Everyone working with compliance management has experienced it. It is a part of daily life for compliance, legal function, quality management and internal audit. Regardless of years of experience, expensive training in leading educational institutes, highly trained professionals spendhours and hours every day at work searching files, copying data one by one from one system to another. These trained, experienced experts all work with a large number of different stand-alone systems, heavily managing tasks with Excel spreadsheets. For each new regulation, there is a new point solution resolving just that problem – adding to the pile with another silo of information and place to jump in and out from. 

According to some studies, the level of inefficiency is devastating. I have seen numbers up to 20% of valuable work time being wasted on searching data alone. It just gets worse if there are several point solutions to browse for your daily tasks. Demand for improvement is obvious.

Situation in highly regulated businesses, such as financial sector, or quality focused businesses, such as car manufacturing, food and energy is dramatically more challenging. Quality management is a very complex topic that made pharma industry to deploy heavy-duty solutions like OpenText and Documentum, just to run quality management processes and documentation. In finance sector, risk frameworks are significantly more complex, overlapping, crossing functions and covering products in a mind-stretching manner. It could take months and years to develop a proper risk management framework. Implement that manually or with a set of not-so-well-integrating point solutions, and it is not difficult to see why there is a platoon after platoon of lawyers hired.

This all associates – furiously – with Frederick Winslow Taylor and the management style named after him, Taylorism. Yet, when searching for information on today’s Taylorism, ‘New Taylorism’ aka ‘Digital Taylorism”, the result is sad and quite depressing. According to Wikipedia:

Digital Taylorism has the main characteristics of being standard, mechanistic, inflexible, and precise.

Management breaks down every task and standardizes an exact procedure that should be followed to complete that task. In doing so it turns the overall job completion into a mechanistic, machine-like process. Each worker is completing their task exactly as they have been instructed to by management, similar to a machine that has been programmed to perform a specific task in a specific way.

To put it bluntly that definition makes the whole concept obsolete and ridicules the idea of Taylorism.If something is standard, mechanistic, it can be programmed. Which is obviously the very purpose of information technology. Therefore, the definition of New or Digital Taylorism is not adding anything to that.

Nonetheless, we have not attained our pricey education or experience to be a robot – neither are experts or executives paid dearly if they can be replaced with the latest version of Intel processor. What we are paid for is our judgment, our intuition, our ability to provide outcomes in an environment which is more or less unstructured and information that is heavily incomplete and unmeasurable.

What is relevant is the reason preventing us from using our judgment and focusing our efforts on the right thingsin a timely manner and backed up with easily accessible, correct information. Often it is time wasted on searching data, files, finding the right people and stakeholders. Chasing people with emails just to find information that they respectively search from various sources is depressing but still a key part of daily work for lawyers, marketing, compliance, and many other professionals. We often copy data fields from one stand-alone system to another – in the worst-case scenario and so often in real life, data field by data field. Everyone has struggled with wrong versions and fixing simple errors resulting from that.

How about if we redefine New Taylorism as target for good compliance? Could it mean “management and organizational measures that:

  • Mitigate in a systematic manner system inefficiencies, manualprocesses, daily operations 
  • Enable scarce and expensive expert resources and executives to focus on subject matters and be provided with up-to-date, useful information for support of their work and decision making
  • Adopt and apply diligently but efficiently new regulatory and other compliance requirements “

It is nice to see happy faces and hear laughter when people realize how dramatically their daily work could improve and how they could focus better on what they are trained for and what they like and love to do. 

Writer is Janne Järvenoja, lawyer and CEO at NordCheck