Turning a grudge purchase into a business investment

Instead of regarding compliance as a noose around your neck, why not turn it to your advantage and reap positive business benefits out of it?

Johannesburg, 14 Feb 2018
Read time 4min 10sec
Gerrie Terblanche, CEO, Deltalink Consulting.
Gerrie Terblanche, CEO, Deltalink Consulting.

Compliance with something, for example a law, treaty, or agreement, means doing what you are required or expected to do (according to the Business Dictionary). From a business perspective, compliance is the delivery by a business process of a required outcome that is prescribed by an outside party or authority.

Instead of regarding compliance with dread because of all of the resources it might consume, business should rather regard it as part of their digitalisation process, with compliance as just one of the many business benefits to be achieved, says Gerrie Terblanche, CEO of Deltalink Consulting.

Compliance is not just about managing the high risk regulatory areas like POPIA. It touches all areas of your business - statutory, finance, tax, HR, communication, customs, contracts, quality, safety, health, transport and more. Many overlaps occur due to interwoven business processes.

"Businesses of all sizes face a wide array of rules and regulations, and compliance will only become a seamless activity when it becomes an integral part of your business processes and managed as such," says Terblanche. When implemented effectively, compliance should become a monitoring activity rather than a separate function.

Compliance doesn't have to be a burden, continues Terblanche. "In fact, it's an opportunity for a business to revisit its relevant business processes with a view to integrate compliance requirements and become more efficient along the way."

Terblanche says businesses usually fall into one of two categories when it comes to leveraging digitalisation to achieve compliance. "Some businesses have already embarked on a digital transformation journey and digitalisation is already deployed with a digitilisation plan in place. They understand the need for it and the value that it brings to the business. These businesses may find it relatively easy to make compliance part of their normal business processes if it isn't already. However, those businesses that haven't even started to implement digitalisation face a much bigger challenge to manage compliance efficiently."

In the latter instance, it's advisable for the company to determine which processes involve important compliance elements and start digitising those first.

"Businesses on the whole are all too often unaware of the benefits of digitalisation, and that even applies to larger listed companies. Many companies have cumbersome processes and systems that employees avoid using because they may be too cumbersome or difficult to use. The challenge, in such an instance, is for the business to get appropriate guidance about the benefits of digitalisation in terms of simplifying and enriching processes, thereby encouraging more people to adopt and use them."

He continues: "Digitalisation and compliance are two sides of the same coin, you can't really separate them. If it's implemented properly, compliance should be an invisible activity. At no stage should it place any additional burden on the business."

He concedes that it's human nature to be resistant to change, so it can take time to get some employees to embrace a digitalised environment. It also requires that everyone needs to be on board for the digitalisation project to be successful. "The business has to commit to the journey. It has to be driven from the top down, with executive and management buy-in essential for success. Digitalisation allows for the elimination of information silos, allowing relevant information to be shared throughout the company, thereby increasing the visibility of information and processes."

One thing about compliance when it is managed as a separate function is that its level or status is not very visible throughout the business. In fact, companies all too often don't even know what their compliance status is unless there's an issue or - even worse - non-compliance is highlighted in an audit.

Terblanche explains: "Compliance-specific processes tend to measure results only and nothing that happens during the process; there's no visibility around the latter. And without visibility, you can't measure and manage, and there's no real traceability. You have to be able to identify where something went wrong in the process and why. If your processes are digitised, you get this visibility as well as the ability to holistically measure the business's compliance."

However, cautions Terblanche: "You only reap the benefits if the business actually walks the talk instead of merely ticking compliancy boxes. The business needs to live that compliancy, like with quality, and that can only be achieved through digitalisation. There no longer needs to be a conflict between doing business and compliance; the two can work together and benefit the business."