Following the rules Featured

6:21am EDT April 2, 2003
Companies spend hundreds of hours developing rules and procedures that help protect them from legal liabilities from both government regulators and lawsuits. But all it takes is one person veering from these carefully planned guidelines to put the company at risk.

The Case Management application from Warrensville Heights-based Axentis is designed to help prevent this.

"This is a critical tool in today's operating environment," says Jim Petty, vice president of marketing for Axentis. "Companies today are subject to an unprecedented number of audits, fines and penalties because of operating failures."

These failures depend on the industry, and can range from a major pharmaceutical company breaking federal guidelines, resulting in fines in the millions of dollars, to a smaller firm mishandling a sexual harassment complaint.

"For the harassment case that occurs in a field office, how the local manager might handle the investigation may or may not be in accordance with the guidelines on how it should be investigated," says Petty. "Failure can wear many different costumes."

The application creates a specific workflow that will address the situation by whatever means the company desires. In the sexual harassment situation, for example, the chief legal officer or other executive may want to be notified. That might be followed up with everyone involved in the incident receiving a copy of the current company policy on how the matter will be handled. Other steps can be customized as needed. Once the case has been resolved and the ranking person has signed off on that resolution, the case is archived.

"The real benefit is it helps you manage incidents very rapidly, and more importantly, consistently," says Petty. "Secondly, it give management visibility into how it is proceeding. A manager can call up and review each case in progress. Along with that, you are creating an ironclad audit trail. You can prove it is a consistent process and that everyone was given the right documentation."

The program was designed and primarily marketed to pharmaceutical and health care companies who are most at risk for huge fines that can run in the hundreds of millions of dollars for not following correct procedures for drug development and sampling. However, Petty says because the application is Web-based and set up on a licensing fee that's related to the number of users, smaller companies can use it as well to fit their particular needs.