Why is Wasting Time a Compliance Issue?

Michael Nyhuis

Why Time-Wasting Might be an Issue for Compliance, Legal and Audit

Time-wasting might seem like a line management issue; something that should be managed within ' and only really affects ' a team.

But if we dig a little deeper, wasting time might actually be something that your chief compliance officer, general counsel, auditors and in-house legal teams should pay attention to.

Not only is wasting time a poor use of your organization's resources, but it can also be a symptom of chaotic practices and poor processes. And these can increase the potential for regulatory breaches ' which definitely are something that concerns compliance, legal and audit teams.

How Much Time Do Your Colleagues Waste Looking for Documents?

It's a perennial problem. Your marketing manager, a member of your sales team, or another of your client-facing people is looking for that sales presentation...that brochure...that product flyer ' and they KNOW it exists. But can they find a copy, in print or on the system? No.

They're up against a deadline. There's pressure to find the documents and send it on.

So, what happens? Rather than spend more time searching, they re-create it. Or cobble together parts from a couple of existing documents they CAN find. Job done.

In businesses, this type of scenario plays out every day. And with proper documentation required for many businesses, the amount of records produced grows, and the importance of flawless document management increases.

A much-quoted McKinsey study from 2012 calculated that workers spend nearly 20% of their working week looking for internal information. More recently, a 2017 survey by UK office product firm Fellowes shows that office workers waste over 1 million hours a week searching for misplaced documents, at a cost of ''20 million a year in wasted time. The research also found that half of UK workers have documents that are over a year old on their desks.

Why Does This Concern your Compliance, Legal and Audit Leaders?

At first glance, this type of office disorganization may not seem a compliance issue. But it is. Chaotic filing and storage, whether in hard or soft copy, that makes it difficult to find documents, can easily lead to regulatory breaches. Using snippets of old documents as the basis for new ones risks non-compliant documents being released to the market.

Say you work for a consultancy or advisor. A member of your client-facing team is going to visit a client, and wants to take along a copy of a slide deck they remember seeing.

But nobody in the marketing team is around to direct them to a hard copy, and they can't access the file on the system. Either they decide to go without, or they take the home-made route, creating their own version. And here the problems begin.

There is every chance that they will find outdated corporate data ' AUM, office information, performance statistics ' in previous documents, and copy that into the one they're creating. The potential for non-compliant collateral is immense.

Then there's branding ' which can often cause as many compliance team rejections as regulatory breaches.

Poor content management means that people lack easy access to professionally designed documents, or templates, that enable them to be easily recreated. Consequently, people tend to take matters into their own hands. Stretched logos, off-brand fonts, unapproved imagery ' the list of potential branding misdemeanours is long.

How to Tackle Document Disorganization

The good news is that, although chaotic document management can impact good governance, there are some simple actions organizations can take to tackle the problem.

1. Improve the way you file existing documents

Having an ordered way of storing financial promotions is important, and not just because it saves colleagues time.

Keeping a compliant audit trail is an essential step in meeting requirements including ISO 22301 and the ITIL regulations governing areas like education, pharmaceuticals, energy, finance and the public sector. And as we've said, making it simple to find existing, compliant collateral makes it far less likely that people in your business will go off-piste to create their own.

2. Make it easy to create compliant new documents

Where people do need to produce new materials, workflow software simplifies the process of creating on-brand documents. Real-time collaboration ensures editors always see the latest version of a document under review. Creating a searchable online library of pre-compliance-team-approved wording, data and other content means people can find the information they need. Ensuring that on-brand templates are readily available, with correct fonts and imagery, negates brand inconsistencies.

3. Make the approval process intuitive and straightforward

Document approval can be a chief cause of logjams. And because of the time it can take to get sign-off on new materials, it can be tempting to swerve the compliance team approval process.

But this is a false economy. The potential for branding and regulatory breaches is amplified if the business fails to get documents approved before publication ' and the remedial actions needed to address any slip-ups can take far longer than any approvals process would.

Workflow software can be invaluable in making your approvals process as seamless as possible and preventing people skipping the necessary Compliance sign-off.

The Benefits of an Organized Approach to Digital Assets

Whether documents are lost in a disorganized office, or buried in an unintuitive online filing system, marketing, sales and other corporate documents that are hard to find can create problems for compliance teams.

Robust marketing compliance is increasingly important in a world of growing legislation and regulatory expectations around good governance ' anything that makes it harder to achieve compliance is bad news.

Get it right, on the other hand, and you will reap the benefits ' in terms of time- and cost-savings, and reliable approaches to governance, risk and compliance.

And if you want to find out why more and more organizations are turning to automation to increase regulatory compliance when producing, approving and archiving marketing materials and other collateral, you can request a free demo of Diligent's market-leading compliance software.

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Michael Nyhuis
Michael Nyhuis is the former Director of Audit & Compliance at Diligent and a modern governance expert with over 25 years of experience.