Compliance debt is worse than technical debt

Compliance is that nagging party guest for regulated industries, but here's the twist: it's actually beneficial for everyone.

TL;DR: Compliance is that nagging party guest for regulated industries, but here's the twist: it's actually beneficial for everyone. Even if you're not in a regulated field, embracing compliance helps avoid technical chaos and earn trust. So, whether you're regulated or not, be proactive and make #ComplianceMatters.

Working in a regulated industry? Cue the compliance parade.

Customers in Europe? Compliance galore.

Eyeing that Enterprise account? Compliance is your ticket.

See the pattern here?

Let me share a backstory

It took me 18 months in my new role to truly grasp the importance of compliance. A customer audit brought to light our ignorance about what we didn't know. The audit was tough, revealing numerous findings that created a massive backlog across our entire business.

Technical debt, aka the result of rushed or poorly executed decisions, is well-known. But compliance debt is different. It's the lack of documentation, processes, and resources required by industry, law, or customers. Without them, proving competence, safety, and security becomes a blind trust game for customers, especially enterprise clients.

Startups are infamous for "moving fast" and "breaking things," but that excuse doesn't hold up in regulated industries or with regulated customers. Many companies neglect other business aspects while scaling up, running teams with the same urgency as in their humble beginnings.

Your lack of process is the worst technical debt you can accumulate because it affects the human side of business. Compliance provides much-needed structure, ensuring you're not ignorant of the market, environment, or world around you.

Did you peak in high school, or are you still peaking?

Startups who only think of moving fast and breaking things are like those who peaked early in high school. Everything was optimized for early wins with little thought as to how that would play out over a longer period of time.

Rather, regardless of the paths chosen (university, family business, military, vocational), those who chose a path and a plan probably ended up in a good place.

This is compliance in a nutshell. Having a plan, even loosely adhering to a framework, setting some structure for how to handle the unknown-unknowns puts you ahead for success.

It is this thing that you are objectively and externally accountable to.

So, be wise from the start. Prioritize compliance, find suitable frameworks and governance structures for your market, industry, and customers. It'll make your work life easier and prevent future headaches.

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