Apps, SaaS, Microservices & Consulting

Complex obligations and legal norms

Compliance to French legal norms is often perceived as a complex endeavour.

Attributes of the normative texts such as page count, weight, article count or constraints pertaining to its implementation are presented as causal factors for complexity.

The French Code du travail epitomizes the perception of complexity.

The Code du travail undergoes a change aiming at changing the order of precedence of law and of agreements (company or industry), so that the latter can be above the law. Implementing this change should soon benefit from a milestone with the results of a mission lead by Robert Badinter in order to identify fundamental rights for which Code du travail will keep its precedence over above mentioned agreements.

Let’s hope provisions in the Code du travail resulting from legal norms France has committed to comply to (such as European directives transposed in French law or agreements of the International Labour Organization ratified by France) will make it to fundamental rights rules by Code du travail. Should this not be the case, the intent to simplify could be defeated, over time, by an increase in complexity of agreements, of work contracts and of legal procedures in European courts of law.

How to better embrace complexity in legal norms

Systems thinking make it feasible to simulate the behaviour of interacting elements taking into account the time needed by a cause to produce its effects. The anatomy of models used for simulation are developed using a metaphor of stocks and flows.

Obligations, compliance, litigation and legal decisions

For the sake of compliance, at a given time, legal norms defining compliance obligations of firms are modelled as a stock.


Non-compliance to legal obligations increases the risk of litigation

The conduct, over time, of business activities will eventually bring to litigation. Legal procedures give work to courts of law and, with the time of justice, yield court decisions.

Carrying out court decisions or appeal


A court decision is either carried out or an appeal against the decision is lodged



The decision of the highest court belongs to jurisprudence and increases the stock of legal norms

Work performed by law makers also increases the stock of legal norms. France has a policy, when making additional laws to repeal one legal obligation every time a new obligation is created.

Work of national law makers

A law maker in one of the 28 member states of the European union performs a legislative and regulatory work of defining national legal norms. In France, national legal norms typically span:

  • legal norms applicable to the entire country, such as law
  • legal norms applicable locally such as road regulation
  • legal norms permitting an activity to the site of a company such as a sales licence, a construction yard or an environmentally classified installation (ICPE)
travail national_en

Transposition in national law of European directives and evolution of national legal norms

In France, provisions of most national legal norms only become applicable if and when decrees (décrets en conseil d’état known as décrets d’application) . These decrees define how public administration handles the new norm. Dispositions of decrees and the date the will be published are unknowns that make regulatory intelligence more difficult in France than in more predictable countries.

Work of European law makers

National law makers perform transposition work of european directives vited by European law makers . Single market directives  give a good sense of the stock of European directives pertaining to the single market.

travail européen_en

Directives to be transposed in national lay and diretlc applicable regulations.

Work performed by European law makers yields European regulations. Pprovisions in regulations are directly applicable in the 28 member states of the European union. Unless a deadline is specified in the regulation, its provision enter into force 20 days after the regulation has been published in the official journal of the European union (OJEU).

As a matter of conclusion

Juxtaposing the model sectors covering compliance, carry-out of court decisions and appeal and law making, either national or European, as well as jurisprudence creates a visual representation of interacting elements contributing to systems’ structure.

Legal norms

Practice of systems thinking makes us imagine a change made without a thorough understanding of interactions and with the assumption that impact is immediate is likely to bring counter-intuitive effects possibly worsening the situation.

Can midsize organisations afford “compliance”?

Can midsize organisations afford “compliance”? is the title of a post (in German language) on the web site of an employer’s union.

Our interest for this information stems from aspects going beyond documenting practices in Germany. The material is useful for management because it refrains from quoting normative documents or using jargon, thereby isolating from details and complexity obscuring the topic. Using existing elements (what departments do and what regulation imposes) to scope compliance and performing management reviews of documents resonates well with PDCA and our practice of management systems. The described process could be ahead of the forthcoming ISO/DIS 19600 international standard. Morevover, the imperious necessity of involving responsible individuals reinforces our belief that delegating power is needed in every context where regulation does not require that a defined responsibility be carried by a particular role.

Besides answering a big yes to the title question for organizations employing 50 to 500 people, the post provides further analysis on an example of a manufacturer employing 300 people, performing their own manufacturing and exporting 40% of their turnover.

Instead of analyzing texts formalizing obligations that have to be met, relevant compliance missions are listed for the example midsize organization.

  • Quality insurance
  • Product stewardship
  • Environmental provisions
  • Data protection
  • Export control
  • Provisoins for purchasing
  • Supplier assessment
  • Work safety
  • Monetary transactions
  • Delegation of signatures*
  • Policy on presents
  • Prevention of corruption
  • Competition law abidance
  • Internal controls
  • Training
  • Hotline for whistleblowers / Ombudsman

… other missions specific to the company or to the industry.

After emphacizing that competencies necessary to fulfill these responsibilities cannot be found in a single individual, the author mentions that a single individual would not be practical nor productive, besides creating a cost most midsize organizations cannot bear. Some missions belong by nature to parts of the organization such as quality assurance in the vicinities of production and supplier assessment close to purchasing.

Reponsible roles defined in German law

Some missions are accomplished by mandated responsible individuals (Beauftragter) as stipulated in German law.

These eventually have to exist for waste (Abfall), for facility or site (Betrieb) to exercize employer’s responsibility, for dangerous goods (Gefahrgut) that get shipped, for immisions (pollutant transfer from the atmosphere to a target), safety (Sicherheit), for hazardous incidents (Störfall), for data protection (Datenschutz).

Missions not fulfiled by a department nor by a mandated responsible individual according to German law, will be fulfiled by addressing the following topics:

  • Formulate a compliance policy
  • Craft a code of conduct / code of ethics
  • Prepare training material, in particular about the code of conduct, about corruption prevention and about competition law
  • Benchmark a training platform on the intranet and in-class training
  • Eventually set up the training platform
  • Resource person to supprt sales personnel
  • Resource person to support customers in “mutual recognition of code of conducts”
  • Follow up and/or coordination of internal analysis of cases awakening suspicion
  • Other missions specific to the organization.

This effort represents 1/4 to 1/2 ful-time equivalent. Because management trust is essential to succeed in this function, the person must either be reporting close to management or enjoy unlimited trust from management.

In all cases, a compliance roundtable must convene every 3 months to sustain the momentum of compliance work. Regular exchanges foster shared understanding of current challenges and enable mutual support if a work overload happens in a mission. Minutes of this work provide input for a management review and provide a complete picture of risk factors in the organization.  This could be the basis for a compliance surveillance providing intelligence on compliance activities and visulaizing risk evolution over time.

This incremental implementationton to deploy compliance in the organization makes each midsize organization in Germany able to cope with every essential challenge of compliance. Creating the structure and associcated cost will be driven by efforts necessary to specifically statisfy needs of the organization.

Compared to the internal cost generated by the consequences of a case of medium starkness, the cost of a competent and available business partner for compliance is so immaterial it can be neglected.


* Delegation of signatures is an obligation in German-speaking countries. Regulation to incorporate organizations imposes that a structure of cadres (Mitglied des Kaders) exists to designate persons and amounts allowed to commit to paying on behalf of the organization, alone or in group. Signatures, powers and amounts are registered in the commercial register.

Unidentified regulatory object: reverse lobbying or mock-up for agile regulation?

Switzerland hosts a thriving trading industry. Zug , a canton notorious for tax advantages, and Geneva, a canton with a secular financial services industry, are home to many a company trading raw material which are commodities such such as oil, ores and wood.

A new regulatory object has appeared at the heart of Europe. A non-governmental organization has envisioned and made publicly available a framework for regulating the Swiss commodity market by means of a law (Commodities act aka CA) and a supervisory authority dubbed rohma.

Unidentified regulatory object: reverse lobbying or mock-up for agile regulation?

A very notable trait of this entire regulatory object is that is fictitious albeit addressing a tangible issue (poverty in African countries producing oil) with significant amounts of money (>50 Bn USD per year) and a material impact of Swiss trade (25% of oil exportations).

Besides the smart way for creating awareness implemented by the NGO, the regulation tab contains an infographic displaying an overview of the mechanics of the commodities act. For those, like me, who do not have a formal education in law nor am involved professionally in interpreting regulatory text, this presentation goes a long way in keeping the interest in reading the law.

Reading the summaries of acts does not look like most types of laws I have come to read. Fewer articles and common language sentences are two notable differences. This being said, the infographic and summaries are likely to be understood by law-makers invited to vote the text, even if they have not personally contributed to drafting them. This reminds me of using mock-ups to define requirements when developing software. From experience in software development, lines wiritten in a mock-up make many lines in code to never be produced. I have a suspicion the type of overviews and text produced for this campaign to have the potential for helping regulatory texts to conain tens of articles and not hundreds or thousands.

Natech accidents: an analysis of sites other than Fukushima with the Tokohu seism and tsunami in March 2011

We are appreciative of the work performed in French by BARPI (Bureau d’Analyse des Risques et Pollutions Industriels) of the French ministry of sustainable development on natech accidents stemming from the Tokohu seism and the ensuing tsunami that occurred in March 2011. This is an input to the accident database Aria (Analyse, Recherche et Information sur les Accidents). This analysis covers accidents at sites in multiple industries  on top of defining natech accidents as technological accidents caused by a natural event.

Natech accidentsThe analysis provides aggregate data on products most often involved in accidents stemming from a seism or from submersion by water. A detailed description of tsunami is made. This panorama covers :

  • manufacturing sites
    • automotive assembly
    • cement
    • chemicals production
    • electronics
    • food processing
    • glass making
    • metal work
    • oil refinery
    • steel making
    • wood transformation
  • logistics sites
    • airports
    • harbors
    • warehouses
  • utilities sites
    • power plants
    • water treatment
  • hydraulic works of engineering
    • dams
    • embankments.

The portion devoted to lessons learned with regards to seismic, natech and water submersion risks is one of few elements of information for these low probabilitry but high severity hazards. Individuals responsible for health and safety who care for best available techniques should factor this analysis in their sources of information on hazards.

This document is slightly over 100 pages and weighs a lot because there are many pictures in the document.

Low resolution PDF  document (9 MO)

Native mobile apps are the new Flash

Native mobile apps are the new Flash

Native mobile apps are the new Flash is the title of this blog post. This post describes a state of HTML 5 technology in comparison with native application on the different mobile platforms. An analogy is drawn with  Flash technology and the legacy role it played in developing high end web sites. We fully share this analysis. We read with interest the story narrating the usage of their framework made by Sencha to generate the Fastbook application. This story is especially enlightning, even to the non-tecnical reader.

PDCAply’s technology strategy has anticipated the situation described in this post. We have therefore chosen HTML 5 as our target delivery platform for digital services such as PDCAware. Our front-end code rests mostly on HTML 5 and has been developed with Sencha Touch.

US importers have to delegate responsibilities

US importers have to delegate responsibilities on their way to complying to the Customs Modernization Act of 2010. Non-compliance exposes responsible people to legal liabilities. On top of civil penalties in section 592,  section 542 criminal penalties (up to 2 years imprisonment and a 5000 USD fine for each violation) apply to those presenting false information to customs officers.US importers have to delegate responsibilities




As US importers have to delegate responsibilities, this “modernized” text could have a number of sizeable impacts such as:

  • legal obligations of importers’ site at the port or airport of importation
  • responsibilities delegated to departments (possibly with heads of departments as delegatees)
  • obligation to have a living program for compliance documented with  written manuals making it for all practical purposes a management system
  • fullfiling this obligation puts emphasis on  information coming from computerized systems and their reliability if this information could be presented to customs officers. Extra care in validating application software and in assuring user proficiency in using systems can be expected. In case of delegation of authority for making updates to information, access to features of computerized systems will need to be controlled accordingly.
  • need for automation of internal controls to assure compliance
Continuity in compliance