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What Is Compliance?

Compliance can be defined as observance, conformity, and obedience. In business, compliance generally designates the requirement to adhere to certain rules or laws, meet certain standards, and follow certain practices. Compliance standards can originate from external, as well as internal sources. A compliance requirement may be mandatory or optional and they can encompass virtually all aspects of the business environment – from financial and trade to regulatory and environmental. Customers and collaboration partners can also drive compliance adoption. Compliance becomes an important factor in a company’s ability to compete effectively as customers and collaboration partners increasingly require companies to follow certain practices or meet their specific standards. From tax reporting forms to how you place a label on a box for a customer, compliance requirements help drive the ways in which businesses operate.

Understanding the origin of compliance requirements enables appropriate prioritization and risk management. Compliance requirements that your organization must adhere to may be based on your ownership structure, management practices, location(s), and the market(s) in which you wish to participate, as well as your specific industry, customer, vendor, and bank affiliations.

External Drivers
External compliance requirements – whether they are driven by industry organizations, regulatory agencies, banks, trading partners, vendors, or customers – are top of mind among organizations today. Governments generate many regulations directed at businesses, too, and these regulations often provide the business community with the greatest challenges with regard to compliance. Many government regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 21 CFR Part 11 and the Food Safety Modernization Act, target specific industries and businesses while some apply to all businesses. Government compliance regulations reach across the entire spectrum of business operation activities – from tax collection and reporting, to verification of manufacturing quality and material tracing capabilities, to corporate governance.

Internal Drivers
Managing internal compliance requirements is becoming even more important for organizations. The need to develop and maintain internal controls and corporate content policies and rules such as deciding what documents to save and what to delete, data and document access rights, email attachment rules and management best practices – to name just a few – is driving compliance adoption across organizations.

A complete understanding of the sources of compliance for your organization can help you plan ahead and adopt and retire compliance requirements as those requirements and your organization evolve. The next focus for compliance management then becomes: “How do I adopt a new, strict structure of compliance requirements and keep current compliance actions intact while enhancing my organization’s profitability, and its abilities to innovate, adapt, and optimize?”

Information Technology plays a key role in helping companies manage an effective compliance program and enforce compliance requirements internally and externally. Technology enables the collection, analysis and control of enterprise-wide data, delivering the crucial information needed for intelligent business decisions. Ideally, this means establishing a viable compliance program and having compliance requirements integrated into business management systems like Microsoft Dynamics AX - enabling companies to transform compliance requirements into business benefits and a competitive advantage!