Continuous Compliance: 6 Steps To Stay Ahead (NIST & More)
As a business leader, you have a lot on your plate. Financials, quality, security, compliance, and more! It can be overwhelming.
And, just when you think you are done with something like cybersecurity or compliance, you realize you’ve really only just begun.
Many organizations assume that once they have systems in place to meet compliance or other regulatory requirements, they can check the box and they are done. Unfortunately, the reality is that the journey is just beginning.
As manager of information security and compliance at Kelser Corporation, I’ve seen organizations that embrace the ongoing nature of compliance and those that don’t. I understand the demands that business leaders face and I also understand why ongoing compliance is a challenge and a necessity.
In this article, I’ll provide a roadmap to continuous compliance that outlines the steps you need to keep on top of your compliance and regulatory requirements. I’ll highlight key actions that will keep you ahead of the compliance curve and proactively position your organization for optimal success.
The 6 Steps To Stay Ahead Of Compliance
There are six steps that can keep every organization on track with regard to compliance. No matter where you are on your compliance journey, there are steps you can take today that will keep you from falling behind.
Step 1: Establish An Information Security Culture
This article explains what an information security culture is and how to cultivate one.
What is an information security culture?
It is a commitment by everyone in an organization to keep sensitive information safe.
Different organizations will have different levels of sensitive information, but whether it’s the recipe for your secret sauce or engineering designs or credit card information – every business has information that, if publicized, would be detrimental.
Without an information safety culture as a foundation, attempts at compliance may succeed in the short term, but they will break down.
Every member of your team needs to understand that information security is a top priority and that each one of them plays a key role in keeping sensitive information safe.
If you don’t have an information security culture, start here. This point is so important that I’d even say don’t move on to Step 2 until you have a strong information security culture in place.
Step 2: Perform A Compliance Assessment
As with most things in life, it’s difficult to gauge your progress if you don’t know where you started. Once your organization is committed to information security, it’s time to assess how you stack up to your compliance framework requirements.
Get an assessment. If you have the qualifications internally, go ahead and assess yourself. Usually, folks find it’s good to have someone else come in and do an assessment.
Assessment is important because it provides a snapshot of where you are now. See how you stack up to the regulatory requirements for your business. Identify the gaps in your compliance efforts. Once you know where you stand, you’ll have a better idea of where to focus your efforts.
Step 3: Document & Plan Necessary Compliance Improvements
Now that you know where you stand, you can look for opportunities for improvement.
Identify where your organization has compliance gaps and where you fall short of the requirements outlined in your compliance framework. Document the gaps. Prioritize which items you will tackle first and how you will address them.
Develop a plan for implementing the changes you need to become compliant or enhance your compliance efforts. Involve key stakeholders in the process, so that you know the changes will be sustainable and have buy-in from the people who will help implement them.
Step 4: Implement Compliance Improvements & Remediation
Begin to make the changes that will position your organization for success. Start with the highest priority items that you need to resolve.
Document the changes as you go, so that people know what they are.
Step 5: Monitor And Continuously Improve Compliance Initiatives
Compliance is not a “set it and forget it” exercise. Without monitoring and continuous improvement, your compliance initiatives will become stagnant and eventually fade to the back of everyone’s mind.
I like to think about compliance in the same way I think about quality. If an organization establishes quality standards and then never revisits them, product quality will eventually slip until there is an event and then it suddenly becomes top of mind again.
Don’t let this happen to your compliance efforts. The cost can be significant, not only in terms of fines and loss of business but also in terms of damage to your organization’s reputation.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 2-6
This is where many organizations fall down. Once you’ve made the improvements that you know you need today, over time go back and reassess your compliance protocols.
You may want to consider getting different assessors to weigh in. Using different assessors throughout your compliance lifecycle may provide a diverse point of view and new opportunities for improvement.
Take The Next Step In Your Compliance Journey
Again, no matter where you are in your compliance journey, it’s a good idea to adopt a continuous improvement mentality. You may be NIST 800-171 certified. You may have processes in place to meet the regulatory guidelines for your industry. Take the next step. There is always room for improvement.
We’ve talked about 6 key elements of the compliance journey:
- establishing an information security culture
- performing compliance assessments
- documenting and planning necessary improvements
- implementing improvements and remediation
- monitoring and continuous improvement
- repeating the process
Armed with this information, you know how to keep your organization focused on compliance.
At Kelser, a managed IT services provider, we help businesses like yours navigate their compliance journey every day. While we understand that managed IT isn’t right for everyone, our managed services do provide elements that some compliance frameworks require such as anti-virus, anti-malware, and ransomware protection.
Our automated patching and management services ensure that our customers have the latest safeguards in place to keep their IT infrastructures safe, available and efficient. Find out more about managed IT services in this article: How Much Does Managed IT Cost? What’s Usually Included?