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Gaining Efficiencies with Trade Compliance Program Development

As trade operations grow in volume and locations, and regulations are changed or added, the practice of remaining compliant challenges trade compliance staff, processes, and systems.

Multinational companies engaged in the import and export of products and raw materials understand that compliance with trade regulations is required. As trade operations grow in volume and locations, and regulations are changed or added, the practice of remaining compliant challenges trade compliance staff, processes, and systems. Justifying costs for additional headcount based on perceived potential risk can be challenging. Many trade departments find themselves doing more and more without the ability to effectively implement and operationalize new trade compliance capabilities.

All trade compliance program owners drive to the same goal of maintaining compliance with import and export regulations of the countries in which they do business. But, the vision and approach for how to get there varies by leader and organization. Whether there is a centralized trade compliance team in the Law Department or staff imbedded within Supply Chain, there are always identified roles and tasks. After having worked with Trade Compliance teams for a number of years, a repeating pattern of work flow is apparent and it looks a lot like any other operational team. There are defined roles with repeating tasks that must get done and the folks that make it happen do it because they have a passion for it. 

This article focuses on how successful trade compliance functions maintain their trade compliance capacity while expanding their programs and implementing new solutions. Their plan for success is quite simple. They know how to leverage skilled temporary resources and to partner with companies that provide the services and experience level that matches their need. To illustrate the point, if you ask any person supported by talented administrative staff, how they rate the value of that person, they will tell you that they couldn’t manage without them. This isn’t because they’re lazy, as generally the opposite is true. They are hard-working busy people with the knowledge to get things done. And what they will quickly confirm is that they get more done than they could ever do on their own because of this person that understands the work and can practically read their mind for where they want to go next.

Trade compliance management and staff are really no different. They are subject matter experts and because of that, they are constantly executing on tasks and supporting a global program with many demanding audiences. Trade compliance managers are no exception, as not only do they consult to their teams but the business as a whole as urgent matters arise.

Keep Compliance Staff Focused on What They Do Best and Enjoy Most

Just when you get staff fully trained and efficient, along comes a trade project and staff are redirected to own it or provide deliverables. They may take on completely new roles like project managers, business and data analysts, instructional designers, training developers, process documenters or optimizers. Because trade activity doesn’t stop, they are expected to do their “day jobs” and also get the project work completed.

Providing staff opportunities to challenge themselves can be incredibly rewarding if that’s what they seek and work is aligned to include the task. But taking people away from what they love to do and making them own the success of a project or key deliverable can lead to dissatisfaction and risk project success. Projects with timelines that are ridged are in particular risk when trade staff must balance their tactical work along with project tasks. Work on a project deliverable with a future deadline is no match for a shipment being held in Customs.

By bringing in consultants with the right expertise and an understanding of trade compliance and partnering them with your subject matter experts, you leverage consultant time against team expertise, saving staff time and getting the work done. The next sections provide some specific examples.

Trade Assessments

Assessing regional import and export teams identifies their compliance capabilities and ability to scale as regional operations grow. On site assessment visits provides an opportunity to meet staff, validate processes and data flows, and deliver trade compliance general awareness training. However, much of the work involved with completing an assessment does not require trade compliance expertise. Planning for an assessment relies on project management skills to identify scope and resources, develop project documents, schedule and hold team meetings to identify staff and third party interviewees, compile region / country-specific questionnaires and document requests. Follow up with regional staff to collect sample documents and reports, prior to any onsite visit, is a key to a successful assessment and quite honestly, a time-consuming and often challenging task.

Assessments are all about getting required information to complete a thorough analysis. A lot of time can be spent documenting responses to questions, collecting and reviewing documents, and mapping processes to understand how imports and exports are completed. Teaming your trade expert with a consultant, can get the work done more quickly and ensures that time spent on site captures all required information. A consultant trained in this area can collect, organize, and analyze data while the trade expert focuses on delivering training and other value-added tasks.

Program Development – Implementing Solutions

Auditing and assessing trade activity can identify gaps and weaknesses that will prevent the organization from being compliant or the ability to scale trade flows when needed. Analysis of gaps and weaknesses leads to corrective actions involving process development or optimization, system updates, or implementation of new tools. This area is where leveraging trade compliance experts against consultant time can provide the greatest gains. Self-directed experienced consultants are used to getting results. They have the advantage of years of experience coupled with the ability to focus on the end result for the specific work they are given. Because their scope and tasks are defined, they have the ability to drive work to completion. And they don’t have work interruptions for unexpected but high priority tasks that must get done.

For projects in the trade compliance world, consultants can be integral for running projects from start to finish because their passion is running effective projects. They can be the business analyst to gather requirements and document use cases. They can project manage by identifying tasks, required resources, creating a realistic timeline, and then managing it through completion.  The assigned project manager would have prior experience that matches the project, letting them leverage past experience for the project success. Finally, because they are seen as a neutral third party, consultants are often in an ideal position to interact with other teams and stakeholders.

For training in the trade compliance world, consultants shine because they have a passion for training development. While a trade compliance expert may know the rules, rarely do they understand how to do a role-based learning analysis and then build training modules that meet the identified needs in an effective engaging delivery method. Put bluntly, if you want your audiences to actually learn what they must, then leverage a training expert.

For corrective actions in the trade compliance world, consultants with process development and optimization experience will get the right steps documented and followed because that is what they do.

Summing it Up – Where Trade Compliance Best Leverages Consultants

Key projects where this model has worked well include:

For more information on trade compliance services, please see www.tradecompliant.com

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