The journey to a new compliance system begins here, no matter where you're starting out from
Whether you're transitioning from a purely paper-based compliance system, a system which employs a mix of electronic and paper, or even another software-based system, it pays to have some idea of where you want to end up as well as a plan for getting there. It's like a journey. In that spirit, consider this week's StarBlog a roadmap for that journey: designed to get you smoothly and safely from the compliance system you're on now to the compliance system you want to be on.
It all begins with a product demo: a thorough demonstration of what a vendor's compliance software can do. Provided you like what you see and want to proceed farther down that road, next you'll discuss a general direction for your desired system outcome. Once agreed upon, the implementation process will officially be set in motion at a kickoff meeting. At this time, a detailed timeline will be provided which tells you, the client, everything both sides will need to provide throughout the course of the build.
2. DIVING DEEP
Next up is the deep dive: a gathering of the implementation team and client stakeholders for further and more in-depth information gathering. "The system has to get down to the nitty-gritty," says Kelsey Amar, Associate Director and Head of US Professional Services for StarCompliance, "whether that comes from the written policy or from the compliance officers explaining things to us. It's ultimately about client needs and their understanding of what they want."
That means a deep dive into your code of ethics. Knowing your rules. Understanding the business requirement portions and the follow-up workflows. It's critical for the client to have all of this well-mapped prior to this client-vendor meeting, as well as ensuring everything's up to date. "You'd be surprised at the number of implementations," says Amar, "where we go in and say, 'your code of ethics says such and such, and here's how that translates into the system.' And they stop us and say, 'wait, we don't know how that should work. We have to think about that.'" (See Turning Your Code Of Ethics Into Code and When Was The Last Time You Reviewed Your Rules? for detailed looks at both of these topics.)
The vendor then prepares a document based on everything that's been gathered and discussed up until this point, so there's no uncertainty regarding what client and vendor have so far gone over and agreed upon. In terms of implementation, every compliance platform vendor is going to operate a little differently, but there's a thoroughness and logic to any well-executed installation. This document lays it all out.
4. MAKING THE TRANSLATION
The client is then sent another document to further flesh out requirements. This will translate the client's specified rules, processes, and code of conduct into what will ultimately be their new compliance platform. Every aspect of the coming build is mapped. "It's going from analog to digital in the truest sense," says Amar. "What we're doing is turning a company's written code of ethics into software code. There are refining questions we have to ask, how the rules should translate into the rules engine."
5. BEGINNING THE BUILD
By this point, the implementation team has definitely gotten down to the nitty-gritty: that level of understanding of client rules necessary to begin making the translation. The client signs off on what's been agreed to and the vendor begins the build. "From a Star perspective," says Amar, "we have very robust and flexible software in terms of tailoring the system to the nuances of any code of ethics. Our core product is highly configurable, though for stability and ease of update all of our clients are on the same code base. The rules engine is the real differentiator."
6. VENDOR DEVELOPMENT
Now begins the testing phase of the build process: the testing phase on the vendor end. This initial instance of the client's new compliance platform will, naturally, not be live. It will be built in a test environment, where the vendor has the unfettered opportunity to tweak, tinker, and refine the initial configuration without concern of upsetting any current client operations.
7. TEST SITE HANDOFF
Once the test site is built, and the vendor is confident it has met all initial client rules and processes requirements, the vendor provides a copy of the site to the client. At this point, the client instance is still purely a test environment. Nothing is live. Whatever legacy system the client is on, that's what the client is still using for day-to-day, ongoing compliance purposes.
8. DETERMINING A TEST PLAN
The client now develops a testing plan, part of which is conjuring up scenarios that will realistically simulate what the client will face when the platform is live. Client and vendor then meet to review and provide feedback. This meeting of the minds informs the ongoing build. "One of the things we keep in mind during testing and development is sustainability," says Amar. "If we're looking at a client's rules, and we have two possible routes to get them to the same system outcome, we're going to choose the route that will make long term maintenance as easy as possible. Because in six months you might need to make a change in how the rules engine operates, and one of the two build routes is going to make that future job easier."
9. CLIENT TESTING
This is the user-testing and user-acceptance phase, and takes place purely in the test environment. This is where any needed corrections are made and the new platform is fine tuned. This is also where consistent vendor access to the compliance department continues to make a difference. "We have to involve their team throughout the build-out," says Amar. "And this testing phase is no less critical than any of the others."
10. FLIPPING THE SWITCH
There comes a time when the test environment needs to become the live environment, but this need not be a moment of stress, or a moment when either side needs to keep its fingers crossed. "We only flip the switch when both the vendor and client feel totally at ease with where the new compliance platform is," says Amar. "Then and only then will it go live. If this implementation process is a journey, we're the guides. And good guides know the roads like the backs of their hands. That's StarCompliance. We're the experts in the field of compliance software and compliance automation. We know the way."
ROLLOUT AND TRAINING
Proper rollout and training are also essential to taking on a new system, and to ensuring the platform's success from initial contract through to employee use. From getting proper buy-in to getting the message out, a focus on rollout and training is your 11th and final step in the journey.