Many businesses find themselves weighed down under numerous industry standards and regulations, making maintaining compliance requirements a full-time job for compliance officers. To help manage all of the activities that this job entails, automated software solutions have cropped up to shoulder some of the burden. Compliance tracking tools help you consolidate everything onto a central platform, streamline risk management efforts, and acts as your source of truth when you need to prove your compliance efforts.
The trouble is finding the right compliance tracking tool to meet your specific needs. There are a lot of options out there; it’s up to you to find the right one. By answering these questions, you’ll be better positioned to determine what you need in a tool.
What Regulations and Standards are Your Company Bound By?
The rules your company or organization is bound by depends in large part on the industry you work in. For instance, if you’re a healthcare organization, you’ll need to be compliant with the The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If you operate in retail, you’ll need to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). If you aren’t sure which regulations you need to comply with, hit the brakes right now and go figure that out.
Once you know which standards and regulations apply to you, the next step is figuring out which ones present the highest risk to your company. By risk, we’re specifically talking about financial risk. Failing to comply with HIPAA or PCI DSS regulations carries with it hefty fines and penalties, for example. Other industry standards, such as those set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), do not carry the same threat of financial consequences. Noncompliance with these kinds of standards could still damage a company’s reputation, which is something to consider, as well as a lower priority risk.
How Will You Set Controls to Maintain Compliance?
Once you know your risks, you will be able to develop a plan to manage them. This is where you can really delve into the capabilities you need from a compliance tracking tool. Generally, your plan should include assessing your level of compliance with the regulations and standards you’ve deemed to be the highest priority. This calls for creating an assessment, which could be as simple as a few yes or no questions, or much more complex with conditional questions and different weights for the most important questions. The goal of an assessment is to help you create a dataset you can use to determine your company’s level of compliance.
By auditing your non-compliance, you’ll be able to determine where setting controls will be the most meaningful. The goal of a control is to reduce risk by improving reporting, documentation, communication, or protection from misconduct. A key ingredient necessary to create strong internal controls is the establishment of policies and procedures. They allow you to correct noncompliant behavior and set a standard for which to evaluate the effectiveness of controls.
Controls should be built around any procedures that present a potential risk. Examples could include the handling of customers’ personal information, the creation of quarterly financial reports, or the hiring of new employees. In any of these instances, a failure to conduct yourself appropriately could have dire consequences should your company allow customer data to fall into the wrong hands, incorrect information to be reported to a financial institution, or unqualified personnel to work in critical roles within your organization.
How Should You Track Compliance?
If you actually want to manage compliance successfully, you can’t just set controls and leave them. You need to implement regular auditing processes in order to monitor the policies, procedures, and controls in place to ensure these mechanisms are working as intended. This is precisely the kind of task a compliance tracking tool is designed to tackle. If you require more than the occasional audit, manually managing the process with spreadsheets is time consuming and filled with opportunity to make mistakes. Using an automated software solution, you can create and schedule audits to be shared with those in your organization who are best qualified to speak on compliance.
Of course, conducting an audit is only part of the equation. You need to be able to analyze the data and refine the results into a report you can share with your board and other stakeholders within your company.
What Does Your Compliance Tracking Tool Need?
Now that you’ve answered some of the tough questions about your compliance management process, it’s time to get specific about the compliance tracking tool you need.
First, you’ll need custom assessment creation. Having the flexibility to create your own question sets allows you to make them as simple or complex as necessary, including different question types such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, yes/no, or a rating scale. You can even include level two questions that will only appear if a respondent chooses a certain answer. By weighting high priority questions and particular answers, you’ll be able to perform a better quantitative analysis.
You’ll also want to create a workflow to streamline creation and distribution. Using an automated, streamline process, compliance experts can design a draft assessment, allow other stakeholders to review and approve, and then distribute to intended recipients. To save you time and energy, the software you choose should use notifications, reminders, and escalations to ensure everyone responds in a timely manner and the process continues to move forward.
Real-time monitoring of results will ensure you’re never in the dark. As recipients respond to assessments, you should be able to follow the results as they come in. The compliance tracking tool should be sophisticated enough to allow you to view data on an individual level, seeing how someone answered each question. You should also be able to export your data from the platform to use in presentations and with other analytical tools.
The power of your compliance tool comes from its reporting capabilities, though. You need to be able to create and run reports on your question sets, allowing you to dynamically analyze data and see patterns you may have missed by simply reviewing a spreadsheet. These reports need to be sharable with others in your organization, as well.
A few other bonus features you should consider in your compliance tracking tool:
- Targeted Distribution: allows you to send question sets to specific individuals, groups, or distribution lists.
- Compliance Thresholds: gives you the ability to see at a glance how compliant recipient answers are with what you have deemed to be the best answer.
- Assessment Sections & Sub-Sections: enables you to assign specific parts of your assessment to different individuals and better segregate your data.
- Delegation: grants individuals or groups the right to reassign questions. All delegations should be tracked.
- Audit Trails: maintains a complete historical record of your auditing efforts including assessments, responses, distribution history, and reporting.
- Auto-Republishing: allows you to schedule a future date for which an assessment will be sent out to recipients.
Which compliance tracking tool offers all of these features? TotalCompliance by ComplianceBridge helps you automate and streamline all of your GRC activities. On our platform, you have the freedom to create dynamic question sets, distribute them to the right people, follow results and real-time, and conduct enhanced reporting procedures.
If you’re ready to find your source of truth, schedule a demo with ComplianceBridge today.