For many people compliance isn't the most interesting of topics to discuss but for a business it is one of the most essential. New rules and regulations come into force almost daily with a never ending stream of newspaper reports about businesses failing to implement proper compliance controls.
For small and medium-sized enterprises compliance can be seen as a burden - red tape that they would rather do without. But if you want to compete with the big boys your products, services and business processes should all meet market and regulatory requirements to give you the competitive edge. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If your business is the weak link in a multi million dollar supply chain you are compromising not only your own operations but those of your supply chain partners too. You won't last long!
So, here are my top 10 compliance tips to help your business with its compliance reporting...
1. Assess your current level of compliance
Work out how much resources you are throwing at compliance, including management and staff time, and money. Doing a quick, informal audit will show that compliance is the responsibility of everyone across the organisation and not just those members of staff with 'compliance' in their job titles.
2. Centralise accountability
Make sure you have a compliance champion at board-level. Determine which department or team will oversee your organisation's compliance strategy - it's usually the legal team. Get a realistic estimate of what needs to be done and by whom.
3. Set up your compliance calendar
Do you know when your domain name expires or your WEEE reporting is due? Put all your important compliance dates into one web-based master calendar for everyone (that needs) to see. You'll be able to populate new events and other occurring business dates automatically.
4. Communicate and collaborate
Information should flow easily between the central compliance department and other parts of the business, its divisions and subsidiaries. Standardise processes and procedures and keep them simple. Establish controls for accountability and be flexible to enable collaboration.
5. Deploy a compliance productivity tool
The use of a web-based tool* can help you get the most out of compliance. Not only can such a tool take you through the risk management journey using the Plan Do Check Act cycle, but it can also provide each person in your organisation with a list of daily reminders and tasks.
6. Centralise information and use single points of contact
A web-based tool (see 5 above) can help you bring master data and information together in one place. Requirements can be updated automatically using version control, thus eliminating the need to check in constantly. Accurate due dates will be available to everyone. Nominate a single point of contact to answer any questions from workers using the compliance tool.
7. Set up your master data and information
Rationalise key company and business information so that it doesn't have to be duplicated. For example, use pre-filled, reusable forms to reduce time and improve accuracy.
8. Manage your digital evidence
Arguably the most important point. The gold standard for any organisation managing data and information is whether a court of law or tribunal will accept it as evidence, if required. Electronic confirmations of all filings can be stored in the document repository so that a complete history of everything relevant to a filing is accessible quickly and easily. You'll also need to ensure that your IT security is up to scratch.
9. Document and Publish
Document and publish your systems, procedures, check and balances so that continuity is maintained even when one key member of staff moves on to another job. You don;t want your vital compliance knowledge leaving with them!
10. Get specialist help
Subscribing to a Web-based compliance tool usually means you also get access to a vendor's team of expert compliance specialists. Demand a partnership from this vendor to get full value from their expertise.
* For example, PROMIS is a single Entry Point Performance, Compliance, Improvement for Small Organisations across Europe