I have been exploring what I see are the key changes for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance professional and compliance programs as we move to reopening the country and world for business from the Coronavirus health crisis. Covid-19 has accelerated, literally at warp speed, many of the developments in compliance which have been percolating up and are changing the basic nature of corporate compliance away from a legal response to the legal issue of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement to a business response.

Today, I want to conclude this three-part series with how the compliance function can develop digital tools coming out of Covid-19. I drew inspiration from an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, entitled Four Skills Tomorrow’s Innovation Workforce Will Need by authors Tucker J. Marion, Sebastian K. Fixson, and Greg Brown. While the main thrust of the article was around the new skill sets needed, the authors concluded their article by focusing on the structural component of digital transformation. As I see it through the eyes of the Compliance Evangelist, I would call it further operationalization of compliance through both digital transformation and the structure of compliance.

The authors found “tensions between well-entrenched managers and digital talent may thwart transformation”. Yet, through restructuring, senior leadership can signal that digital transformation in compliance is critical for the future of the organization. From this point the compliance function can work with an internal digital product design group. By doing so, the corporate compliance function can work with a team dedicated to supervising the development of the new compliance solution through product design, testing, and analysis, which will include customized generative design and analysis tools. Top management can signal the importance of the compliance digital transformation by using this dedicated team as spearheading the compliance function’s digital transformation development process.

One way to foster greater operationalization of compliance in the form of a digital transformation would be to “form a digital group that floats from project to project across the organization”. This would put both digital experts and compliance professional collaborating over digital transformation projects across multiple businesses units and geo-regions, providing input to both the business unit involved and compliance function.

Another way to foster greater operationalization of compliance, would be to create a structure similar to one used by Apple, “have internal venture teams to develop new products. Others are now doing so with a generational twist by creating new venture teams made up entirely of millennials and centennials to come up with new products and processes.”  Another company had “its youngest employees to conceptualize and implement a new way to connect patients, doctors, and the company during clinical trials for its products. Those employees used their native expertise in mobile technologies and social media to keep all stakeholders informed and involved.” Once again there was clear support from senior management who let this apparently disparate group run the development, without allowing the rest of the organization to interfere. Finally, the entire effort was “funded by an internal venture capital panel, the project was tested, and eventually the company rolled it out to a wider audience. All too often, such projects are killed after their conceptualization, but companies that institutionalize entrepreneurial ecosystems can substantially improve their ability to innovative.”

Reflect upon these strategies for a moment from the compliance perspective. Might there be any better way to more fully operationalize compliance than by having non-compliance professionals take the lead on developing a compliance digital transformation? This is not to say that the compliance function would not have input but by bringing in millennials and centennials to come up with compliance solutions around compliance processes could add a level of engagement that is not often seen. Moreover, the use of millennials and centennials to help design the solution would provide insights that frankly us Boomers do not have on how to engage. That might make such a strategy very forward thinking.

Further, this could work to bring the talent together for compliance initiative “in which all the talent works together in a continuum, from hardware-focused experts to digital natives, from baby boomers to centennials. That’s how many design and innovation companies now function, with older designers using sketches and hand-formed foam prototypes while recent graduates go right to CAD software.” The authors also believe that using a variation of this type of generational team approach can be effective if used together. If today’s CCOs and compliance professionals can learn through this process how younger designers work and then wed this to the younger digital transformation designers developing a deeper sense of what they were doing from their more mature compliance professional, it could blend the best of multi-generational talent to more fully operationalize compliance in a manner not often considered. Work towards a goal of all designers, regardless of age, using digital tools for project management, communication, and collaboration.

One of the great things I love about the compliance world is that we are only limited by our own imaginations. If you can imagine a better way for your company to fully do compliance, it is at your disposal to do so. Yet rarely do we think about the structure of how compliance activates  as a way to more fully operationalize compliance. By identifying and bringing in the skills needed to move forward with compliance innovation, you can help kick-start the compliance operationalize process through a digital transformation of your compliance regime. By doing so, you may make all the difference between success and failure coming out of the Coronavirus health crisis as the world reopens for business.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2020