7 Questions to Ask When Starting your Compliance Journey

Vector Representation of a business owner compiling relevant questions for infosec partner
Questions to Ask When Starting your Compliance Journey

Being a business owner in the past few decades has been harder than before. Before, you had many resources like land, water, and air freely available to grow. But in the modern world, there is no “free resource”. For every resource you need, you will have to trade it for another resource you have. In the same context, user data and privacy used to be taken for granted by organizations and sometimes even misused. But once such crimes began to be noticed, the free lunch was over real soon.

Powerful legislations have come into existence all over the world to oversee the data processing that was taking place around the world. Legislations like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA are examples of a few.

Compliance laws have forced companies to comply with certain data and privacy protection regulations.

Compliance may sound tedious and process-oriented. However, it is crucial for the growth of the company. Due to the multifaceted and dynamic nature of the business environment, laws and regulations keep changing. They are often influenced by market forces, trends, technology, and even politics. Compliance requirements, consequentially, get modified. Not to mention, complex.

Taking care of compliance, later when required, might sound like a good initial idea. But the cost that it may incur later on is reason enough to start it early on. Your compliance partner, i.e, your infosec compliance service provider will be able to get you out of your non-compliant state. But that will heavily depend on the compliance partner you choose. Keeping that in mind, here are a few questions to ask when starting your compliance journey.

1. Is the scope of the required compliance well-understood and updated regularly?

Being compliant is ensuring that your organization and employees follow all the well-defined laws, standards, regulations, and ethical practices, both internal and external that your organization is subject to. This makes an organization conform to the international standards for the industry, as well as federal and state laws. Being aware of the required compliances that you need to adhere to helps your organization efficiently prevent and detect violations of rules. It also helps mitigate the risk of fines and lawsuits. A compliant organization is considered trustworthy and honest.

The foremost question that bothers organizations is how and when to start with compliance. Defining what they need to be compliant with is critical for steps ahead. So when you start your compliance journey, make sure to consult a professional compliance partner like Scrut Automation. They know how to create customized compliance solutions to meet the required rigorous laws and standards.

2. Are there experts in place, at both the corporate and operations level, across the key compliance areas?

Building a compliance culture is essential. Employees at all levels must be aware of the relevant programs. Everyone must understand the processes, procedures, and requirements that they must follow, always. That is why it is of utmost importance to hire experts who are well versed in compliance at both the corporate planning level and the operations execution level. For example, you may choose to create a professional standards group to govern ethics across the organization and provide appropriate compliance training to managers so that these standards are institutionalized at an operational level. This is particularly critical in sectors presenting unique legal and ethical challenges, such as medical or financial services/products.

Rather than starting from scratch, build on what you have. The current compliance policies might not be the best. But they still provide a base on which to structure the new ones. Regardless of your industry, there is a certain basic set of policies that every organization must adhere to. Business code of conduct, privacy policy, access control policy, and information security policy are some basic policies that you must develop to address customers’ concerns.

3. Which Compliance Certification to go with?

Going step-by-step is the key. Given the number of certifications available for compliance, you might feel overwhelmed. Trying to achieve all at once is probably not the smartest idea. Instead, focus on the ones necessary for your niche. Then move on to those asked for by the customers. Gradually, move on to all those you deem necessary.

Internal and external audits are an integral part of the compliance procedure. Internal audits are often carried out by in-house teams. They can check whether the various functionalities of the organizations are compliant with the internal policies. Engaging with an external auditing firm lets an organization take a professional route to get compliance done. Audit firms specialize in the latest regulations and are aware of market standards. They can help pre-assess your compliance program if any. They can identify the gaps when compared to the standard and suggest a roadmap. They then create and help implement a remediation plan to achieve a particular regulatory standard. The auditors can later confirm if the compliance process now conforms to the standards.

4. Has the compliance partner established a functional compliance planning and reporting system?

A Compliance management system or GRC tool (Governance, Risk, and Compliance tool) for compliance can take the pain out of the process. Access to compliance software with built-in tools can complement the entire process. These tools simplify documentation, automated audit trail generation, etc.

Finally, compliance isn’t a one-time solution, and you can’t be compliant in a day. Being compliant is a continuous process. It involves keeping an eye on changing laws and regulations. It requires an understanding of how they can affect the organization. It requires identifying the areas of change within the organization, implementing policy changes, and then monitoring. It calls for scalable and agile processes, policies, and teams ready for changes. Once in place, it also requires regular, organization-wide awareness programs for reinforcement through training.

5. Does the compliance partner offer performance measurement and reporting to drive continual improvement?

With the business environment being in a continuously dynamic state, new risks will come up. Hence the scrutiny and regular risk assessment of not just the compliance program, but also its metrics is imperative. Such scrutiny should especially be subjected to a potential compliance partner before you take the leap of faith and jump into a contractual agreement with them. Ideally, such a compliance partner will have their own compliance programs that are up and running at max efficiency, saving the business money from the heavy fines. The key criteria to look at are:

  • Appropriate metrics that will drive compliance adherence will need to be identified.

  • Realistic and achievable goals must be set.

  • Performance must be measured and reported regularly so that the improvements are validated.

  • The data on compliance-related problems is collected on a regular basis. Are the top issues, along with a corrective action plan, being periodically communicated across the organization?

Organizations often find it cost-effective to rely on an experienced and efficient Compliance partner. Such companies have a proven body of work. They are capable enough to place the required measures for successful compliance. Through automation, regular monitoring, and audits, they help organizations navigate the complex structure of compliance, security, and privacy policies.

6. Does the compliance partner have a process for monitoring and auditing compliance?

Your compliance partner must monitor and audit data related and other operational activities to evaluate compliance. They must also provide support to ensure compliance, and also suggest actions to sort out any non-compliance. This becomes more complex when the screening is extended to subcontractors and third-party vendors. Such a process should include thorough scrutiny of all the potential vendors. There must also be programs to enforce compliance and continual oversight of these vendors. Audits must be carried out to identify non-compliant activities and provide options for corrective actions.

7. How does your potential compliance partner consistently enforce policies and other requirements across the organization?

Compliance is an active, ongoing process that is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. Make sure that your potential compliance partner has strong experience overseeing such kind of work. It should have a code of conduct, policies, protocols, contingencies, and procedures, which have been read by every employee in the organization and by the leadership. These further require an organization-wide awareness program that is reinforced through the training of the team. Your compliance partner must have in place incentives that ensure compliance in critical areas.

Scrut Automation is a smart and radically simple Governance, Risk, and Compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises. With Scrut, Compliance teams can reduce ~70% of their manual effort in continuously maintaining compliance towards SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, and privacy laws like HIPAA, GDPR, and CCPA. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.