A Year ago, Mike Salvarezza, director of compliance systems and records management for Altria Corporate Services, surveyed his company's system for retrieving, tracking and summarizing whistleblower reports. What he saw was disturbing: While there was a call center to receive confidential reports of potential transgressions and a plan in place to route them to the appropriate compliance officer at each of the parent corporation's operating units, there was no central system to keep track of them and whether they were appropriately handled. When it was time to provide periodic reports for Altria Group Inc.'s board, the process of compiling data took several weeks. "I was afraid things might be fallingthrough the cracks," says Salvarezza. "I knew we needed a way to become more efficient."
Fortunately for Salvarezza, a new generation of whistleblower technology is offering a more integrated approach based around comprehensive, Web-based systems that can retrieve reports, automatically send them to the correct managers and keep track of the resolution process. Finally, the new breed of systems compiles the data across business units and prepares board reports. Ultimately, Salvarezza chose EthicsAdvantage from Farmington, Conn.-based Software Impressions for the $97.9 billion cigarette and packaged food manufacturer. Although Ethics- Advantage offers a Web-based interface for whistleblower reports, Altria decided to retain its telephone hotline. "Now, it takes a press of a button for the system to prepare a report," he says.