cartoon showing showing scalable compliance as a researcher watering a plant

Rene Cantu

Growing Pains: Scalable Compliance


cartoon showing showing scalable compliance as a researcher watering a plant

Scalable Compliance Reliance

The idea of scalable compliance is that an organization or department maintain efficiency as it grows in size. It is the ability to adjust to an increase in workload by adding resources, like more employees, to the system.

Imagine you have a beet patch on a small farm. You’re a regular Dwight Schrute. You have to inspect each beet you pick. Your beet patch is small, so you can thoroughly check each beet in the patch in ten days. This is great because you have two weeks to pick each beet, inspect them, and get them to market on time.

Now, let’s say you want to double the size of your patch because your beets are selling like beet-based hot cakes. So you buy a patch of land adjacent to your farm. Now, you’ll have double the amount of beets to pick in those two weeks. Impossible. If it takes you ten days to pick and inspect every beet in one patch, two patches will take you 20 days; close to three weeks. You’ll never meet the two week window. That makes this a solution that is not scalable.

But what if you double your workforce? So instead of you and your cousin Mose, you hire two more people? Let’s call them Jim and Michael. Now, you will be able to meet that two week window to market. You’ve increased the size of your team to meet the increase in work. This is a scalable solution.

In a nutshell, the rise in cost of compliance will be less than the growth of your organization or department’s size, without compromising the efficacy of the compliance function.  

A Trip to RIO

Let’s take a look at one of the most efficiently run offices at UH: the Research Integrity and Oversight Office (RIO).

“We try to make sure our investigators are able to submit what they need, we make sure that it’s clear what they have to do, and that they’re only asked things one time, and the process is very smooth,” said Kristin Holzschuh, executive director of the Research Integrity and Oversight Office.

“For example, going from a paper-based system to an online one allows for us to work from wherever we are. We look over these kinds of things routinely to see where we can build in efficiency. After we build in the efficiency and still have more than we can handle, then we ask to grow our staff,” Holzschuh continued.

Holzschuh maintains that communication is paramount in making sure operations are running smoothly. If there is proper and clear communication with investigators, less time is expended because fewer questions remain. All the answers, instruction, and information are given beforehand.

When asked what prompted her to grow her staff, Holzschuh replied, “Realizing that we were falling short of complying with the basic regulations prompted us to grow our staff. Where we started off at 3 on staff we now have ten.”

Recognizing when you need to grow your staff is essential in making sure you meet demands and imperative for keeping an office running even in the face of mounting workloads.

Reactive vs. Proactive

“The goal for a compliance office is you want to go from reactive to proactive. Instead of dealing with non-compliance crises as they come up, you want to build in a training component and oversight monitoring. You want to build these proactive pieces in so you don’t have these issues of non-compliance,” Holzschuh explained.

“The people doing the research don’t know the regulations. They haven’t been trained or they make changes without telling us. Then we find out later and have to go do an investigation and report everything to the federal agencies and a bunch of other stuff. So setting in place proactive pieces helps avoid this.”

It’s clear that proactive components, communication, and recognizing when more manpower is required are keys to keeping an office or department prime for scalability. It becomes easier, then, to meet the demands of increasing responsibilities with scalable compliance.