Finding Compliance’s Silver Lining

At a time of intense global competition and high shareholder expectations, it’s all too tempting for CEOs to give compliance issues back-seat priority. Yet they have little choice but to take heed of the thousands of pages of arcane legal code which have the power to shut down their businesses and – in extreme cases – put them behind bars.

SAP’s upcoming two-part Corporate Compliance & Governance Webinar Series will take a closer look at the threats – and the hidden rewards – of implementing sound compliance processes. Participants will have access to a rare, insider’s view of how smart companies are making the critical leap from following the book to rewriting it – and how they’re turning compliance into a strategic advantage over their competitors. Broadcast in real time, the webinar webcasts will allow participants to monitor discussions and participate in question and answer sessions. Individual webcasts will also be made available on demand over the Internet, either in their entirety or in edited segments.
“The series is a rare opportunity for business leaders to hear what the experts have to say about corporate financial compliance, and about how to build a firm IT foundation for the future,” says Neetin Datar, director of product marketing for SAP Trade and Compliance Applications. “We’ve brought together an impressive group of experts from across all disciplines. This series is a must-see for anyone who is serious about profiting from corporate compliance.”

Business Finance: A new perspective on information-intensive regulation

“Business Finance,” the first part of the series, is sponsored by SAP and Business Finance Magazine. It will be divided into three webcasts, which include “Sustainable Compliance”; “The Future of Auditing Standards”; and “Best Practices in Compliance and Governance”. Top experts from the business, consulting, legal and IT communities will explore top compliance issues, including Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), Basel II, the U.S. National Do-Not-Call Registry, the EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), the U.S. Clean Air Act, the Kyoto Protocol and the Denied Persons List.
“The rigors of filing, reporting and documentation aren’t new to corporate executives,” explains Datar. “What is new is the sheer volume of recordkeeping that must occur under the newer regulations, particularly SOX. By deploying the proper IT tools and implementing the right compliance processes, businesses can not only follow the letter of the law, but also reap unexpected cost savings and efficiencies across the enterprise.”

Managing automation: two sides of a complex compliance equation

The second part of the webinar series, “Managing Automation,” will explore the double challenge manufacturers face as they seek to synchronize compliance with their manufacturing and business finance processes. The webinar’s three webcasts – “Organizing for Compliance,” “Automating for Compliance,” and “Managing Compliance” – will cover key relevant topics, including SOX, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), FDA rules on electronic records and electronic signatures (21 CFR Part 11), the Tread Act, WEEE, and the USA PATRIOT Act.
Participants will interact with experts on a wide range of topics, including planning an IT strategy for automation; integrating a compliance strategy with IT architecture; making the right systems and software investments; and managing related costs and personnel. “Integrating both sides of the equation is critical for manufacturers,” says Datar, “and IT can enable the necessary infrastructure. For compliance to work effectively, manufacturing and finance must be deeply integrated. That means that processes and systems must be built on top of stable, flexible platforms like NetWeaver that allow companies to reuse compliance-critical information in all areas of their businesses.”

The drive toward sustainable compliance

The webinar series is expected to devote a great deal of discussion to sustainable compliance – an approach which seeks to achieve cost-effective compliance objectives over the long term. It is the guiding principle behind flexible compliance applications and systems that help companies stay ahead of the compliance curve. While all major software developers offer compliance solutions, many are only stand-alone applications – expensive programs that require disruptive, time-consuming, customized installations that are difficult to integrate.
Rather than approaching compliance as an isolated, task-specific process, for example, SAP offers its customers a more holistic approach with composite applications – programs that easily “snap on” to existing IT systems, regardless of the company’s existing platform. Integration is greatly simplified, and costs and downtime are significantly reduced. Datar says that the companies who chose to integrate their compliance solution with other parts of their business will achieve valuable synergies. “An IT compliance solution will work to the extent that it is integrated with existing systems. It’s what allows a business to leverage more of its existing IT assets for the future,” explains Datar. “Those companies who develop a long-term vision for compliance now will clearly well positioned for the future.”

A firmer foundation for compliance

As businesses seek to extract added value from their compliance efforts, the platform upon which an individual compliance solution sits becomes crucial. Flexible, system-agnostic platforms like SAP’s NetWeaver will become increasingly important as companies seek to leverage their legacy systems to achieve compliance. At the same time, the flexibility of compliance applications will become a necessity.
In a dynamic regulatory environment, companies who are saddled with stand-alone solutions will be at a clear disadvantage. As the amount of compliance-relevant data generated by a firm’s disparate systems continues to grow exponentially, the inflexibility of stand-alone solutions threatens to drive up compliance costs: Although they’re highly effective at solving a limited range of compliance tasks, they are expensive to upgrade and maintain. “A company’s ability to respond quickly and flexibly will be critical in the new regulatory environment,” says Datar.
As the second SOX deadline rapidly approaches, forward-thinking executives are focused not just on meeting the letter of the law, but also on ensuring that compliance processes produce value, greater transparency and stronger shareholder value. “In the initial phase of SOX, all eyes tended to focus on the up-front costs of compliance,” says Datar. “The upcoming seminars will show how smart companies are leveraging IT in new and exciting ways, and how they’re reusing their investments to achieve sustainable compliance and long-term value.”

Corporate Compliance & Governance Webinar Series

Business Finance (with Business Finance Magazine)
Webcast 1: “Sustainable Compliance,” Month XX, 2005
Webcast 2: “The Future of Auditing Standards,” Month XX, 2005
Webcast 3: “Best Practices in Compliance/Governance,” Month XX, 2005
Managing Automation
Webcast 1: “Organizing for Compliance,” Month XX, 2005
Webcast 2: “Automating for Compliance,” Month XX, 2005
Webcast 3: “Managing Compliance,” Month XX, 2005

Jeff Reich