These days, it's a daunting task for organisations to keep track of applicable regulations and formulate exhaustive plans to achieve compliance. Regulatory uncertainty, insufficient visibility, stringent enforcement actions, and changing technological environments haunt even organisations with a strong focus on maintaining compliance.
While they play an important part in protecting businesses and consumers alike, the list of regulations only continues to grow.
According to a 2021 Cost of Compliance report conducted by Thomson Reuters, the dynamic regulatory landscape, along with risks posed by technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), etc. have continued to be some of the top concerns for compliance officers across the globe.
Stay updated with the industry’s regulatory changes
The regulatory environment is dynamic; existing regulations witness periodic updates, while new regulations are formulated to address growing security and privacy concerns. As compliance requirements evolve, so should an organisation’s compliance strategy. An organisation's infrastructure, policies, and frameworks need to adapt to keep pace with changing stipulations.
Take the GDPR, for example. It made organisations take a long, hard look at their data governance frameworks by setting a chain of regulatory changes across the world in motion. A closer look at the fine print of these regulations reveals the global reach and impact on all organisations that process data belonging to that specific country’s citizens.
Compliance helps organisations rethink incumbent practices, including employee training and education. Employees often see compliance requirements in a different light, viewing them more as a nuisance than a fundamental building block of a successful business. While often overlooked, employee training can make or break an organisation’s compliance strategy because ultimately, employees handle data every day.
Create transparent compliance policies and strategies
A recurring theme with most regulations and industry standards is the need to exhibit steady accountability and compliance. Regulations like the GDPR, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and ISO/IEC 27001 mandate that organisations maintain reports on network and system security mechanisms, information security policies, identity management systems, and more.
It's also vital to prove historical compliance, which can be challenging without the right systems and controls in place. Organisations need to incorporate methods to monitor and record numerous aspects of the business, such as employee data, financial transactions, and network logs, to demonstrate conformance.
Additionally, companies need to ensure that the third parties they collaborate with are compliant. Many breaches are rooted in third-party vulnerabilities that might fly under the radar of an organisation’s compliance framework. It can be challenging to ensure third-party compliance, but this is fundamental to an organisation’s overall compliance strategy.
Leverage advanced technology to combat compliance risks
Advancements in technology come with their own set of vulnerabilities and security loopholes, such as having to manage unauthorised devices, data residency and encryption, and lack of visibility. To combat compliance risks effectively, a thorough risk assessment has to be performed before incorporating any new technology into business processes. As existing technologies evolve, organisations find themselves using an intricate mix of new and old systems. In such scenarios, they need to know which systems are being used for what purpose and ensure that all hardware and software components are regularly updated.
Things like BYOD, shadow IT, and dark data can be particularly tricky to manage because most of these implementations circumvent central IT systems. If left unchecked, organisations can find themselves constantly trying to control unauthorised systems and processes.
Develop a strong compliance programme
The sheer number of regulations that need to be complied with and the magnitude of best practices available can be overwhelming for organisations. Understanding specific organisational requirements and adopting the best suited, universally accepted frameworks are key to standardising compliance processes.
Implementing a governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) plan can help organisations develop a central framework to tackle this important management concern. Listed below are five tenets of an effective GRC plan that can form the basis of a compliance programme for organisations.
- Identify and prioritize the GRC framework’s objectives by understanding business processes and identifying and ranking goals based on what's most important.
- Adopt an incremental implementation strategy in phases by achieving fundamental goals in the beginning and then building upon the initial framework.
- Clearly define key success indicators to provide a true reflection of the strength of the framework.
- Identify tools that will help meet objectives faster, and make sure to take ease of deployment, cloud presence, and application security into consideration while selecting choices.
- Adapt the organisation’s operational strategy to ensure continued success by setting up a dedicated compliance and risk assessment committee and regular training programs.
Organizations are being scrutinised more than ever before as the world becomes increasingly security and privacy conscious. A well thought-out, comprehensive compliance framework can help ensure not only legal compliance, but also instill faith and trust in the company's products and services. Any gaps or risks that may arise can be identified and resolved pretty quickly if data protection and privacy are embedded in an organization's culture.
Priyanka Roy is Enterprise Evangelist at ManageEngine