Don’t Be Blindsided by Regulatory Compliance: The Problem With “Set It and Forget It”

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It’s 2020—where’s my flying car? For that matter, where’s my fully autonomous car? Elon Musk keeps promising it’s almost here. But if you’re hoping that your car will cheerfully schlep you to the office by the end of this year, get used to disappointment.

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Photo by Ciel Cheng on Unsplash

The draw of self-driving cars—and other futuristic technologies promising effortless convenience—is the time that they would free up from repetitive daily tasks. We want to just be able to “set it and forget it” with mindless tasks like commuting so we can get down to the good stuff, making more productive, or more enjoyable, use of our time.

The problem is that people who overestimate the autonomy of their not-really-self-driving cars have tried to set it and forget it, with disastrous results. A few notable incidents where people have been blindsided by situations that their cars couldn’t handle have demonstrated that we’re nowhere near achieving fully autonomous cars.

The same potential for disaster applies to other set-it-and-forget-it scenarios, such as archiving your website for regulatory compliance.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Financial and insurance companies are in a Catch-22: they want to attract customers with creative, engaging, interactive websites, but they know they have to create up-to-date archives of their online communications. And they don’t want to have to spend hours upon hours monitoring those archives or maintaining site maps for their vendor to use. The temptation is to just get their archiving lined up and go on to more interesting things. But as with overreliance on self-driving cars, setting it and forgetting it can lead to being blindsided by technological failures.

MEETING REGULATORY COMPLIANCE DEMANDS FOR WEBSITE ARCHIVES

What do you have to archive from your website? If you’re in the financial or insurance industries, you’re probably keenly—even painfully—aware of your compliance obligations.

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Photo by Brad Stallcup on Unsplash

For example, under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Regulatory Notice 10-06, broker-dealers are explicitly required to keep records of their online communications. That includes any content on company websites and social media accounts that constitutes “electronic communications” with the public related to the company’s “business as such.” FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18 extended the recordkeeping rule to text messages, instant messages, and chat applications, requiring that “every firm that intends to communicate” through those means “must first ensure that it can retain records of those communications as required.” Those archives must be maintained in a complete, non-rewritable, and functional format—because a company’s compliance is only ever as good as its ability to prove that compliance.

Are you prepared to defend yourself in a regulatory inquiry? Can you establish exactly what you’ve communicated or offered to customers and website visitors? Can you demonstrate that you had the correct disclaimers, that you didn’t make financial guarantees, and that your offerings were fair and equitable? You may think your archives are locked down … but when is the last time you checked that they were as solid as you expected them to be?

THE PROBLEM WITH “SET IT AND FORGET IT”

Some vendors urge their customers to “set it and forget it” thanks to their “automated” archives. That technology is terrific … until it’s not.

Say you do set up your archives and then forget all about them. For a while, everything might be fine. Then one day, your website or social media account logs the archiving system out and it fails to log back in. From that day forward, all that your archives will capture is a login screen, not the relevant content behind the login.

WEBSITE COMPLEXITY ADDS COLLECTION AND PRESERVATION CHALLENGES

Or suppose you upgrade your website to use a complex new content management system like Adobe Experience Manager or Sitecore Experience Manager. These systems are amazing for creating personalized website experiences. For example, if your business offers supplemental Medicare insurance, you can customize your plans to the viewer’s personal characteristics. The site first detects the viewer’s IP address and displays the plans that are available in their zip code. The user then selects their age range, gender, and current insurance coverage, and the site shows exactly which plans are available. This kind of user experience is great for prospective customers, who can get their hands on exactly the information they need.

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Photo by Sweetheart 陆初雪 on Unsplash

But can your archiving system access all that information? If you’re called on to demonstrate your regulatory compliance, you need to be able to capture the full visitor experience and walk the auditor through the steps to see the plans that were offered at the time of capture.

If your website archiving technology isn’t up to that, you can’t afford to set it and forget it. We’ve had countless companies contact us because they’ve been blindsided by the discovery—days or weeks later—that their archiving system was incapable of capturing their new complex website. To make matters worse, the companies themselves have been the ones to find the errors, when they checked their archives and found that they weren’t capturing the upgraded website information. The autopilot never even realized anything was wrong.

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Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Like driving, archiving a modern website is a tremendously complex job. Keeping track of and managing all the steps along a personalized customer journey is not for the faint of heart. Why put everything on the line with autopilot when total automation isn’t quite equipped to handle every situation that could arise in an ever changing web environment. Having the additional service of a human pilot at the wheel—someone who’s paying attention to the surroundings, keeping a trained eye out for odd occurrences, based on data metrics, best practices and experience is of great benefit if something is amiss. Correcting the course for compliance just became that much easier.

Remember, it’s not enough for your archives to get you just part of the way there. Partial compliance doesn’t count as compliance when a regulatory agency comes knocking. You need archives that fully comply with your archiving requirements—and you need someone keeping an eye on them to make sure that nothing is being missed.

That’s what we do at Hanzo.

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