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Back in school I never liked “showing my work,” or “showing how I arrived at my answer,” to a question on a homework assignment or test. Perhaps it was my perennial bad penmanship or an innate inability to explain my less-than-straightforward reasoning to someone else in an approach that made sense to anyone but me. In any case, allowing other people to review and audit my work was uncomfortable.

It’s much with same with today’s public companies. Unfortunately for the companies—but fortunately for the stockholders—companies today are being required by regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, the Patriot Act, and even internal compliance standards, to “show their work” and be able to document processes, procedures, and business reporting. Like it or not, compliance standards are with us to stay and growing at a rapid rate in most markets. The result over the past few years has been a rush by IT and business managers to ensure that they can meet compliance requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). Often—as makes sense—organizations have focused merely on meeting the initial regulatory deadlines and requirements. In some cases, companies have turned to solutions like business process management (BPM) to help automate the definition and monitoring of business processes and meet their SOX compliance issues.

But—just as the requests to “show my work” that I heard back in school didn’t stop until I graduated—compliance requirements are not going to stop at basic SOX implementation for most companies. Luckily, that’s where a BPM implementation can really benefit a company. BPM is not only a very effective approach for creating processes to manage SOX requirements, but it’s an effective approach for managing broader compliance requirements as well.

In most cases, compliance requirements require basic definition, monitoring, and auditing of key business processes. But BPM is also effective for moving beyond basic compliance auditing and reporting (not activities that specifically add value to an organization by themselves) but also into the area of on-going compliance management and business process change. Think of it this way: defining and monitoring a business processes is good, but being able to easily modify and manage it through multiple revisions is even better.

In fact, many organizations haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about compliance issues beyond the initial need to meet compliance standards. For example, once an organization has implemented a compliance solution, how can they effectively maintain, modify and fix compliance-based processes or create new ones that leverage existing process steps? Looking down the road, creating an effective compliance solution is not simply finding a way to meet the initial internal or external compliance requirements or regulations, but it’s really about finding a way to create an efficient and strategic structure for addressing compliance issues in an on-going way.


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