Companies face regulations and laws on all sides. External entities want companies to prove they are protecting customers and the world around them to a set of defined standards. Internal employees want the organization to show they take their employment and the working environment seriously. And still other businesses must adhere to strict regulations imposed because of the industries they work in.
To address these various concerns, companies set up a system of rules and governances to ensure that the organization’s values and commitments to legal and regulatory standards are met. Known as compliance management, this system is important to keeping companies on the right side of laws and regulations. Compliance management systems and applications go one step further, offering businesses a place for logging activities and holding data for reviews and audits.
What is Compliance Management, and Why Have It?
Corporate compliance is fairly straightforward – it’s the process your company follows to ensure that laws, standards, regulations, and the ethics of your company are well defined and followed. An organization’s compliance may include governmental requirements, internal policies and rules, or both.
For companies that must follow defined regulations because of their industry or the industries they work with, compliance management is a system for training, managing, and tracking your adherence to those rules. If a question should arise, an organization can show that employees are aware of the regulations and rules and what has been put in place to ensure those rules are being followed.
Internal compliance also calls for a system of training, tracking, and management. It ensures that internal processes are in place for employees to follow, and includes everything from data security to employee actions.
In either case, actions are defined and tracked. Obviously, this is important should a question ever arise around how a company follows laws and regulations for auditors. It also provides support should an organization need to prove they are diligent in court.
Beyond that, compliance management is a proactive means of preventing problems. It ensures that everyone in the company, from the board on down, understands the role that they play in regulations and upholding a company’s values.
How Technology Plays Into Compliance
Technology has its own part to play in corporate compliance and compliance management. IT departments have their own set of rules that they must follow, while at the same time, technology provides a means to more easily track and manage compliance activities across the organization. A compliance management systems and tools keep both the larger organization and IT teams on the right track for following the organization’s rules and regulations.
Compliance activities in IT generally revolve around data storage and safety. And that makes a lot of sense. Data – business data, customer data, financial data – is the core of any business, and IT bears the responsibility of being the caretaker of that information.
For example, while an entire organization involved in healthcare must understand and follow HIPPA rules, IT has the special responsibility of defining processes to protect patient data at rest and in transit. Compliance standards must be defined and well understood around how data is stored, data security, data access, and data management.
For corporate technology, those rules can go beyond the data IT has direct control over and extend to the activities taken by the rest of the organization utilizing technology. For instance, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act – or SOX – requires that publicly traded companies retain certain documents, including emails. IT is responsible for setting up systems and policies to retain those documents and emails.
Obviously, keeping track of things like document storage and management procedures or auditing role-based system access can be cumbersome in a spreadsheet. Add in tracking and management for compliance activities beyond that – from training to internal audit documentation – and it’s easy to see why many organizations turn to compliance tools that support an entire compliance management system.
Technology tools for compliance management don’t need to add work to your organization’s IT group. Cloud-based compliance tools exist that can help corporate compliance teams document, store, record, audit, and provide proof of activities easily and quickly.
Marrying a compliance management program and system with appropriate technology tools can protect your organization from lawsuits, and even from distracting “fire drills” when proof of compliance activities are requested or required. Audits- both internal and external – become easier and the true spirit of these rules and regulations can be realized, protecting customers, employees, investors, and the organization as a whole.
If you are interested in finding out more about compliance management in your organization, SunNet’s experts are available for a free consultation.
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