Passing an IT compliance audit presents unique challenges to tech companies of all sizes, but especially for startups. If this is the first time your company has gone through a compliance audit, or if you are scaling operations to serve a wider range of clients, you may encounter new and complicated situations and terminology from your IT compliance audit.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from the biggest pain points of going through an IT compliance audit, and how you can effectively navigate them.
Pain Point #1: Engaging qualified and tech-fluent auditors
Understanding the full scope of compliance requirements is often the first pain point of the IT compliance audit. There are different types of regulations and standards that your company might need to comply with, depending on the data you handle, location, and other aspects of your business.
If you store or transmit personally identifiable information you may need to comply with ISO 27001 or SOC 2. However, the way you build a compliance program needs to be unique to the ways your business needs to protect that information. Auditors typically will identify the controls you should implement and then assess them after your implementation is complete.
How to overcome:
Consult with cybersecurity experts to analyze the types of data your organization handles and identify which requirements and regulations it’s subject to. After determining the correct framework(s) for your organization, begin shopping for an assessor firm that is familiar with startups and cloud-based technology solutions.
Engaging with auditors who are already familiar with your systems and processes will significantly streamline and abbreviate the audit process. While it’s tempting to go with an expensive firm like the Big 4, there are plenty of firms that serve companies in line with their industry, stage, and size for a more affordable price tag.
Pain Point #2: Committing resources to ongoing compliance activities
If you want to pass your IT compliance audit, one of the most important jobs at your organization is to allocate appropriate resources to ongoing compliance. As industries begin to expect continuous compliance, creating a seamless workflow of responsibility to activity is even more important.
Your resources need to serve several roles, from monitoring IT compliance status, to clearly and quickly communicating security breaches. Data breaches can be expensive, so a fast, thorough response can help control these costs and reduce the damage to the company’s reputation.
Along with appointing responsible roles, your organization also needs to commit to creating a culture of compliance.
How to overcome:
Before appointing dedicated employees, consult with requirements.
By committing to a culture of compliance from the top-down, you create stakeholders out of the executives and each employee. This will assist in maintaining compliance overtime, which will become important in subsequent audit cycles.
Pain Point #3: Conducting a risk assessment for audit readiness
Another key stage of the IT compliance audit process is to take a closer look at your organization’s strengths and weaknesses around IT security, and identify critical assets that might need stronger defenses.
A few key questions to ask as part of your risk assessment:
- Regulatory: what are the regulatory implications of the organization if the business becomes inoperable with the unavailability of your product?
- Business: how will the loss of data, key personnel, or office space affect your competitive advantage in the market? Do you have a business continuity plan?
- Reputation & Brand: how does selling an unsecured product affect your reputation in the market?
- Financial: how will exposing the company to risk cause a loss of funding or revenue? Will you be able to keep up with growth plans?
The risk assessment should be conducted in a holistic manner, including your hopes and dreams for the future of your company. Looking forward to an acquisition or new product launch? A risk assessment should include all the associated risks and your risk appetite prior to moving into audit.
How to overcome:
Consider hiring a cybersecurity compliance consultant to help you create a risk assessment framework. Invest in cybersecurity training for your team; communicate the results of your assessment to stakeholders and get the organization involved with strengthening your defenses.
Pain Point #4: Managing manual requests
Going through an IT compliance audit can be time-consuming, and often requires a lot of manual processes, such as investigating security issues and reviewing policies. Auditors will send excel sheets full of information requests over and over again, which can fully consume your resources for the length of the audit.
How to overcome:
Use a compliance platform to save time by automating certain compliance-related activities and workflows. This can include evidence collection, report generation, security monitoring, and authoring policies. Automated compliance workflows help your organization manage the process more efficiently and get through the audit faster.
Going through an IT compliance audit is a crucial step of your business’s growth. If you want to sell SaaS solutions to large enterprises or be approved as a vendor for the federal government, your organization needs to demonstrate compliance with key regulations and standards governing customer data. Automation and expertise are not-so-secret weapons to success.