Information Compliance is the discipline of aligning organizational information practices with international, governmental, regional, and industry-specific regulations. In the private sector especially, it can be considered a grudge purchase; a necessary evil; a bugbear; and something which organizations invest in reactively when forced to do so (usually in the face of an audit, or as a result of financial loss after litigation).
Even in the public sector, where there is budget and scope to pursue compliance without the urgency imposed by a competitive market – achieving a high level of compliance against these regulations can be difficult.
The Need for a Holistic Approach to Compliance
Most organizations that have a primary focus on cloud adoption, systematic modernization, hybrid-work transformation, collaborative team workspaces, workflow automation, and artificial intelligence. In all of these things, there is an element of compliance that is required – and organizations tend to focus on the more security-centric elements of this: “how do I stop the theft of my data from cyber-attacks?”.
There is more to compliance than just security and data protection, though. Some regulations require that organizations identify and manage special types of information such as privacy, healthcare, or financial data. Other regulations impose an obligation for retaining information for a specific time period, or require the efficient management and categorization of data, such that it can be retrieved as part of an eDiscovery or data subject request. The repercussions for not adhering to these regulations can include legal punishment, significant fines and reputational damage – and this has led to the creation of corporate, chief and regulatory compliance officer, and compliance manager positions, in order to handle these functions..
Why Organizations Are Struggling to Make Profit
All information is not created equal. The bits and bytes which make up a Word document containing this week’s lunch menu at the cafeteria, are identical to the bits and bytes which make up the Word document containing a list of an organization’s clients and their credit card numbers – yet those two pieces of information have a very different value to the organization (no one has yet made headline news when their corporate lunch menu was leaked by hackers).
Basically, our inability to differentiate between types of information within the organization is at the heart of many of our liabilities and inefficiencies:
- It limits our ability to find and re-use content, a recent study by the IDC found that employees spend up to 4.5 hours a week searching for information, another study by IBM found a similar figure of 19.8% of the average employee workweek attributed to the same thing. It limits our ability to implement automation.
- It creates unnecessary IT overhead, when IT is unable to differentiate between business-critical information and disposable working documents, they should therefore invest in protecting both with the same efficacy, which is costly.
- It limits our ability to automate, because creating document-specific automation workflows requires that a system is able to accurately find and identify documents of a particular type.
- It increases our storage costs, because IT is forced to adopt a “keep everything” policy due to the inability to differentiate between business-critical information and ROT (redundant, obsolete and trivial) data.
- It makes it difficult for us to implement compliance with our retention and recordkeeping, because we don’t know how many records remain unfiled in our collaboration space and on people’s personal OneDrives. This drives up both the cost and liability of compliance.
How to Leverage Compliance as a Business Asset
Ultimately, most of the groundwork required to pursue an organizational transformation for compliance will address these issues. The process of becoming compliant will force an organization to understand its data, classify it, document informational lifecycles and develop informational workflows. The resultant information landscape will benefit from increased productivity, reduced overheads for finding and re-using content, reduced storage costs, reduced admin overhead for employees, cost-effective automation, reduced IT management costs, a more-focused information security strategy with cost benefits, and lower costs for retention. In addition, the lower levels of compliance risk and liability are insurance against regulatory fines.
If you build all of that into a solid business case, and an informational vision – you will be surprised to find that there are sufficient opportunities for savings and efficiency to make the journey a profitable one.
If set up strategically and in alignment with your compliance functions and growth trajectories, regulatory compliance can be an opportunity to grow and make a profit. With a more focused approach on your compliance efforts, you can save overhead costs and place your organization at the forefront of regulatory compliance accountability.
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What’s in it For You?
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