Tech advances, continuous training build contracting compliance
- By Rebecca Weaver
- Oct 12, 2021
Federal contracting, like many other government activities, is constrained by a thick stack of ever-changing regulations.
Embracing change and creating a culture of life-long learning can help agencies comply with evolving requirements – continuous technology evolution, continuous training and continuous process assessment.
New tools heighten compliance
Robotic process automation and artificial intelligence are among the top technologies contributing to contracting compliance. Agencies that use RPA for repetitive processes such as acquisition closeout are improving timeliness and accuracy while ensuring projects are completed as required.
New technologies are also supporting compliance in real time. As contracting professionals complete their responsibilities, they might consult AI-powered chatbots to answer questions and get help to remain compliant. AI can also detect non-compliant actions as they occur and alert the contracting professional, who might have forgotten about a recent change or made a mistake in a rarely used process, for example.
Agencies investing in predictive analytics can more easily evaluate risk and determine the likely result based on prior outcomes. Rather than reacting to non-compliance findings after the fact, agencies can analyze historical data to help identify and mitigate compliance risks before they occur.
At the Department of Defense, automation and reliance on data standards lessen the burden on the workforce and ensure compliance. DOD, for instance, uses AI to review purchase card actions to find fraudulent activities. It ensures fewer errors than a manual review and processes information at a speed that manual reviews could never achieve. DOD’s data standards ensure consistency and alignment of data sources. For example, the DOD’s Procurement Integrated Enterprise Environment procure-to-pay application integrates data from multiple sources, analyzes it with AI-based technology and derives actionable intelligence to improve compliance across a dispersed set of users and data.
Ensuring compliance with evolving requirements comes from combining new technologies with incremental training. By adapting tools to include built-in reminders based on new regulations, the system can warn of non-compliance before it occurs. For example, if the system detects an action that does not comply with regulations, AI and chatbot technology can alert the user with guidance on the correct action. This kind of incremental training prevents non-compliance while reinforcing learning at the same time.
To truly recognize the impact of technology and an incremental training methodology on regulatory compliance, agencies must measure their effectiveness.
This is where technology can support the full cycle of compliance. In addition to the real-time, automated compliance enforcement enabled by AI and RPA, automated compliance assurance systems can follow up to measure the effectiveness after actions are complete. These tools use analytics to provide summary-level reporting across organizations, allowing leaders to recognize the impact of their technology and training approaches to increase compliance with new and evolving regulations. They also help to identify effectiveness and trends. For instance, the reports may reveal positive strides at a broad organizational level, while also pointing out perennial trouble spots. This information enables agency leadership to quickly adapt to findings and issue specialized training materials to address the specific points of failure, whether they be regulation-, process-, or role-based.
By focusing on particular areas of challenge, organizations efficiently increase their overall compliance and focus their training processes where the need is the greatest.
Rebecca Weaver is vice president and solution architect at CGI Federal.