially as vendor risk becomes a rising priority. They can also help you keep up with the growing array of regulations at the state, national and international levels and embed the latest regulatory information in  your controls framework.

Consider the employee health information more and more organizations collected as a matter of course during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a tech-based approach to compliance, your organization has more assurance that its practices adhere to relevant cybersecurity laws — and earlier warning if a breach exposes this information to unauthorized parties.

Enhanced Value to the Business

A structured, rigorous and automated compliance management program allows you to prioritize your organization’s most important regulatory obligations. But cost-saving efficiency is just the beginning of a technology solution’s value.

With a technology-based approach, activities are fully traceable and evidenced. Furthermore, automation in areas like audit requests and internal controls free up compliance team members for activities like investigations and risk score analyses, while also giving IT security staff more time for cyber priorities like new malware and emerging threats. Meanwhile the enhanced view of compliance and ethics performance empowers compliance teams to serve as trusted advisors to senior leadership.

Important Considerations and Next Steps

Don’t let potential roadblocks derail the powerful advantages of tech-based compliance. Think and plan proactively in terms of:

  • Costs: Look for a solution that fits in your budget and fully scales to what your organization needs today and tomorrow.
  • Leadership buy-in: Build a strong business case for the investment — quantifying automation’s potential to increase efficiency, for example, or a centralized platform’s ability to help your organization reduce the risk of regulatory fines.
  • Resource allocation: Set aside the proper time and investment for an effective implementation.
  • Training and culture change: Clearly articulate why you're making the shift from manual to tech-based compliance and support these communications with training and resources.

To choose the right project and achieve a smooth and strategically advantageous transition:

  • Set clear objectives
  • Identify and prioritize the specific manual processes and critical inefficiencies the project will address
  • Evaluate key risks
  • Spotlight quick wins that will encourage stakeholders to buy in

Improve the efficiency, accuracy and visibility of your compliance management program. Learn more about Diligent regulatory compliance management.  

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Mary Oyerly
Mary Oyerly, Senior Specialist at Diligent, has experience working across the B2B and B2C SaaS sector and supporting the needs of corporate and not-for-profit business leaders. She has worked extensively with governance technologies and how they can drive improved visibility, efficiency and compliance across the business.