Workflow Automation For CompliancePublished April 18, 2019 by Karen Walsh • 4 min read
The time-consuming, administratively burdensome compliance process is riddled with potential human errors that can lead to violations. As securing data increasingly relies on proving controls’ effectiveness, compliance becomes more stressful for everyone in the organization. However, building compliance workflow can streamline the process leading to a more cost effect and auditable outcome.
What is a compliance workflow?
Any workflow is based on dependencies. Someone needs to set tasks and assign responsibilities. Then, that person needs to ensure that tasks are completed on time.
In compliance, the compliance officer should be setting the tasks and monitoring their completion. Maintaining visibility into the compliance program requires communication across the organization.
However, a traditional compliance workflow often becomes burdensome as organizations scale. Emails and calendar notifications become lost in the day-to-day clutter of business operations and meetings. This outdated process can lead to missed deadlines which overwhelm the compliance officer.
Why automate the compliance workflow?
With automation, you can use technology to streamline the business process. Rather than having to update your tasks manually, you can use software that automatically renews and tracks the items that need to get done.
For example, if you need to meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements, you need to review patch management processes. Often, this requires the IT department to submit documentation. However, if the IT department loses the document request in the stream of emails, the compliance officer is the one who needs to follow up. That follow up process means sending reminder emails and nagging the responsible party. Automation allows for a “set and forget” approach to task management and follow up which saves time and better controls the process.
Why does streamlining the compliance process matter?
Compliance managers need to balance a variety of regulatory and industry standard requirements. Depending on the industry, they may need to maintain compliance with cybersecurity as well as human resources, document retention, and internal operations requirements. All of this becomes more complicated as regulatory and industry standards evolve requiring more time and more documentation.
Thus, juggling all those balls at once can lead to the compliance manager dropping one. A dropped ball can lead to a compliance violation. A compliance violation can lead to fines and penalties. For example, HIPAA violations can cost anywhere from a minimum of $100 per violation up to $50,000 per violation, depending on the negligence involved. Even worse, if a covered entity knowingly obtained and disclosed individually identifiable health information a 1-year prison term and a fine of $50,000 could be enforced. Thus, ensuring effective controls and compliance with them becomes not just a financial, but also a personal, risk.
Streamlining the process with workflow automation makes documenting the process easier. Ultimately, any area that requires compliance also requires an audit. Audits rely on documenting policies, processes, and procedures. With workflow automation, the necessary documentation resides in a single location to enable auditability.
How to use compliance management software
Once you decide to automate the compliance workflow, you need to find one that works for the organization. Various automated tools provide different functionalities. Thus, choosing the right compliance management software requires understanding the inherent capabilities you need, what the tool offers, and how to use the system.
Each person involved in the compliance process has responsibilities. Unfortunately, as organizations scale, people often lose track of who needs to do what and when it needs to be done. Moreover, as people move throughout the organization, they may no longer be responsible for the same activities.
Thus, the first step is to assign responsibilities so that everyone knows where in the compliance process they fit, like a puzzle. IT managers need to know what reports they have to provide. Department managers and the human resources department need to know where their responsibilities overlap with IT. For example, if an employee moves from marketing to sales, that person may no longer need access to the same information. Each department, therefore, needs to communicate with others to ensure control effectiveness.
Once you assign responsibilities, you need to assign tasks. Each responsible party needs to know what documentation they have to provide the compliance manager. These tasks can be automated reports such as monitoring logs or responses to auditor interview questions.
Compliance workflow automation makes assigning and tracking these tasks more manageable. Once you assign them, it sends reminders to the people who need to complete the tasks regularly. It also provides visibility into what has been submitted, what remains outstanding, and whether the task is overdue.
Compliance relies on documentation. Auditors can trust your company, but to meet their professional standards, they need to document that your company maintains compliance. To do this, you need to give them proof that you monitor your internal controls and align with what your policies and procedures say.
A complete compliance workflow management system not only tracks people and tasks but also stores documentation. Rather than having to sift through a shared cloud drive, the compliance management system can organize documentation and tag the responsible parties. This process removes the human error that often plagues compliance managers using manual or outdated methods.
How ZenGRC Enables Compliance Workflow Management
Compliance programs require communication between internal and external stakeholder and compliance workflow automation tools that enable this.
ZenGRC offers workflow tagging so that you can delegate compliance tasks and monitor their progress and completion. Moreover, it allows you to prioritize tasks so that your team members know how to plan their activities.
ZenGRC’s workflow management capabilities include a centralized dashboard that continuously documents your control effectiveness making compliance documentation easier.
Additionally, it helps you create an audit trail by documenting and remediation activities to support your responses to auditor questions.
Using ZenGRC’s single source of information platform can speed up internal and external stakeholder communications and provide all documentation necessary thus reducing external auditor follow up requests.
For more information on how ZenGRC’s audit management workflows can streamline your process, contact us for a demo.