Relevance has become a compliance obsession.  If compliance were the fashion industry, then relevance would be the new black.  There’s a good reason for this.  If compliance isn’t relevant to the employees, it becomes a nuisance.  Instead of taking its place as a business enabler, it becomes background noise or a source of friction and irritation.  But seeking relevance is quite different from achieving it.  What can we do to assure that we’re as relevant as possible to our audience?

Novelist Thomas Berger said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”  Relevance is achieved through answering the question, “How does whatever it is I want you to do apply in your day-to-day life?” 

The Conundrum

Most of us know that we need to talk to the business, but relatively few understand the questions to ask to elicit the information we actually need.  The biggest challenge faced by subject matter experts is the assumption that other people know what we’re talking about and can understand why we’re asking the questions we’re asking.  Imagine your life before compliance.  If someone called you and said, “What interaction does our business have with the instrumentalities of foreign governments?” You’d probably have hung up the phone.  We in compliance need to know the answer to this question, but we must ask it in a way that elicits the information we need, instead of scaring and confusing the person talking to us. 

The Questions

When it comes down to it, you need to frame the question for the business so that the person can easily give you the information you need.  You need to use clear and comprehensible language.  Here are some example questions for the most common types of risk areas managed by compliance.  Adapt them to your business:



Modern Slavery/Human Trafficking

Conflict Minerals

Trade Sanctions


Data Privacy

Money Laundering

Maximizing the Use of the Information

When you get the information, you can use it in a number of ways. These include:

Getting the information you need is critical to being effective at your job.  Once you’ve got, you can use it to be…relevant – like all the cool kids.