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No easy road to harmony between strategy and regulation

With an increasing focus on regulation, companies must be able to both shape and respond to the regulatory agenda in traditional as well as emerging markets. But this is not easy to put into practice, particularly in the communications sector, as KPMG reports.

Yunus SulemanThe 2007 KPMG Bringing Regulation into the Boardroom survey, based on interviews with over 60 senior managers in telecommunication operators around the globe, reveals that senior management and the regulatory function, whilenot poles apart, may have different priorities.

Convergence of telecommunications and media, along with deregulation, is blurring traditional regulatory boundaries and putting increasing pressure to improve communications, learn from other industries and build a strong regulatory team.

“This situation is even more complex and pressing for those companies operating in multiple regulatory environments,” says Yunus Suleman, chairman of KPMG SA. “Subsequently, companies will increasingly need to develop proactive regulatory functions that recognise commercial issues and can communicate with the board.”

The regulatory respondents of this survey are primarily preoccupied with the longer-term impact of regulation on corporate strategy. This is understandable, given that changes such as new price controls are often signaled several years ahead of actual implementation. Senior management, on the other hand, is far more concerned about how regulation affects the business today, and the profits they make.

“This begs the question as to whether these companies actually have a defined regulatory strategy,” said David Thomas, Head of Communications Regulations at KPMG UK.

Senior managers are keen to see the regulatory function make a bigger contribution to more immediate commercial challenges. In contrast, the responses from the regulatory professionals argue that the longer-term nature of regulation, and its impact on many parts of the business – means that they should be more involved in setting corporate strategy.

“Such differences are a concern, and if left unresolved, could lead to the regulatory teams carrying out projects that are not part of the board’s strategy, thus wasting valuable time and money,” continues Thomas. “If the two groups are not fully in tune, the sector could also see confusing messages being sent to the regulators.”

There is, however, general agreement amongst the respondents on what it takes to be an effective regulatory function, and a high degree of confidence in the individuals working in this part of the business. This function is however lacking effective ways to measure its performance, which can limit its ability to demonstrate its true worth.

Additional key findings of the survey include:

  • 42% of the regulatory function felt that the board was ‘fully informed and aware’ about regulatory matters, compared to just 23% of board respondents
  • 45% of regulatory professionals believe that their current position should lead to a job in another part of the organisation and only 1 in 5 senior managers shared this view
  • 56% of respondents in the regulatory function see themselves as business partners to the board in comparison to 1 in 7 senior managers

The research shows that the regulatory function has some way to go before it can claim a permanent place at the boardroom table. To achieve this, it should seek to improve the communications and relationship with its board and the rest of the organisation, and manage and develop its talent more effectively to create attractive career options.The good news is that both senior management and those in the regulatory function are receptive to change and open to the idea of learning regulatory lessons and preferred practice internationally and from other sectors.

“The survey shows that many communications companies now lack the regulatory capability to cope with a truly converged world but this could be acknowledgement of the need for a truly proactive approach to regulation to help ensure that there is a true regulatory strategy agreed at board level,” concludes Suleman.

  • For more information, contact David Thomas by e-mail

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. Hi Arthur

    Very big problem today. Sadly this is not only true in communications but for most businesses, where legislative regulatory requirements take up a significant portion of strategic time. Not that all requirements are bad, but where their objectives are not geared towards areas that are in the company’s primary interests [survival, growth, attraction and retention of staff, relevancy of information, to name a few], it becomes difficult.

    The same has happened with accounting regulations and a perceived lack of consistency with relevant business and investor information.

    It has to change at some point, as over-regulation reduces the effectiveness of businesses and distracts from progress. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before we see a return to reality in any of the regulatory spheres.


The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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