The world we live in is a more scrutinized place than it was a generation ago. In our personal lives, that provides a sense of security. For companies, however, it means that virtually any activity or transaction can be used to determine if business operations comply with company, industry and/or legal standards. Companies need to not only operate according to specific rules and regulations, they also need to be able to track and audit their actions. For this type of work, workflow can be a huge asset in ensuring all aspects of business process governance, risk and compliance (GRC).
Workflow is a perfect complement to GRC because it is fundamentally about breaking down business activity to smaller steps and distributing that information to those who can address the issues or tasks. GRC concerns itself with ensuring that activities are resolved or advanced — and that the right people provide the right level of approval to enforce desired behavior.
Workflow solutions, like Process Director, use alerts and triggers to identify actions that deviate from expected outcomes and have built-in document management and storage capabilities to record the lifecycle (and history) of document versions. These solutions should also integrate with existing security and directory applications, to be able to operate seamlessly within existing application architecture.
Compliance can impact the financial and legal condition of a company. And as more companies look to their workflow frameworks, or create new ones, they create a risk and compliance environment that minimizes exposure and enhances transparency.
Government regulations are usually specific to particular industries. OSHA, the SEC, the FDA and a host of other agencies mandate an ever-changing number of regulations and policies, and adherence to them is mandatory. FERPA, SOX and HIPAA guidelines are intended to drive specific actions and produce specific results.
There are some solutions that purport to address certain regulations; they often have difficulty keeping up with changes to policies and laws. Because workflow is focused on the business and has the flexibility to change to meet changing needs, it can overlay industry-specific regulatory requirements into the routine actions of employees involved in a particular process.
Workflow tends to operate as a conductor of business processes, yet with a layer of governance built in. Process Director, for example, has built-in capabilities like digital signatures, multi-factor authentication, document usage and storage rules that can be applied to any type of document or process. And because each asset and action is tracked, your organization can analyze business functions to determine if an employee, a group, or even the entire company is compliant.
Ready for audits
Business audits are an inevitable factor of business life. Whether for internal purposes (Are we maintaining our internal SLAs? Have we met authorization standards?) or to ensure industry compliance (like Sarbanes-Oxley), there is almost always an oversight organization that requires knowledge about some past activity.
Workflow solutions offer a storehouse of transactional activity that includes timestamps, user information, and approval tracking. For whatever purpose is needed, one can see the “who,what,where and when” of every business action. This prevents employees from providing false information (either intentionally or inadvertently), and provides insights that ensure the error can be corrected in the future.
Like the insurance policy you may buy but hope to never use, one hopes to never be audited or questioned on any risk-related issue. Because the price of doing business in our global, connected economy requires adherence to certain business principles, however, it is critical to use the right tool to deliver optimal and compliant business activity.