Over the course of this five-part podcast series, sponsored by Assent Compliance Inc. (Assent), I have explored the market impacts of emerging regulations on supply chain compliance and the supply chain professional. I have visited with several members of the Assent team to introduce the topic, look at Human Trafficking and Slavery (HTS), supply chain risk management programs, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) value propositions, the current state of responsible mineral sourcing and where all of this is headed. In this fifth and final episode, I visit with Jonathan Hughes, Director, Strategic Relationships. We considered how market impacts are driving the need for more technology-based solutions for supply chain management.

We began with a discussion about the use of third-party compliance platforms in supply chain risk management. Hughes noted this is something that he and his team at Assent are seeing more in the marketplace growing at what he termed an “exponential pace”. Interestingly, he believes it “keeps on snowballing, becoming more each and each year as more companies are adopting this technology. Moreover, I think it plays into each other as the more companies that adopt it, they pushed down through to their suppliers and so forth. But I think at its heart it has to do with the regulations themselves. As any compliance officer would tell you within the first few minutes of meeting them, regulations are becoming more prevalent and more complex.” A technological solution is now almost mandated from this complexity.

Hughes expounded more on this increase in complexity. He said, “if you look at the number of regulations on the book that a compliance officer had to deal with 10 years ago compared to five years ago, even compared to two years ago, then look at the number of new regulations that are being promulgated and planned over the next two, three, four, five years. It really is quite staggering.” Equally challenging for the supply chain professional is the dynamic nature of these regulations. This means is that a lot of these regulations now have room in them to change over time. Hughes related, “just with the depth, complexity and the volume of that information, the regulatory knowledge that you need to be a supply chain compliance officer is literally doubled in the last five years.”

All of this leads to a number of questions which the supply chain professional must ask when it comes to the management of their supply chain around data, evidence and documentation. Such as: How do we capture this data? How do we measure this data? How do we verify this data? How do we access this data quickly and efficiently to respond to regulators? Corporate stakeholders? Customers? Hughes believes all of this “leads to more complexity and burden on your internal programs. This leads to the need for more processes and governance. So, when you add these things up, many companies are looking for a service provider who can deliver a platform which can handle this myriad of issues.”

A challenge which I see, now almost daily, is the change in trade regulations from the current administration. When you overlay these changes on an already challenging environment, I wondered how a product and services provider such as Assent can create solutions which can keep pace. Hughes said the answer centers on the ability of the Assent platform to rapidly scale up. “Talk to most any success entrepreneurs and they will tell you one of their greatest challenges is what do you put in place that allows you to scale up, not painlessly, as it will never be painless but with is as little friction as possible.”

Hughes said this “moving yardstick” in the rules, requirements and regulations around supply chain compliance forced Assent to find a solution. A key insight Assent has found to be effective is to build “configurability and scalability into our software. This means is once you have a set of configurable rules, processes and workflow that can be applied to any type of restriction and change, you can just tweak your system as needed.”

This has allowed Assent to take these different types of trade compliance changes that “we’re seeing in almost real time” and have a product which meets these challenges. This comes through having a solution which is scalable, easily re-configured when a change comes out. Assent originally made these changes to its platform due to rapid changes in sourcing regulations. Hughes related, “it’s very fortuitous to us that we prepared to do this in one space and now this happening in another space like trade compliance. We can take those set of features and configurability and scalability and apply it to another solution. That is one of the overall benefits of being on a platform like Assent. We have these wide range of sets and features; we can often apply them to different  supply chain and compliance issues.”

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