Trade Compliance

Raising the Bar of Trade Compliance: Function, Process, and Usability

Today, there is every reason that software should be designed with the user in mind. It must deliver the functionality needed to support the work it is designed for – that's table stakes.

Ned Blinick

Co-Founder, 3rdwave

Do you buy things online?  When you order something and find the experience totally frustrating do you find yourself muttering obscenities under your breath?  Do you get the feeling you’re incompetent because you can’t manage your way around the website?  Does it make you feel a little insecure because you don’t understand technology? If any of these feelings overcome you at times such as these, the cause is mostly poor software design … not you. Today there is every reason that software, or hardware, should be designed with the user in mind.  It must deliver the functionality needed to support the work it is designed for – that simply is the table stakes. However, to really deliver the value to the user and the organization it must also provide the processes necessary to control the workflow and the usability for a meaningful and productive work experience.Trade compliance software solutions have mostly been good at delivering functionality.  They provide the table stakes – denied/restricted party screening, product classification (HS and ECCN), license determination, FTA qualification, product and account master control.But, the solutions often come up short on usability and process support and this is where so many users experience feelings of frustration and they do when visiting poorly designed websites.  However, even more telling is that when the solution lacks good process design and usability, it limits the capability of the user to really deliver their potential value to the organization.A well-designed trade compliance solution should allow the user to do their work with minimal effort, maximum output, and job satisfaction.  Simply stated, it should simplify the processes of trade compliance, deliver the required functionality, provide a great user experience, and support focused task driven process.What does a really well conceived and process driven trade compliance solution look like?

  1. System Synchronization with minimal IT support - It provides easy interfaces to capture all supporting information from either enterprise solutions or 3rd parties. This means the solution must have an open architecture that requires minimal IT support.  This is a critical capability because trade compliance requires information from many sources and IT is too often unavailable to provide large chunks of time or effort.  IT is limited from both a time and cost perspective.
  2. Centralized Data Management and Control - It provides a central database that manages and controls the account and product records and all supporting transactional data. The account and product records are essential to support and enable the trade compliance team to do their work quickly and effortlessly. OK, effortlessly might be an exaggeration.  It must be able to capture all the available information from the internal stakeholders, the external suppliers, and service providers and make it available for use. That could mean for entry management, reporting, documentation, analysis or other needs.
  3. Product Visibility and Traceability - It provides visibility to the information the user needs as and when it is required.  This access to visibility and traceability is critical so that the user is not interrupted when doing their work  It is essential in order to support proper process control and management.  And it is critical to support either an internal audit or a customs or PGA audit..
  4. Context of Information for Trade Compliance - Well designed trade compliance solutions provide the user with context of the information she/he is working on so that they can quickly complete the task they are working on.  Context of Information means:
  5. System alerts when required trade information is missing and directed support to add or correct the information without having to jump around the system.
  6. Direct and immediate support to needed information.
  7. That users can see the what, where, and how of their issues and work.
  8. Having explicit visual cues that express the activity around trade compliance.
  9. Process Execution and Workflow Support -  For the solution to deliver optimal value it must be easily configurable to the organization’s processes.  Too often trade compliance solutions are too inflexible in their design to mold to the processes of the organization.  Too often the belief is that the current trade compliance processes and workflow are not efficient.  While this may be the current state, more often than not, it is not the processes that are deficient but current solutions that require manual data entry and redundant effort.  This can all be remedied with automation.  A really good trade compliance solution will eliminate manual process and data entry wherever practical and augment it with workflow supported capability.  After that has been accomplished the solution should allow the organization to continue to improve processes through incremental but meaningful solution extensions.
  10. Useability - Finally, but not least, a well designed and architected trade compliance solution must be easy to use.  It should provide the user with the ability to simply do their work.  It should:
  11. Eliminate the tedium of double (and sometimes triple) effort which is the outcome of manual processes.
  12. Provide direct access to any and all supporting information.
  13. Deliver visibility of trade compliance from whichever perspective the user requires.
  14. Support work effort with simple and direct process control.
  15. Allow easy access to information that is necessary.
  16. Provide the ability to share information with all stake holders of the process – that includes both internal and external stakeholders.

The bottom line is that with today’s available technology trade compliance solutions should be easy to use, easy to acquire, deliver real user satisfaction, and exceptional organizational value.

About 3rdwave:

3rdwave simplifies global trade through automation. 3rdwave is a GTM platform that delivers total global supply chain visibility, minimizes manual data entry, streamlines business process, and provides contextual information enabling its users to make informed decisions to reduce global supply chain risk. It's a cloud-based platform that requires minimal IT resources for quick implementation.  3rdwave ensures that companies meet the highest levels of GTM execution and Trade Compliance conformance.

Ned Blinick is Chief Product Officer of  He has been involved in global trade for too many decades and he loves making the global supply chain simpler for everyone.  If you would like to engage with Ned he would really enjoy the opportunity of communicating with you or your boss.  He can be reached at (416) 510 8800 ext 234 or at