The long road to compliance is a daunting journey for many companies in today’s business environment, largely because the journey never quite ends. Once compliance is achieved, companies must adapt to changing standards in order to help retain their competitive edge. Jamie Stewart, UK Managing Director of Exact, explores the potential of enterprise solutions to tackle these challenges and break down the barriers to achieving – and maintaining – compliance.

Compliance requirements are never static; industry standards evolve, and government rules and laws change. But with budgetary constraints hampering most organisations, companies are looking for ways to undertake a compliance effort without adding additional layers of bureaucracy and cost.

Even where businesses face a mandatory compliance requirement, they have to maximise efficiency to avoid passing on extra costs to their customers. While the fundamental tenet of any compliance effort is to continually improve quality, companies must also take into account their company’s brand equity and reputation, working to bolster these intangible – yet valuable – assets.

In essence, compliance requirements dictate that companies need to document what they do, do what they document and then assess its effectiveness. In theory, if the workflow and employee functions are created and documented effectively, the company should be able to provide an exemplary product or service. If that’s not happening, the compliance framework gives companies a methodical way to track down exactly where the issue is and change either the policy, the course of action or the procedure in order to rectify the situation.

When it comes to compliance, companies that decide to go it alone are in for a long, hard journey. There are tools that can make the journey easier and provide benefits to the company along the way. A good compliance support solution will allow your company to adapt quickly, and affordably, to changing compliance needs without paying for additional, customised solutions.

The right solution will also encourage your entire value chain to participate in the process, creating a 360-degree view of your company, its performance and its products or services. This information is invaluable in identifying strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and the compliance framework will help you to pinpoint and address their causes.

Compliance with industry or government regulations means that mistakes and quality issues will theoretically become the exception, rather than the rule, when it comes to the way you run your business. This frees up management from managing the rules to spend more time working on strategic business processes.

To allow your company to compete on a global scale, it is important that the information you need is centrally stored and has 24/7, worldwide access regardless of time zone or language, giving multicultural organisations a way to standardise the way they present information to stakeholders.

Ideally you should be able to generate a ‘single source of truth’ across the company, no matter who edits, updates or views it and easily identify how work moves through an organisation. It is also important that information related to compliance is available to anyone to whom it applies whenever they need it, whether during the course of their workday or after hours, allowing them to reflect on their contributions and suggest ways to continuously improve.

If policies or procedures can be updated by different stakeholders, then there must be one central place where the most up-to-date version is not only stored, but available to anyone who needs access to it.

The people that make up your organisation are the ones who make the policies, who establish the procedures that support the policies, and who take accountability for the successes and failures. A good compliance support mechanism will take into account the people that make up the organisation in addition to the continuous improvement of the end-product, whether goods or services.

A compliance support framework will add significant value if it can integrate the front-office activities with those of the back office. The human resources department must understand whether people have the appropriate training or certifications necessary to perform certain functions.

If a single solution can further provide financial reporting, budgeting analysis, and product inventory management, it can become a powerful enabler for your organisation. An invaluable compliance support mechanism will also integrate with your external stakeholders, whether customers, investors, boards of directors or business partners. This allows your company to bring customers into the procedure, providing feedback valuable to your compliance efforts.

A good system will allow your company to create a compliance ecosystem that can adapt, change and grow with the evolving compliance landscape. Since compliance itself isn’t a destination, but a way of working, the associated documentation should support that fluid environment. A truly valuable compliance support framework will be affordable to obtain and intuitive to implement, otherwise the solution itself could turn into another layer of bureaucracy for management to deal with.

Faced with complex, dynamic business operations, spread across multiple geographic territories, organisations are increasingly flocking to this structured approach to corporate compliance to manage their business environment.

As they struggle to balance tight budgets and stretched resources against more stringent regulatory requirements, a growing number of companies are recognising the benefits of having one central place where they can communicate. This helps them to manage their jobs more consistently and ultimately focus on fulfilling commitments to the customer, breaking down departmental barriers to create an accurate view of the personnel, finances, workflow, document and asset information.

Those organisations that can successfully leverage technology to meet the critical compliance requirements set out by new regulations will be well placed to integrate and consolidate all corporate data within a single platform.