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Compliance Services: Get What You Pay For

When it comes to compliance, few companies are equipped to go it alone. Instead, most phone for help from a range of professionals, consultants, and service providers. But what they get in return isn't always what they expect.

The headlines are littered with cautionary examples of companies, big and small, that apparently didnt hire, or didn't listen to, the right compliance advisors. BakBone Software Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), to name a few, all wound up restating their earnings in recent months (see BakBone Still Out of Whack, SEC Gets Formal With Brocade, and Veritas Misses 10K Deadline).

It's not that there's a lack of qualified help. Compliance services are available from the big accounting firms and IT consultancies, as well as various vendors of IT products, including storage equipment. So what's the problem?

The complexity of maintaining regulatory compliance in most industries is certainly making it tough to ensure consistent value from services – and a lack of standards about what constitutes best practices doesn't help either.

The primary issues appear to be objectivity and specificity. On the first count, the vested interest that many companies have in compliance can be a hindrance, at least on the surface. The eternal question applies: Qui bono? Obviously, if a software or hardware vendor is offering to help, they're likely doing so as another channel for pitching their wares.

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