From an enterprise perspective, the realm of compliance involves an adherence to laws, policies and regulations designed to, as examples, minimise or prevent illegal activities and misconduct, maintain data integrity and data security and safeguard the privacy of employees, customers, suppliers and intellectual property. Meeting and remaining abreast of compliance standards is a topical issue for all businesses, irrespective of size, industry or geography.
From the outset, we can say that regulatory compliance is not simply here to stay, but likely to increase in the near future, a view shared by our partners at UiPath. A Deloitte poll from 2017 - “Modernizing compliance: Moving from value protection to value creation” - highlights this point. In surveying a range of C-suite, audit, compliance and risk management professionals, close to half (44.1%) of respondents expected regulatory enforcement activity to “increase in the next 12 months”.
An interesting insight from this poll was the perceived challenge to modernising the in-house compliance function.
It would seem that RPA has a clear role to play in the enterprise compliance space, as businesses delve ever deeper into digitisation strategies.
How can robotic process automation contribute to compliance modernisation?
1. Basic human error is often the starting point of a compliance breach, therefore it makes sense to tackle this issue at the source. In a previous article, we outlined a number of key benefits of robotic process automation, one of which was the minimisation of the risk of error by relieving employees of monotonous, repetitive and ultimately error-prone functions (think data entry).
Combine this with RPA’s inherent improvements to data accuracy and you have a solid framework for reducing common compliance headaches.
2. Reliance on software robots for data management provides an efficient method for data collection, registration and administration for compliance purposes. According to Sean Tinney, Vice-President Finance & Accounting Services at Sutherland Global Services, RPA allows for sensitive data to be accurately anchored to a certain time.
Further, it makes it easy to track - e.g. to know at at all times who has accessed what data, and when it was accessed, changed or removed from a system. All these are necessary steps for data security.
3. As a mechanism that warrants data integrity, robotic process automation provides a useful tool for stricter controls over sensitive information, such as customer financial data, credit card details or account credentials.
Sean Tinney gives a simple explanation: when software robots are around, no human needs to have access to highly sensitive data. It can all be managed by robots and deleted after usage. RPA can therefore contribute to lowering the risk of fraud.
4. Automation is ideal for monitoring and control because of its efficiency in collecting, aggregating and assessing large amounts of data. Therefore it is also a very useful tool to promote the executive function for compliance services, or what Deloitte labels “compliance oversight”. The same monitoring capacity provides the necessary infrastructure for testing the conformity of a plethora of processes with regulatory requirements.
5. The ability of robotic process automation to serve as an interface or “bridge” between multiple data sources and multiple, unconnected applications increases its potential to minimise data gaps that may ultimately lead to compliance breaches.
6. The digital workforce of automation can be entrusted the task of compiling the reports that must be submitted to regulators periodically. Sujata Dasgupta, BFS risk and compliance consultant for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), emphasizes that human employees might be assigned the less time-consuming job of simply revising the reports put together by software robots.
7. For all the minimisation and preventative measures outlined above, formal compliance audits will still occur and these will often involve processes touched by automation workflows. Fortunately, robotic process automation is flexible in its ability to generate output reports, ranging from standard trace logs to detailed transaction level data. In this way, RPA lends itself to being highly auditable by design.
Regulatory compliance is constantly changing and evolving, with regulators and the public at large demanding ever higher standards from the businesses they interact with. Robotic process automation can ease the burden of compliance, fulfill higher standards of data maintenance and security and therefore make an important contribution to enterprise compliance modernisation.