BY: Stacey Pisani
Technology Enabled Business Solutions
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Designing and implementing a new compliance Information Management System (IMS)—or improving an existing one—is not a task to be taken lightly. Change when it comes to any IT system is significant because of the investments of time, money, and resources required, not to mention the disruption to the current way of doing things. That is why it is important to do your homework before jumping in with a system that, if not properly designed, may not meet your needs in the long run.
The following eight tips can help ensure you end up with the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools for your organization:
- Inventory your existing systems – Identify how you are currently managing your compliance needs/requirements. What’s working well? What isn’t working? Do the systems work together? Do they all operate independently? This inventory should evaluate the following:
- Current systems and tools
- Status and functionality of existing processes
- Data sources and ability to pull information from various sources
- Organizational complexity
- Compliance status
- Existing management systems
- Determine your business drivers – Are you looking to save time? Create efficiencies? Reduce the number of resources required? Have better access to real-time information? Answer to senior management? Respond to regulatory requirements? These drivers will also drive the decisions you make when it comes to module development, dashboard design, reporting, and more.
- Understand the daily routine of the individuals using the system – Systems and modules should be built according to existing daily routines, when possible, and then implemented and rolled out in a way that encourages adoption. Having a solid understanding of routine tasks and activities will ensure that the system is built in a way that works for the individuals using it.
- Understand your compliance requirements – Do you have permitting requirements? Does your staff need training? How do you maintain your records? Are there regular (e.g., annual, semi-annual) plans and/or reports you need to submit? Do you have routine inspections and monitoring? All of these things can and should be built into a compliance IMS so they can be managed more efficiently.
- Get the right parties involved – There are many people that touch a compliance IMS at various points in the process. The system must be designed with all of these users in mind: the end user entering data in the field, management who is reading reports and metrics, system administrator, etc. A truly user-friendly system will be something that meets the needs of all parties. If employees are frustrated by lack of understanding, if the system isn’t intuitive enough, if it is hard to put data in or get metrics out, the system will hold little value.
- Make your wish list – While you may start your project one module at a time, it is important to define your ultimate desired end state. In a perfect world, how would the system operate? What parts and components would it have? How would things work together? What type of interfaces would users have?
- Set your priorities, budget, and pace – What is the most important item on your list? Do you want to develop modules one at a time or as a fully functional system? It often makes sense to start where you already have processes in place that can be more easily transitioned into a new system to encourage user buy-in. Priorities should be set based on ease of implementation, compliance risk, business improvement, and value to your company.
- Select the right consultant – For a compliance IMS, it is valuable to have a consultant who doesn’t just understand technology but also understands your operational needs, regulatory obligations, and compliance issues. An off-the-shelf software solution isn’t a silver bullet. A consultant who can understand the bigger picture of where you want to go and will collaborate to design the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools will bring the most value to your organization.
That is exactly the forward-thinking perspective Kestrel takes on all projects—thinking beyond individual efficiency tools, considering the desired state, and determining how technology can make that happen. By coordinating technology and compliance expertise, Kestrel offers unique capabilities and perspective. Our EHS and food safety professionals understand the regulatory obligations, business needs, and needs of the users. This drives design and development of the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools. That includes the time it takes to develop, adapt, and populate your compliance IMS, including:
- Understanding the bigger picture of where you want to go. We ensure your system is scalable and flexible; upfront planning enhances the outcome more efficiently.
- Collecting and organizing the information in a way that reflects how you conduct business and that aligns with other systems/processes.
- Offering guidance on compliance best practice and what modules and level of customization will bring you the most value.
- Providing as needed compliance support (e.g., review of existing forms and checklists, program improvement, development of training content, compliance audits, audit protocol).