Keep your eye on this one: the US Supreme Court has just decided to review the constitutionality of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
According to today's news, the Supremes said they would consider a legal challenge to the law, on the basis that it "violates the constitutionally mandated separation of powers." (Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, 08-861)
The law, which directly affects public companies and indirectly affects the companies that deal with public companies, requires greater transparency and accountability in financial reporting. This is has been both a major headache and opportunity for information technology departments. As a result, the need to better trace data has been a business driver of many data management and service orientation efforts in recent years.
Some analysts say SOX has scared off companies from going public.
Even if the law were struck down and sent back to Congress for heavy modification, it has had an impact in shaping the goals of information technology going forward. Enhancing the visibility and accountability of data and applications delivering the data are worthy efforts that often make business sense. Such efforts should be continued.
A few years back, I wrote a special section for Teradata Magazine that explored the ins and outs of SOX compliance for companies. (See Cover Story -- "Uncovering Opportunity.") I spoke with thought leaders such as Claudia Imhoff and Lee Dittmar, who encouraged businesses to look beyond the legalities to seize the business opportunities:
"Looking beyond sustainable compliance offers companies the opportunity to do new things with their data—to analyze and identify trends, improve customer service and eliminate redundancies in their supply chains. The effort is a continuous journey that, in the long run, will help companies become more efficient and informed in their processes.
"This is a journey that has to happen," says Dittmar. "Compliance must be sustainable, and that takes work. The program must be effective and efficient. There are significant improvement opportunities, and it will take hard work to achieve the benefits. But pursued properly, this exercise can be translated from a compliance exercise into a journey that improves enterprise governance, enhances business performance and creates shareholder value."
That's a journey well worth taking, even without the government pushing the issue.