While corporate demands for compliance support have been increasing, the stature of the compliance function within organizations is declining, according to a new survey from Accenture.

Of the more than 150 compliance officers that the consulting firm polled for its 2016 Compliance Risk Study, 31% said they reported directly to their company’s CEO, compared with 39% in 2015 and 40% in 2014. Those reporting directly to the board of directors fell to 28% from 38% a year earlier.

“Compliance is facing challenges to perform as a strategic partner to the business,” the survey’s authors said.

The report also found that the compliance function “continues to operate with a data and technology architecture that lags the standards required to manage the emerging risk landscape.”

Some two-thirds of respondents view improvement to systems and adoption of new tools as a key change required for compliance within the next 12 months. Almost half see skill development as critical in the next year.

“To maintain its position as a key strategic adviser, the compliance function “needs to develop more-sophisticated business capabilities and play a stronger role in front-office functions,” Steve Culp, senior managing director of Accenture’s finance and risk services practice, said in a news release.

“Understanding the customer is critical and will enable the function to become more deeply involved in processes such as product design and sales and distribution,” he added.

Among the technology-related changes respondents cited that may have the biggest impact are the use of industry shared services and process automation, including robotics.

“Advances in technology, such as robotic process automation and advanced analytics, can help compliance officers demonstrate value by developing the agility to take on new business challenges and increase efficiency to deliver outcomes at scale,” said Samantha Regan, who leads Accenture’s regulation and compliance practice.

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