Achieving Compliance with NetSuite + NextService Electronic Records
Compliance obligations cast a long shadow over the field service industry. Almost every provider faces some requirements to follow prescriptions and protocols while documenting everything that happens. Government regulators require compliance in some cases and exacting clients mandate it in others (under contract). Either way, non-compliance carries harsh penalties.
The immediate implications of non-compliance can be a fine, penalty, or slap on the wrist. In more extreme circumstances, failure to abide by the rules can result in the loss of a client or cancellation of a contact. In the worst instances, field service providers who fail to get compliant will not have the credibility to win any future work. The fate of the business literally hangs in the balance.
These implications make compliance critical. However, ensuring every tech checks every box on every job site is a hurdle to get over. Documenting all those check marks creates another hurdle, especially as a company expands its footprint.
In this blog post, we explore the compliance challenges faced by one specific type of field service provider to highlight the challenges faced by all. Then, we will examine how to turn an unruly and risky issue like compliance into a predictable process that runs on autopilot.
Compliance in a 21st Century Context
Compliance may be a nearly universal obligation, but it affects some companies more than others. Take medical instrument service providers, for example: hospitals, clinics, labs, and countless other healthcare settings rely on various instruments and devices to provide different facets of care. Since these devices have a direct impact on human health, they need to operate perfectly at all times. This reliance creates a strong demand for field service. It also creates demanding regulatory requirements.
The FDA outlines those requirements in a document known as Part 11. First put into effect in 1997, Part 11 details what a company must do to store and secure electronic records and signatures. Any document the FDA requires must abide by Part 11 requirements – including the many documents necessary for medical instrument service providers.
FDA regulators want documentation anytime someone requests service on a medical instrument or performs service on one. Every interaction between a client and a service provider needs to be recorded, stored, and saved in an audit-ready database. Part 11 compliance involves two major challenges. Documenting everything that happens in a consistent and comprehensive way presents the first challenge. As all providers know, it is hard to control what happens in the field. Technicians and clients can both be unpredictable, leading to missing documents and signatures. Managing all compliance-related information is another major challenge. Information must be complete, accurate, secure, and audit-ready, which all become increasingly difficult as the amount of data involved grows larger.
For both these reasons, medical instrument service providers spend a substantial amount of time dealing with compliance. Not doing so can ruin their reputation in an industry that runs on exactitude. But for an issue that carries so much weight, a perfect process for managing compliance remains elusive. Consequently, Part 11 compliance takes a time, labor, and resource-intensive effort yet still does not instill complete confidence.
Medical instrument service providers are not alone. Most field service providers feel like their compliance processes could be more reliable, more efficient, more scalable – better in some way. They are also worried that expanding compliance requirements will make their current approach unsustainable.
Staying on the right side of regulators should be a concern for everyone in the field service industry. The question is how?
The Four Stages of Compliance
Before we explore a specific compliance solution, it is important to elaborate on what compliance involves. There are four distinct stages:
- Understanding Compliance Obligations – Following the rules starts with understanding exactly what they say. It is important to analyze both the details of the compliance requirements and their impact on operations and business strategies. Think of it this way: if compliance is the destination, every company will need to chart its own course to get there.
- Implementing Compliance Measures – Actually getting compliant is the next big hurdle to clear. It usually requires changes to policies, procedures, and paperwork along with a technician retraining effort. It may mean adding new staff or technology as well. In the case of Part 11 (and others), compliance is a multi-pronged effort involving data collection, storage, and security. Achieving compliance does not happen easily.
- Sustaining Compliance Status – Compliance is not about following the rules most of the time. When there is no margin for error, compliance processes must happen systematically every time without exception. It takes a robust and resilient process to sustain compliance day in and day out, even when there is a deviation from the norm.
- Adapting Compliance Strategies – Compliance requirements change all the time –when new rules pass, when a company grows or evolves, when new technology is introduced, when a pandemic hits. Staying compliant over the long-term means being able to adapt quickly and capably, sometimes with little warning.
Any effort to improve compliance should address all four stages, making each as simple as possible. It must also account for the unique nature of field service, where teams of technicians work on different jobs at various locations under unpredictable circumstances.
NetSuite + NextService: A Formula for Complete Compliance
Staying compliant with Part 11 or any other obligations requires a way to document all compliance activities, store that data, and audit it, as necessary. There are multiple steps that involve almost every person and process inside an organization. That is why the best approach to compliance does not treat it like an isolated concern. Instead, it weaves compliance into the fabric of field service.
The native integration between NextService and NetSuite exemplifies what that looks like. NextService offers a comprehensive field service management platform that is cloud-based, mobile-optimized, and equipped for large-scale and highly sophisticated providers alike. NextService is also the only field service management product built inside the NetSuite ecosystem, so service delivery and business management run on the same technical infrastructure in perfect sync.
Each of these tools has something important to offer in terms of compliance. It starts with NextService. Digital service delivery eliminates the need for binders of paperwork with a hand-scrawled signature at the bottom of each page. All record keeping and signing happens on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. What this means is that every record regulators want to see begins in electronic format.
The other major advantage of NextService is the ability to have technicians follow compliance checklists. Technicians must do everything regulators require before proceeding to the next phase of service. Checklists can be created and updated easily. And when utilized organically, they have proven to be an effective tool to ensure the consistency that compliance requires.
NextService helps field service providers comply. NetSuite helps them prove their compliance. As one of the premier business management platforms on the planet, NetSuite has supreme capabilities for ingesting, organizing, and securing vast amounts of information in an audit-ready format. Signed documents go automatically from NextService into the NetSuite database. One entry and they are audit-ready. The database is big enough to store as much compliance-related data as a company may need. They are also subject to strict access controls so that only people with the right permissions have access. Part 11 and other obligations make it mandatory to keep electronic records safe. NetSuite comes with all the necessary safety features built in.
Other field service management solutions claim to make electronic record keeping easy and reliable. But it is undeniable that no solution built for field service can match the data management capabilities of NetSuite, which was built for that purpose explicitly. Instead of expecting a field service management platform to also thrive at data management, does it not make more sense to take leading options for both and combine them? This is exactly what NextService does by running inside NetSuite. One plus the other equals complete compliance.
The Extended Benefits of Compliance
Companies that excel at compliance tend to excel in other areas as well. For instance, being able to manage complicated regulatory requirements suggests a company can manage other things just as effectively. And the ability to collect, store, and retrieve electronic information is not only useful during an audit – it also helps companies analyze their own performance and practice data-driven decision making.
In many ways, compliance is a litmus test for a company as a whole; if a company can meet A, B, and C obligations, it means they are trustworthy, credible, and a worthy business partner. This is unwelcome news for companies that struggle with compliance. For those that do not struggle, however, it means compliance comes with a substantial competitive advantage. An obligation becomes an opportunity.
NextService – A Solution for Field Service Compliance
All signs suggest that compliance will only become a bigger, more complicated, and more expensive challenge for field service providers in coming years. The time to address this issue is now. NextService makes compliance easy to enforce in the field and simple to track at the office by relying on the power of NetSuite. See how these two solutions work together – for compliance and so much more – by contacting us.