Developing processes that support evolving compliance requirements

23 February 2023 4 min. read
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When it comes to running a business, there are many external requirements that need to be met. Everything from employment and taxation laws to safety and health requirements, all need to be fully understood, writes Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales APAC at workflow automation specialist Nintex. 

The challenge is taken even further when you consider organisations such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). These bodies provide frameworks for compliance that guarantee customers correct standards have been followed by the organisations with which they interact.

Expectations have been constantly evolving, and will continue to do so. For instance, during the global pandemic stakes were higher still, with businesses adhering to a fresh round of compliance restrictions.

Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales APAC, Nintex

While the general principles related to compliance have not changed, the approaches being taken certainly have.

No wheel reinvention required

Thankfully, there is no need for businesses to reinvent the wheel every time external requirements shift. By having in place sound processes that can cope with a changing landscape, a business can successfully comply with any number of changes.

The reason for this is that good business processes are actually containers for compliance. They enable a business to execute effectively within given guidelines and, when those rules change, to move with them to continue to operate efficiently and effectively.

There are three key steps a business needs to take to ensure that its core processes actually support this kind of compliance. The steps are:

Check what compliance is actually required

It should be remembered that not every new rule or regulation is going to apply to every business. Just because an office may have a small kitchen, this doesn’t mean it needs to comply to the health standards followed by a restaurant.

There are some that will apply to everyone, however, and those are the requirements with which a business needs to be familiar. Once expectations are clear, match them with existing operational processes. Next, identify where the requirements will impact them and the elements of the business that will be affected.

Integrate compliance into processes

Effective business processes capture a breadth of business knowledge, from the high-level path of operations down to details of each involved step. This information should be contained within a layered structure so users can access the level of detail they need to complete their work.

The problem with some compliance approaches, however, is that the requirements are elevated to activities when this is not actually necessary. Instead, compliance actions and steps should be integrated into the processes at the detail level wherever possible.

Where new compliance requirements have an impact on existing steps, this should be noted and added as tasks in the activities that are affected. It is handy to link or embed the relevant documentation and requirements for easy reference.

Following this, if the terms of compliance change, it will be easy to search out those documents and make the needed alterations. By retaining the overall process shape, there is no need to make broad-scale changes to processes. Business processes can remain recognisable and effective while still meeting compliance requirements.

Undertake a strategy of continuous compliance

At the very heart of continuous compliance lies a central tenet of good process management, and this is especially effective for managing a shifting compliance landscape. When new rules or regulations come into play, it provides an opportunity to examine processes for effectiveness as well as compliance.

Managers should find opportunities to practice making audits of their business processes when applying new constraints or guidelines. They should judge whether existing rules are still in effect or if there are redundant steps or outdated protocols still being applied. They also need to determine how new compliance requirements can be met with the minimum impact.

Finally, ensure that all changes are documented. An effective process management platform will highlight recent changes and notify stakeholders of updates to their relevant processes. This will ensure staff who are affected can see exactly what, if any, adjustments they will need to make.

Regulations and compliance requirements for businesses will continue to evolve during coming months and years. By being aware that these requirements can be met without a business having to undertake massive changes to existing core processes will be welcome news for everyone.