How to Build a Culture of IT Compliance

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Every fast-growing company reaches a point when its customers demand proof of integrity, ethical behavior, and a promise of data security. At this point getting compliance certifications is essential. Moreover, keeping compliant every year as the business grows becomes challenging for IT teams. Buy-in from management can take time, and with cross-departmental collaboration, the risk of non-compliance dramatically increases. So what is the solution?

With a little investment of time and attention, a culture of compliance can go a long way to reduce compliance risks and improve the long-term health of an organization

What is a Culture of Compliance?

A culture where all team members, regardless of department or function, feel equally responsible and empowered to take steps to adhere to various compliance goals.

Here are 5 steps you can take to build a culture of IT compliance.

  1. Appoint an executive champion
  2. Layout a plan for communications
  3. Ensure proper training
  4. Design incentives and awards for success
  5. Deploy proper tools and technologies

1. Appoint an executive champion

Compared to increasing sales or rolling out new products/services, compliance can fall off the priority list. For cultures to adopt compliance as a day-to-day practice, having a champion to advocate for management (as well as across the organization) will drive faster results. Armed with a strong message of security awareness (and applicable training), along with communicating the importance of policy and procedures, the compliance champion will create the foundation of a compliance culture.

2. Layout a communications plan

While the overall responsibility of IT compliance lies with the compliance, infosec, or the IT team (depending upon the size of your organization), participation from various other teams such as HR, product, sales, marketing, and engineering are essential for success. Creating a regular and timely communication plan for all stakeholders helps in explaining their responsibilities and how their participation is crucial for the organization’s success. Communication is critical to prevent missing evidence, surprises in resource requests, and highly risky compliance gaps and costs.

3. Ensure proper training

Laying down a proper training plan can help in building a culture of information, confidence, and a general belief in the objectives of the compliance program. An IT compliance training program which is structured in the following three layers can help in establishing an ongoing information campaign.

Management’s assertion on the importance and value

Someone from the senior management team should present prepared statements about the value of security and compliance in the organization and the risks it mitigates for its customers.

IT Security awareness

This should be the nuts and bolts of the policies, procedures, and controls in place to effectively mitigate risk and ensure the security and privacy of customer data. All employees should completely understand what is expected of them, along with the risks and rewards associated with it. Requiring an acknowledgment of receipt of this training helps employees understand the importance of the program.

Roles and responsibilities training

This could be limited to the compliance team members, infosec team, and/or cross-department managers who are actively responsible for meeting the regulations and responses during audits.

4. Design incentives and awards

Successful audit certifications (SOC 2, ISO 27001, etc.) open doors for new business and opportunities for organizations, so rewarding employees for their participation elevates the chances of success. Rewards and incentives for successful compliance initiatives instill motivation and demonstrate management’s commitment.

5. Establish proper tools and technologies

Probably the most important factor impacting the cost and effort of achieving compliance are the tools and technologies your organization deploys. Automation is crucial for large heterogenous environments but for smaller environments, a solid system to manage risks, controls, and related procedures is a must. A single central system prevents an all-hands-on-deck approach when the audit nears. It also ensures you have access to all procedures, policies, and evidence of enforcement ready for presentation.

Any compliance initiatives start with the people of the organization. By focusing on creating a culture of IT compliance, businesses can mitigate risks and save dollars. So give it a try. And, if you need some pointers, we are always here to help.

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