There are countless methodologies and strategies in business that are all designed to improve the operational sustainability and financial growth of organisations in all industries. While many of these processes are viable and useful, the key to making them truly effective is to have a cohesive approach across the organisation. Like an engine, your business only works in optimal fashion when every part is functioning properly. When this is achieved, there will be tangible, quantifiable evidence that your business is firing on all cylinders; that it is ticking over like a well-oiled machine and, perhaps, even accelerating. Without a cohesive approach, however, you are left with an inefficient and slow-moving operation.
It is the job of management personnel to create cohesion because it requires oversight of the entire business. This is achieved through governance, using well-crafted policies and procedures. In developing consistent and effective governance for the business, management personnel need to work to create a comprehensive compliance programme for implementation throughout the organisation. This ensures that there is a clear set of guidelines, available to all, that is specifically devised to enable staff to take a cohesive approach to compliance requirements.
What is a compliance programme, and why is it important?
At its most fundamental level, a full and effective compliance programme serves to ensure that the business complies with all the laws and regulations that apply to its operation. This includes those businesses that are active in multiple territories, as well as those with extensive multi-industry supply chains. Compliance programmes hold much more potential than that, though, and when used properly, can also serve to increase sustainability and growth.
To harness the power of a comprehensive compliance programme, it is vital to understand its impact as well as its objective. When fully developed, a compliance programme is an invaluable risk management tool, consistently generating proof of intention with regard to laws and regulations, in order to protect the interests of the business, over and above the interests of the individual. When a business can prove with documentation that training has been provided and that the necessary policies and procedures are in place, for example, then the burden of liability is much more likely to be placed upon the individual, rather than the organisation, in terms of fines levied by regulatory authorities.
The robustness with which the compliance programme is designed and deployed therefore mitigates risk to the organisation with regard to external regulatory investigation. However, the process by which the compliance programme is devised and deployed in a cohesive way within the organisation ensures effective risk management is woven throughout the business. It is not just about having a policy that states the intention to adhere to law or regulation, it is about having the processes and training in place to execute the minutiae of that policy, and to have that form the corporate culture, consistently, throughout the business. It is about detailing exactly how compliance will be encouraged and achieved, step by step, on a daily basis. It is about the practice of compliance, as opposed to the mere commitment to compliance.
Part of ensuring that your compliance programme is consistent throughout your business is making sure that those policies and procedures are closely tied to every existing process in the enterprise, including the area of Contract Management, and the software used to deal with it.
How does Contract Management Software support your compliance programme?
Your contracts are the core of your business because they regulate the flow of work, money, and goods internally throughout the organisation, and externally, with third parties. Every aspect of your operation is governed by contracts, including your premises, equipment, and workforce. For this reason, your contracts should be a central part of your compliance programme – because tying your compliance programme to these legal documents ensures your corporate culture of compliance is disseminated across all relationships within your enterprise. This is vital because every agreement represents risk for your business, and your compliance programme is designed for risk management. A close connection between the two therefore builds the cohesion necessary for success.
In order to closely connect your compliance programme with your contracts, Contract Management Software is needed. This platform-based digital solution enables you to place your compliance programme right at the heart of every business relationship, and every agreement made. Overall, Contract Management Software helps you to build the cohesive approach you need across your organisation, and the individual features of the system also support specific areas of compliance.
- Audit trails
One of the clearest ways your Contract Management Software supports your compliance programme is through the automatic creation of audit trails. The platform design is enhanced by permission-based access, which means that every user action is logged. This generates transparency and accountability and enables authorised personnel or regulators to trace every access, change, and new document back to the user responsible, with documentary evidence. While the audit trails provide actionable data in terms of Contract Management and the overall improvement of efficiency within the organisation, it also acts as a deterrent to sabotage and theft, as well as aiding investigation into issues after the fact. This supports both internal reviews conducted in conjunction with your compliance programme, and also scrutiny from external regulatory authorities.
- Customisable reporting
Compliance is supported by effective data capture and analysis, and Contract Management Software delivers this through customisable reporting. This feature enables you to generate actionable data at all levels of granularity, detailing the performance of your contracts, and their levels of compliance in the context of the parameters of your compliance programme. In terms of risk management, this is highly advantageous in that regular use of this customisable reporting feature allows for the prevention of compliance issues, as well as the swift remediation of problems that arise. Taking this proactive approach provides you with the information necessary to address failures and weaknesses in your operation before they become regulatory or legal infractions.
Documentation – including your contracts and supporting files - is an integral part of your compliance programme because it serves multiple purposes.
- It constitutes proof that your compliance programme is designed to be closely tied to all the processes and procedures used throughout your business.
- It builds the adherence to the compliance requirements of your business into each of the relationships and agreements across your enterprise, helping to mitigate risk, and ensure compliance with regulatory and legal requirements.
Using digital solutions with a high degree of automation supports all your business processes, but automation in Contract Management Software specifically supports your compliance programme by removing the risk of human error from the most basic and fundamental contract management tasks. This reduces the risk of personnel either inadvertently or maliciously breaching compliance guidelines within the context of your contract collection. Along with the generation of customisable reports and audit trails, automation within Contract Management Software includes the creation and maintenance of workflows, which means that notifications and alerts are delivered to the right person at the right time, with details of tasks to be completed. Within the context of your compliance programme, this supports data security and timescale agreements, and also enables a proactive approach to decision-making and remedial actions.
Contract Management Software provides the ideal solution for disseminating your compliance programme throughout your business relationships and agreements by providing the opportunity for standardisation. By storing all your contracts and supporting documentation in a centralised repository, you are able to create a library of standardised templates, clauses and language, which can then be used by authorised personnel working on your contract collection – either in the creation of new documents, or in completing reviews and amendments to existing agreements. Used in this way, standardisation is an effective risk management tool, as it ensures that the guidance contained in the compliance programme is factored in to the drawing up of each agreement. This is also vital for effective third party governance.
Compliance is an area in business that is constantly changing – perpetually buffeted by political and legal changes across multiple territories and global market areas. Cohesion between your compliance programme and your Contract Management processes remains key to the success of your organisation, though, so scalability is an essential requirement of any solution. Contract Management Software, such as Symfact, delivers scalability as part of its package of compliance-supporting features, which means that the platform incorporates enough flexibility to ensure the system remains responsive and efficient as your business grows.
Whichever industry your business operates within, and regardless of whether your operations are domestic or multi-national in nature, Contract Management Software provides all the features needed to support your compliance programme, ensuring its purpose and processes are accepted, upheld, and adhered to throughout your organisation. Contract Management Software is designed with risk management and compliance in mind and, because of this, the very implementation of such a system goes a long way to maintaining high levels of compliance, in and of itself.
Contact Symfact today to arrange your free demonstration.