How well did your last compliance audit go? Chances are, it didn’t go as smoothly as you’d like. Without an exceptional system in place, they almost never do.
When it comes time for an audit or certification, what’s your process? Is it a seemingly endless flurry of email and spreadsheets? Or is it a managed, secured and vetted process that saves time, energy and money? Our guess is, it’s the former. And that’s what makes any audit such a painful prospect.
Regardless of your organization and what type of audit you’re facing (whether it’s HIPAA, HITRUST, SOC1, SOC2, PCI, or any number of others), it’s an enormous and cumbersome task. In an ideal world, you’d have a system in place for continuous compliance, which would make audits infinitely less painful. But if you don’t, then the inevitable scramble is frustrating, time-consuming and costly.
The challenges of compliance audits stem from a common set of pains inherent in the process.
Every audit begins with an information request list (IRL). The IRL covers anywhere from one to five thousand pieces of evidence -- each and every one of which has to be collected, approved, and managed by someone in the organization.
How are you gathering that evidence? Where does it go once it’s submitted? Who’s in charge of each piece? Are the files well-organized with clearly established file-name conventions?
If your evidence is tangled up in a long series of emails and potentially confusing spreadsheets, it’s no wonder this quickly turns into a nightmare to manage.
Vetting & Security
Once the IRL is received, every evidence request has to be split up and assigned to control owners throughout the organization. Some will go to HR, some go to IT, others go to Operations or Finance or any number of separate departments. Not only that, but because much of the information being requested is sensitive, security controls have to be implemented for who can submit, access, and vet each piece of evidence.
How are those requests managed? How do you assign those responsibilities so that the evidence you’re gathering is correct? Are evidence requests made in individual emails or grouped together? Are there checks in place to ensure that the right people are on that email thread? How do you ensure that the data is secure?
No matter how organized your spreadsheets might be, they’re rarely secure. They also won’t provide you with a clear, real-time overview of where you are in the collection process.
After sending the requests to the right control owners within the organization, then it’s a matter of tracking (and vetting) every piece of evidence submitted. All too often, errors occur and evidence has to be returned, reworked, and resubmitted. Someone will send the right data but from the wrong year, for example. The correct data then has to be re-submitted, re-reviewed, and re-vetted. All of which is time consuming and frustrating for everyone.
There’s a tremendous amount of give and take between what’s requested and what’s provided. How do you track that? How do you gather your evidence, put it in one place, review, and workflow each piece?
Every auditor wants to show up with everything on hand, already provided. In reality, they more often show up with one-third of what they’ve asked for and spend the first two days scrambling, trying to gather the remaining evidence. The organization grinds to a halt, and everything quickly becomes a frustrating fire drill
While we always hope for no audit findings on the first go around, often an auditor produces a report with findings or observations in need of remediation. When that happens, you only have limited time to address and remediate those findings. This starts the painful cycle all over again.
You have to assign responsibilities for each of the remediations that need to be performed. You have to ensure data security and evidence accuracy. You have to track and report back to the organization or the auditor that you’ve addressed each of the issues.
All of this is a frustrating consequence of not having a streamlined system in place to manage your compliance needs. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be so painful.
Alleviate Pain by Transforming Compliance from an Event into a Process - It’s Easier Than You Might Think.
The hard work of compliance is all about assigning responsibility, evidence gathering, vetting, auditing, and remediation. In an ideal scenario -- one that is entirely achievable -- you can transform compliance from an annual scramble into a continuous process.
Obviously, creating a continuous compliance system brings its own set of challenges and questions: How do we manage day-to-day compliance within our organization? How do we establish internal auditing capabilities? One control might be two-factor access to accounting software. Who manages that? Who controls that? Who audits that? Who is required on a regular basis to certify that we have security control on every piece of software that touches accounting information?
While it might seem daunting at first, once you make these decisions, you won’t have to make them again every time there’s an audit. Creating a process for continuous compliance will save you immeasurable amounts of time and money, not just during audit season.
Establishing, assigning and measuring controls on a continuous basis will keep everyone on the same page. Once you create, socialize and measure against those controls on a continuous basis, everyone in your organization will know what the controls are, who owns them and what the compliance performance is against those controls -- all year long!
With VeilSun’s automated workflow tool for continuous compliance, you can set aside the headache and panic of audits to focus on ensuring your compliance program runs smoothly and efficiently all year round. You’ll save time by providing an auditor with everything they need before they get on site. You’ll build credibility by having all the evidence at your fingertips. And you’ll stop wasting money and man-hours on an inefficient and exhausting ordeal.