If there is one over-riding theme from the recently released Evaluation of Corporate Compliance programs it is that a corporate compliance program must be operationalized. Indeed that is the theme of this month’s series of podcasts. Another way to think about operationalization is the connectedness of compliance throughout an organization. In an article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled “How Smart, Connected Products are Transforming Companies”, by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, focused on the new products. It provided some interesting insights into both the interconnectedness of processes and structures, which apply to the compliance practitioner going forward. I call it “connected compliance.” It provides another mechanism for you to consider in operationalizing your compliance program.

Process in Connected Compliance

Compliance processes are being reshaped by the data which is now available and more “intense coordination among [corporate] functions is now required.” Regarding structures, the authors believe, “new forms of cross-functional collaboration and entirely new functions are emerging.” Obviously compliance is a business process. Yet it should also be a continuous process. The data from a wide variety of sources should be used to track the types of risk that compliance professionals must manage. This begins with third parties. Continuous monitoring of third party watch lists seems almost pedestrian now yet many companies do not understand they have a continuing obligation to understand who they are doing business with, even after the contract is signed. Put simply, due diligence once every two years is a recipe for trouble. But this type of information should not only be limited to third parties’ in your sales business. You should also consider your exposure from your customers.

However, what if a large part of your company is exposed to the financial risk of a corrupt company slowing down its business? If you are in the auto supply business or even the software industry, have you considered how much of your business is at risk through your relationship with a company like Volkswagen (VW)? Most Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) risk analysis considers corruption risks involving third parties in the sales arena or vendors that come in through the Supply Chain, now, based upon the VW, Petrobras or you name the scandal, you may need to know the corruption propensity of your  customers as well.

Finally, connected compliance will help make people, materials, energy, plant and equipment far more productive, and the repercussions for business processes will be felt throughout the economy. The authors’ state, “We will see a whole new era of “lean.” Data flowing to and from products will allow product use and activities across the value chain to be streamlined in countless new ways.” For the compliance practitioner, waste will be cut or eliminated. Connected compliance will also allow a compliance solution to be delivered when certain thresholds are met, rather than according to a schedule. New data analytics will lead to previously unattainable efficiency improvements and allow you to do more business in compliance going forward.

Structures in Connected Compliance

Just as processes have evolved in connected compliance, so do structures. The classical organizational approach combines “two basic elements: differentiation and integration. Dissimilar tasks, such as sales and engineering, need to be “differentiated,” or organized into distinct units. At the same time, the activities of those separate units need to be “integrated” to coordinate and align them.” Connected compliance will have a major impact on both differentiation and integration in your company going forward.

This structural changes means that compliance will be integrated into diverse functional units of the company such as manufacturing, logistics and SC, sales and finance. This integration across functional units will occur through the business unit leadership team and through the design of formal processes for connected compliance with multiple units having roles.

This sounds quite like operationalizing compliance, exactly as specified by the DOJ in the Evaluation document. However connected compliance gives you the means and methods to think through how to accomplish this goal. You will have to coordinate between and across multiple functions within your organization. It will require the critical function of not only data management but also data analysis. What does it all mean?

Such an approach will require “dedicated data groups that consolidate data collection, aggregation, and analytics, and are responsible for making data and insights available across functions and business units.” Once again the compliance function is uniquely situated to be at the fulcrum of this connectedness. But more importantly, you already have this information inside your organization but most usually the compliance function does not have visibility into the data. Compliance must find the tools and processes to cut through the siloed nature of corporate information.

It is through connected compliance that all groups within a company will become responsible for compliance. The integration of this data into compliance is still viewed as cutting edge; nonetheless companies have this data, structured within their own ERP systems. Connected compliance will allow senior management to view information to make the business more efficient and allow a company to take more risk because the risks will be managed more effectively.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Connected compliance is the inter-relatedness of interconnectedness of compliance processes and structures.
  2. Compliance should be ongoing and a continuous process.
  3. Compliance must use data analytics tools to cut through the siloed nature of corporate data.


 This month’s podcast series is sponsored by Oversight Systems, Inc. Oversight’s automated transaction monitoring solution, Insights On Demand for FCPA, operationalizes your compliance program. For more information, go to OversightSystems.com.