By PHILL ROBINSON, CEO OF IRIS SOFTWARE
Meeting a raft of regulations and ticking boxes is nothing new for the finance department, but the bureaucracy of compliance is still considered one of the biggest issues it faces. Despite the very nature of the function requiring it to be accountable, finance professionals still find themselves grappling with legislation and regulation on a daily basis; in order to keep up to date with current and ever-changing requirements.
For those companies lucky enough to have a compliance officer, the burden is reduced, but for those at the smaller end of the scale, the “C” word can weigh heavy on the shoulders of their accounts teams. Indeed our own research of 500 UK corporate finance departments found that for over a third of respondents (37 per cent), compliance slows everything down and almost a quarter (23 per cent) felt that the paperwork associated with it is too complex.
So why does compliance still cause a headache and catch many finance professionals off guard, especially when it is an issue that is such a constant?How can it be effectively managed, finding its way to the top of the “to do” list?
Horror or hindrance
For many finance teams and the wider business, rather than striking fear into their department, compliance is seen as something that simply gets in the way and is a hindrance to the business. From the Data Protection Act to FSA regulations around record keeping, it has no bearing on their ability to meet business objectives, achieve growth targets or help with cost reduction activities,but does hinder day-to-day operations, causing disruption within the business.
But with regulations and compliance requirements constantly being tightened and altered in response to developments in the economic landscape, accountability will become more crucial than ever moving forwards. This is backed up by a recent survey by KPMG LLP  which found that more than half of corporate finance executives rank future regulatory mandates as their highest compliance concern.
Despite these concerns and the looming threat of fines, with so many other priorities and targets facing today’s finance departments, adhering to compliance requirements can come way down the list, when in reality it is a very real issue that needs to be dealt with efficiently. But unless it is tackled head on and dealt with quickly and thoroughly, the wrath of the regulator could impact heavily on departmental efforts and achievements in a single blow, with large fines imposed for those found guilty of non-compliance.
The key is to take the complexity out of adhering to compliance; making it an easy part of the job and as straightforward as possible to tick the boxes. Whilst this might sound like a near impossible thing to achieve to those dealing with compliance, especially with the compliance regulations seeming to always change, it is important to have the right support in place to meet today’s requirements and be ready for those of tomorrow. It will prove invaluable and take the strain off finance professionals so they can remain focussed on achieving business targets and fostering growth, the fundamental aims for any business.
Softening the blow
Rather than adding another complexity into the mix, technology can provide the answer, reducing the strain on account teams and ammunition required to tackle compliance head-on, ensuring businesses are always aware of compliance changes, and able to adjust themselves accordingly.We have already seen the huge role played by technology in helping small businesses in particular to get to grips with their auto-enrolment obligations by helping them to set up pension schemes quickly and hassle free, to meet the all important June 2015 deadline.
In this scenario, cloud-based services really come into their own as, by their very nature, they are quick to set-up and can easily adapt to changing requirements and the regulatory environment. Cloud services have come a long way over the past few years to ensure the safety and integrity of data and rather than adding to the complexity of compliance, they are designed to reduce risk and take the strain off an already stretched and under pressure resource.
With new regulations and deadlines continually being set, the compliance landscape shows no signs of remaining the same. It is therefore imperative that organisations look to bring in technology that can adapt and grow with their business, to ensure that those tasked with ensuring compliance rules and regulations are being met,are armed with the best tools for the job.