What You Need To Know About The End of Static Compliance Programs And What To Do Next

What You Need To Know About The End of Static Compliance Programs And What To Do Next

Compliance trends come and go in response to a changing world. That’s why you need to make a priority to update your IT compliance program periodically. The old approach of checking IT compliance every few years is no longer good enough. Find out why dynamic compliance is critically important.

What’s The Problem With Static Compliance?

The traditional approach to IT compliance was static. An IT auditor or compliance analyst would complete a quarterly or annual review of a system and issue a report. No doubt, this point-in-time assessment has value. At the same time, this occasional frequency of checking IT compliance also has significant limitations. What if the business implemented a new cloud tool? It could be months or years before somebody checks on whether the app aligns with your IT requirements.

The long delays in traditional compliance were based on a few assumptions that are no longer true. First, traditional programs assume relatively few changes in your technology environment each year. Second, legacy compliance programs assume relatively minimal expectations from the government. Third, older compliance programs were constrained by limited resources both in terms of staff and systems.

All of these assumptions have been overturned in recent years. Organizations are adding new cloud applications regularly since users can now buy software with little more than a credit card. Further, newer regulations like GDPR and increased compliance expectations from the US Department of Justice mean that compliance leaders have to redouble their efforts. Now, for the excellent news! Compliance teams now have additional software available for use.

That’s why continuous compliance is one of the most important developments since IT governance software came to market. With a continuous approach, compliance testing is more deeply integrated into the company. Instead of waiting to detect a problem after the fact, a continuous compliance program proactively looks for potential problems. For example, you might check for configuration problems or inactive user risk control processes using software. By regularly enforcing your IT policies, you can prevent security incidents and audit issues from occurring in the first place.

Building A Sustainable Dynamic IT Compliance Program

There are three pillars to an effective compliance program: program design, implementation and review. The continuous compliance approach means you have the tools and capabilities to complete regular reviews. Let’s look at how a continuous compliance mindset applies to each pillar of your compliance program.

Program Design: Factor In Compliance Trends

Examine your approach to compliance from a thirty thousand view. For example, if your company has taken on a significant number of European customers, then GDPR compliance needs to be considered in your program. Further, look at feedback in the form of surveys, informal comments and other inputs about the function’s effectiveness. Taking all of these inputs together, set some goals for your compliance program.

In the next 12 months, what are the top two to three compliance goals that your department can deliver? For example, you might decide to accelerate your compliance testing frequency to monthly. To achieve that goal, you will probably need new software. Now, let’s take a closer look at the challenge of bringing a continuous compliance philosophy to life.

Implementation: Where The Continuous Compliance Rubber Meets The Road

Now it is time to face real-world operational challenges. For instance, do you have a complete inventory of IT systems? Can you say the same thing about user accounts? Even if you had such a complete inventory, that is not enough. For that inventory to be useful, there also needs to be a reliable testing and update process.

Further, continuous compliance usually cannot be achieved solely by using staff effort. There are too many systems to check. That’s why you need to use software solutions like Compliance Auditor to run reports and keep track of issues.

Finally, the compliance team should also have access to metrics. A detailed metric report makes it far easier to direct your efforts in the right direction. If you are getting started with building IT security metrics, we’ve got you covered. Read our article: Find Out if Your Access Management Program Is Successful with KPIs.

Review Your Compliance Program To Stay Up To Date

During program design, you examined your overall compliance strategy and set goals. Setting goals is just the first step of the journey. It is also wise to set up a process to periodically review your program. At a minimum, start with a self-assessment. Ask yourself and your team what parts of the compliance program are successfully delivered. All compliance programs have shortcomings.

For an added level of assurance, seek out an external compliance program to evaluate your program. This type of external assessment is commonplace for internal audit departments. It makes sense to use such an external assessment periodically for compliance as well. After all, you might become so used to carrying out your work with inadequate technology that you become blind to the challenge. An external reviewer can help you identify areas where you are falling behind others in the industry.

What To Do If Your Continuous Compliance Program Is Overwhelmed With Problems?

When IT compliance discovers many problems, celebrate! It is far better for your company to discover problems internally rather than seeing those weaknesses exploited by a hacker. There’s a downside to discovering issues. Other stakeholders in the organization might become frustrated with the sheer volume of problems. In these situations, you need to carry out a root-cause analysis. For example, your IT compliance program issues a finding that many employees fail to comply with the password policy. There are multiple ways to address this finding. You might offer employee password training. That will help to a degree. What if you could simplify password policy compliance? Implementing a single sign-on software solution might help the situation dramatically. Buying more software often requires more funding. To help you navigate the funding challenge, create a business case: Get Your SSO Software Project Funded With a Business Case. With this document in place, you will be able to solve persistent IT compliance issues.

Written by Nelson Cicchitto