Since IT involves many areas within an organization not to mention a number of different processes, it only makes sense that IT compliance is a process that needs constant attention, monitoring and oversight.
Meeting these obligations requires a framework that enables companies to identify and put into place relevant controls and establish a system for keeping a record for compliance. Setting specific guidelines and having a comprehensive program in place can help organizations not only with their compliance initiatives here but also in other countries where certain rules governing data protection apply.
Setting forth the critical steps to follow are not only instructive but can be instrumental to an organization’s survival. Therefore, here are the 7 most important steps to take in establishing an effective IT compliance program.
1. Document policy and controls
The first order of business is figuring how the compliance process and control architecture is to be documented. Next, is determining what the policy will be and communicate the tenants of that policy along with the documentation on all procedures, standards and supporting controls to those who will be expected to comply. Companies need to update and maintain documentation and have a platform in place to manage the complex nature of the corporate IT policies and specific controls which cover risks, self-assessments for validation and implementation as well tracking gaps and incidents within an IT environment.
2. Determine who has oversight
In order to create an effective IT compliance plan, companies need to establish oversight as a corporate function and give those responsible the proper authority and governance to achieve effective compliance measures as spelled out in the program. They must make executives and the board accountable and see to it that appropriate lines of communication are drawn to ensure critical compliance initiatives are conveyed throughout all operational areas within the organization.
3. Make personnel screening and access control a priority
Access to information and business processes must be protected against internal threats from employees, contractors and business partners. In order to do so more effectively, background checks are needed before access is allowed to sensitive information. In addition, companies need to be careful in delegating authority.
When allowing access to IT systems, use identity management and provisioning to enable administrators to assign system resources and privileges to users. Implementing access controls based on job function, role, and responsibility can also be helpful.
4. Emphasize training and communication
Organizations are well-served by putting compliance training and communications programs in place so individuals with access to regulated processes and sensitive information understand what they need to do to comply with all internal and external regulations.
Effective programs that promote awareness of compliance initiatives and stress the importance of following rules governing corporate conduct can also in the long run help prevent cases of corporate misconduct, fraud and limit liability concerns.
5. Plan for monitoring and auditing of IT controls
In order to validate that controls are in place and operating the way they should, organization’s need to routinely monitor and audit controls either through a manual or automated process. The documentation of controls are useless and can be a business liability if they are not put in place and working properly. Moreover, an organization should develop procedures to help incorporate approved recommendations that concern the control monitoring process and allow for accelerated measures when those accepted changes are not carried out.
6. Keep enforcement consistent
Making sure enforcement of the policies and controls are consistent is paramount to an effective compliance program. In doing so, it allows necessary internal controls to be instituted and applied throughout the entire organization, business processes and relationships that will ensure that specific control violations are recognized and enforced accordingly.
The organization’s deliberate approach and consistent enforcement will strengthen and increase the success of the overall compliance program. Consistent enforcement will also help create an environment where compliance is understood and ingrained in the culture and that nothing less than zero tolerance for unethical and noncompliant behavior will be accepted.
7. Prevention and response to incidents
Effective IT compliance programs must have appropriate procedures that will prevent and respond to violations and gaps in controls. An organization must also learn from its mistakes to eliminate any recurring violations and all control deficiencies need to be addressed and corrected in an effective and timely manner.
To ignore control gaps and compliance violations is negligent and unethical. A successful compliance program must be diligent in identifying and closing all control gaps and restrict or eliminate completely any potential damage or loss from incurring violations.
Following these 7 steps can help organizations identify critical components that need to be part of building an effective IT compliance program. A program that will help manage operational risks, compliance initiatives, measure consistency and provide an impetus to bolster confidence and improved performance.
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