The Future of Compliance: 19 Observations about the Impact of COVID-19

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With the coronavirus on the loose, the always-challenging world of corporate compliance has grown even more difficult. In today’s post, I’ll share 19 observations on what the job of following the applicable laws, rules, and regulations is likely to look like in today’s brave, new post-COVID world. This will help you determine what to expect in compliance during COVID-19.

Nowadays when you hear the word “compliance” in a non-business context, it’s likely to have to do with whether people are obeying directives to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

In the business world, compliance means the same thing it always has: obeying the rules, laws, and regulations put in place to protect workers, customers, and the environment and make sure the business competes fairly and pays its taxes.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a thick new layer of rules and regulations to business’s already heavy compliance obligations.

Here are two things that can be said about this new layer of requirements:

  • The new rules vary dramatically by locality.
  • The rules are in flux, and even the experts don’t necessarily know or agree on what the rules are.

I wish I possessed inside information on how the compliance picture will evolve or how the pandemic will shake out.

I’m basing this list of compliance during COVID-19 insights on what I have to go on. This includes what I’ve learned from the news and my network, and the insights I’ve picked up in my twenty-five years’ experience of being a business continuity consultant.

Compliance During COVID-19

Based on that, I would make the following 19 observations about compliance after the advent of COVID-19:

  1. Compliance has always been about doing our best to protect the enterprise. It still is.
  2. Compliance has always been hard. Now it will be harder.
  3. Compliance today is in the same position information security was 20 years ago. Remember when network security was limited to giving everyone a user ID and password? Infosec has come a long way in the past two decades. Compliance will travel a long way in the next two.
  4. No one knows how long COVID-19 is going to be a serious problem.
  5. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has happened, it has stretched people’s understanding about what can happen. Moving forward, the world of compliance is going to reflect this shift.
  6. Out of sight cannot mean out of mind. Even when people are working at home, the organization and its employees must still comply with the relevant rules.
  7. The pandemic has shown the vulnerability of many organizations’ supply chains.
  8. Companies should work toward incorporating compliance and business continuity language into their supplier contracts moving forward.
  9. The above is easier said than done, I realize. Trying to place conditions on a contract with a Microsoft or a SalesForce is like trying to push an aircraft carrier. But I think that over time we’ll see a shift in this direction.
  10. Compliance is going to extend its reach in most organizations.
  11. Chief compliance officers will come to report higher up in the organization than they do now.
  12. Compliance will come to integrate closely with business continuity and IT/disaster recovery (IT/DR).
  13. Companies who do well at compliance will find that it brings them a competitive advantage, especially if they can prove it in their sales presentations.
  14. Companies have seldom if ever been in such a pickle as they are now with COVID-19. Compliance in this environment is a moving target. Even so-called compliance experts might be wrong. And both the rules and the situation are in rapid flux.
  15. Is it really worth it to spend big money revamping your office to meet the coronavirus rules? What if we have a vaccine in six months and the problem tapers off? Maybe it would be best to limp along in a remote or hybrid model until we see how things develop.
  16. On the other hand, if your competitor bets that COVID is here to stay and invests now in adapting to it—and they turn out to be right—they might have a head start on you that will be hard to make up.
  17. It’s all about perspective. I recently talked to a client in Israel who said, “COVID doesn’t scare us. We have to live with bombers and rockets.”
  18. Don’t be surprised if today’s COVID guidelines are tomorrow’s requirements.
  19. The compliance challenge for business will go from being theoretical to practical as more companies try to bring their employees back and return to a semblance of normal activity.

A Competitive Advantage

The coronavirus pandemic has made the already challenging task of complying with the relevant laws and rules even more difficult for business. The rules about COVID-19 vary greatly by locality and are in a high state of flux. In the near term, a wait-and-see attitude about revamping workplaces might be wise for those organizations that have other options. In the future, companies that are diligent about compliance will probably enjoy a competitive advantage over more casual organizations.

Further Reading

For more information on the compliance during COVID-19, the COVID-19 pandemic and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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