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Compliance Projects – An Enormous Challenge for Compliance Departments

Legal and compliance departments have to deal with a constant stream of new regulations. At regular intervals, we receive news of changes via new laws, standards, recommendations and best practices. There are any number of current examples: The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) new guidelines for evaluating compliance management systems, the European Parliament’s “Whistleblowing Directive”, and the German Government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights are just a few of them.

The Pressure Builds

There’s no doubt that compliance departments rightly see themselves as constantly “under fire”. Even as new regulations arrive, these departments are often still busy dealing with compliance requirements from previous years and just setting keeping up with basic objectives. In concrete terms, this means creating essential compliance training courses, revising outdated codes of conduct, and providing management with regular reports on compliance issues.

Limited Resources

But even as compliance requirements have been changing constantly for years, the volume of work has increased, and compliance has become more important and complex, compliance departments often have not been noticeably enlarged. Management rarely supports steady growth in compliance departments, despite the increase in their responsibilities. As a result, nothing changes within the legal and compliance departments. Management fears a cumbersome “administrative apparatus” which complicates business processes and distracts from the company’s actual goals.

The result: Compliance officers work with standardized compliance policies and checklists which don’t genuinely protect the company. They can do little more than pick the “low hanging fruit” and plug the largest holes.

Compliance Project Management – Professionalism and Necessity

This dilemma will only continue to intensify. For example, the U.S. DOJ Guidelines mentioned above strongly emphasize the importance of allocating sufficient resources to compliance – The word “resources” appears 42 times in only 18 pages.

In order to cope with these diverse challenges and fulfill expectations in this area, specialized departments must discover other effective methods and implement them efficiently to at least partially compensate for the disadvantage of scarce resources. One such method is project management.

What is Compliance Project Management?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements”. Meeting project requirements is typically a gradual process involving the following steps:

  • Define the project goals
  • Develop a project plan
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Describe necessary resources
  • Continuously monitor progress
  • Document project progress
  • Close the project

Project management offers various tools and aids, from the roadmap to the workstream overview. These tools foster implementation, especially of complex tasks.
Effective project management cannot solve all problems. However, it can help compliance officers to better structure necessary tasks, obtain targeted support from management, and keep an eye on priorities. Progress is backed up with figures, and management sees tangible results – not vague generalities, but strategies tailored to the specific situation.

If you are unsure about how to successfully set up and implement your compliance project, feel free to contact me.