The dangers companies are facing during COVID-19, unfortunately, are almost too numerous to squeeze onto a single list.
From the possible human toll to employee health through lost sales and, in some cases, a descent into bankruptcy, the reckoning some firms face can be distressing to consider.
There are, however, ways that an enterprise can leverage technology — quickly and with a minimum of pain — to mitigate some of the impacts that COVID-19 has created. Especially in the areas of risk management and regulatory compliance.
Here's a quick outlook of how companies can stay compliant during COVID-19:
- Workflow Automation
- Policy Management
- Enterprise Legal Management
- Shadow IT Management
- Enterprise Content Management
Technology is not, by itself, a panacea for all the difficulties created by disruption on the scale of COVID-19, but, applied in the right instances and in concert with the right processes and people to lead the effort, it can be much more than just a bandaid.
Here are some examples where certain technology solutions are being applied to battle back the effects of the outbreak on business-as-usual.
Why have Legal Operations units and risk management teams increasingly turned to workflow automation? For the efficiency and agility it provides, of course, but also because it has the potential to minimise human error.
At a time like this, a business may be particularly vulnerable to any mistakes that can affect compliance, or create issues within vital legal processes, such as contract management or litigation.
Another aspect of workflow automation that’s particularly noteworthy right now is how the best of these platforms allow secure remote collaboration between staff, stakeholders, and customers.
Workflows have already been drafted and released by providers that are targeted specifically at automating processes that are key to operations during the pandemic.
- Employee self-reporting workflows.
- Leveraging online forms.
- Allowing employers to screen the health status of remote workers
- Business continuity tracking processes for legal departments to assess the ability of outside counsel to continue working on matters.
- IT and support requests for ensuring work-from-home staff have the right equipment and connections necessary to their jobs.
- Travel screening workflows so managers can decide if employee travel is critical a company or customer need.
- And more.
As the crisis continues, we’ll see more of these workflows developed and released, often free of charge.
In some cases, use of the software they run on has been made available for free, too, even to companies that aren’t currently using those providers.
It’s a good way for those providers to step up, certainly, and will drive goodwill (and experience with their product).
Thanks to COVID-19, policy managers have had to react in real time in order to revise company policies and procedures to meet the new demands they’re faced with, or have had to quickly communicate existing policies and capture attestations.
Doing so using traditional manual methods isn’t efficient in terms of either cost or time when your employees are scattered to their homes, and the bigger the organization, the less feasible it becomes.
Policy management software, especially if SaaS-based and designed around user-friendliness for administrators and employees alike, can help solve the issue.
Policies can be quickly drawn up or modified in collaboration among the right decision-makers, then distributed electronically.
Another nuance is how policies that are specific to certain roles can be developed and distributed only to those staffers.
To assure timely attestation, these systems incorporate automatic reminders, and will also escalate non-responses to the appropriate supervisors for a more pointed followup.
What's another benefit of automated policy management systems at the high end of the performance spectrum?
They make tracking, analyzing, and reporting the status of a policy initiative far quicker and easier, and can help risk managers spot compliance problems even before they happen.
Enterprise Legal Management
For legal departments, the nest of unknowns created by COVID-19 probably keeps a fair number of lawyers up at night.
What are the potential risks and types of litigation a business might see stemming from the pandemic?
And how can they maintain their everyday legal efforts behind the business, from the mundane to the multinational in scope?
Enterprise legal management (ELM) platforms allow a legal department to manage these matters and processes from end to end, maintaining automated efficiencies, execution, and spend control even as the business and regulatory landscape becomes more confused thanks to the spread of the disease.
The control and visibility these platforms bring to corporate legal departments during ordinary times become incredibly precious attributes during an emergency or catastrophe, since the processes and partnerships that are part of the legal “ecosystem” are essential to business continuity.
Shadow IT Management
Many enterprises don’t have a handle on how many End User Computing (EUC) spreadsheets and other digital assets exist across their organizations.
These are the documents an employee may create using applications or tools that aren’t part of a company’s core IT, so they’re effectively outside of IT’s control.
Together, they make up “Shadow IT,” and are vital to everyday operations, but can also present serious issues.
Now that employees are working remotely, you can imagine how that might ratchet up the risk level, since a company’s business intelligence, operations, and regulatory compliance can all be affected by the data contained in EUCs.
A Shadow IT management solution can identify these hidden spreadsheets and digital assets, and enter them in a central inventory so managers gain critical governance.
They can also, in the best cases, automatically assess the risk levels posed by these assets, triaging them so managers can take appropriate action.
Enterprise Content Management
Especially in sectors like financial services and healthcare, where regulation of key processes, disclosures, and data privacy weighs heavily on a business, an enterprise has to be able to somehow collect and collate the endless stream of documents, contracts, communications, and other content it generates every hour of every day.
With employees working remotely, there’s more chance than ever that a key document won’t be visible to compliance officers or supervisors, or that competing versions of the same contract might be drafted and circulated.
Keeping track of this flood, and then meeting regulatory mandates for storing information and disposing of it at its expiry point, is impossible without an automated system to do the job.
An enterprise content management (ECM) solution automates all of the tasks involved in creating, managing, and securing a centralized repository of all this content.
Single-source-of-truth master versions of documents can be warehoused, and advanced data mining capabilities can quickly locate material or analyze stored content to extract vital insights and reporting.