Taxes are a necessary evil. They have to be done. If you mess up or intentionally fudge the numbers, you’re likely to get audited. You need to be proactive in your approach and do them right. The first time.
Compliance is fairly similar, but the stakes are raised tenfold. If you don’t stay on top of regulatory requirements, it could ruin your business.
There are two approaches you can take to maintain compliance: technology-based and policy-based. Each has pros and cons. To help you decide which approach is best for your organization, we’ve explored both.
Policies are the core of your business operations, enabling you to get things done in an efficient manner. Without policies, you lack consistency and accountability.
Working without clear, well-documented policies eventually leads to things slipping through the cracks. When it comes to security and compliance, these slip-ups can lead to hefty violation fines and mandatory external audits.
Here are a few tips to help your organization stay compliant with the right policies.
Account for Personal Devices
While you can’t stop employees from bringing their cell phones to work, you can set strict guidelines for how employees use their mobile devices at the office. For instance, make it clear that snapping a photo or taking a recording of anything with sensitive information on it (computer screen, file, paper) will be grounds for immediate discipline and possible termination.
Train Your Team
Employees need to be taught how they can help maintain regulatory compliance — and they need to know what will happen if they stray from your organization’s guidelines. There should be specialized training for employees who need to follow unique compliance policies.
Document your policies and procedures, and keep that documentation in a place where your team can easily access it for reference. Also be sure to perform periodic training sessions so your team receives consistent reminders and updates on compliance best practices and standards.
When it comes to compliance documentation, the devil’s in the details.
Auditors need to understand exactly what your employees are doing and how they’re doing it. It’s best practice to appoint a person in your office dedicated to creating, managing and updating relevant documentation in a timely manner. Enlisting the help of an experienced professional never hurts, either.
- Implementing and enforcing policies will help you maintain data integrity
- Employees will better understand their role and impact in maintaining compliance
- You’ll have the proper documentation if audited
- As standards and regulations change, policies need to be updated and communicated
- Establishing, enforcing, and updating policies and documentation requires a substantial time investment
- You cannot control people, even if you provide thorough training on a regular basis
Technology enhances the way you do business and allows you to more effectively maintain and document compliance. Without IT, employees are more likely to accidentally (or intentionally) compromise sensitive data.
Use GRC Software
Set User Permissions
Role-based security prevents data from accidentally being changed or exposed. Don’t give an employee access to applications, databases, or folders containing sensitive data unless they need that information do their job. For instance, your receptionist doesn’t need to see every employee’s social security number. Your HR manager does.
Enable Password Protection
Require that devices, databases, and applications are all password-protected. Every time an employee needs to access sensitive information, they will need to log in first. Also, ensure that your employees follow password complexity best practices. Passwords need to be strong, changed frequently, and different for every end user.
- Technology provides layers of protection, enforcement, and monitoring that humans cannot
- If well managed and updated, technology works consistently
- You can customize and configure technology based on your organization’s needs
- Researching the right type of GRC software for your organization takes time
- Employees can easily forget passwords, especially if they have to remember more than one
- Certain technology can be costly to manage and maintain
Which approach should your organization take to maintain compliance?
These two approaches work in concert with one another. Technology enhances the policies put in place to protect sensitive data. Policies allow you to effectively use IT, better preserving data integrity.
So which do you want? Most likely, the best results will come from using a combination of the two.
A compliance consultant can provide the guidance you need to select and implement the policies and technology that align with your organization and its specific standards and regulatory requirements.