In recent years, System and Organization Control 2, also known as SOC 2, has become one of the most important and well-known Compliance frameworks for companies. Applying to nearly all businesses that work in the cloud and collect, store, and share customer data, the completion of a SOC 2 audit increases the assurance to employees, customers, and various stakeholders that companies have the proper infrastructure and processes in place to protect information from unauthorized access. In today’s environment, this credibility can make or break a business’s reputation and their potential growth, as a result.
But extensive in nature and requiring months of work, the preparation and effort needed to achieve SOC 2 attestation can be demanding, stressful, and resource-intensive — and often, an entirely daunting endeavor for Compliance and/or security leaders.
For startups, the greatest challenges in preparing for SOC 2 often stem from the team’s minimal or complete lack of experience with the audit altogether, as well as the company’s limited resources to devote to meeting its requirements. After all, startups are often lean, where each employee wears a variety of different hats. Hyper-growth companies, on the other hand, may have more resources to devote to physically preparing for a SOC 2 audit but can face even greater hurdles when it comes to allocating resources to audit prep that they’d prefer to prioritize towards growing their business.
As companies and their infrastructures grow and give rise to more frameworks, though, Compliance requirements simultaneously increase in size and only become more complex. From new departments, hires, and offices to more SaaS tools and cloud environments, scaling Compliance against this labyrinthine backdrop requires more frameworks, controls, policies, and evidence.
For each of these stages, the key to efficiently and effectively taking on SOC 2 is by eliminating the problems that accompany Compliance done the traditional way — via manual screenshots, excel spreadsheets, and countless meetings — and instead, introducing automation into the process.
Automation is the cornerstone of a successful Compliance approach that scales alongside companies throughout their journey. In fact, there are (at least!) six different ways that automation is helping companies meet SOC 2 today.
SOC 2 audits and the auditors reporting on them require complete and accurate evidence that Compliance leaders are responsible for collecting from different departments within a company, a process that can be time-intensive for each party involved. For instance, R&D professionals have to provide numerous pieces of software development life cycle (SDLC)-related evidence (or the steps an organization took to develop and deploy its software). HR is called on to submit a variety of different employee lists and spreadsheets based on continuous updates to staffing; SecOps needs to submit detailed information around their security configurations. The list goes on.
But allowing the success (or failure) of a SOC 2 audit to rely on evidence-based submissions from assorted internal stakeholders wastes time and resources that could be dedicated to other tasks. It can also lead to employee resentment and audit fatigue — and that’s in the best-case scenario — where every bit of necessary evidence is submitted to auditors in an appropriate time frame and the first go-round of requests. Automation tools that access up-to-date data can have time and free stakeholders from pulling evidence and gathering samples. This, in turn, allows them to focus on what they do best: their jobs.
While upholding the mantra that people are “only human” can improve personal relationships at a company, any fraction of human error in Compliance audits can be detrimental to the overall success of the process. It’s all too easy for a team to submit system configurations, for example, that inadvertently fail to reflect all in-scope systems. And it’s too easy for employees to respond to a request for evidence of a certain day with evidence corresponding to the wrong day. The result is more audit requests and further delays (i.e., more hurdles to completing the audit on time).
Automated SOC 2 evidence collection sidesteps human error and allows for evidence that always fulfills audit requirements. It also makes adding new frameworks a much smoother process.
For companies that have yet to embrace Compliance automation and are still reliant on manual tactics, every audit is essentially conducted as a one-time project. Without the ability to easily factor in overlapping controls against other frameworks, the audits are often siloed from each other, each started from scratch, and result in duplicated work that would have otherwise been established at the foundational level. As growing companies adopt additional Compliance frameworks, audits become a continuous stream of these tedious, one-time projects.
Growing Compliance maturity through an automated system eliminates repetitive work, saving both time and resources while seamlessly cross-mapping controls and requirements among different frameworks. The result is a streamlined approach that generates data that is always up-to-date and accurate.
A growing company means more complex infrastructures and tech stacks that are constantly evolving in unpredictable ways. With the public awareness of the ever-increasing risks of cyberattacks, a company’s Security Compliance must be unquestionably reliable.
With automation, a central data pool keeps Compliance manageable and controllable. Compliance can grow as the company grows, without compromising the security of protected information assets. An automated system also ensures a faster audit processes and greater auditor confidence in the company’s security posture. Using a SOC 2 checklist can also enable companies to achieve Compliance faster.
Since companies need to be able to expand their tech and cloud infrastructure in often unpredictable ways, the approach to meeting Compliance requirements has to be similarly nimble and customizable. It should enable the ability to implement controls that map against a company’s specific needs at a specific time. Otherwise, every added framework would require another independent automated project.
Automation that enables a company to customize their controls allows them to adopt whichever frameworks will help them grow, knowing Compliance can keep up.
As companies grow, they add on many new elements: employees, locations, departments, tools, customers, partnerships, and so much more. Thus, new policies must be put into place and continually managed and monitored to ensure these new elements adhere to best practices at all times.
With automated policy tracking and policy templates, companies can establish a policy program to fully orchestrate the lifecycle of all policies, with the ability to see the metadata of the approval process. These policies and their metadata can then be used as evidence for the audit process.
While SOC 2 certification is increasingly necessary today, all too often, it’s the company’s own Compliance processes that cause the audit to be more painful than necessary. Even worse, a growing company’s Compliance processes may be too clunky to keep up with the adoption of frameworks that would further its growth, limiting what could be a greater success.
Compliance automation that is flexible and customizable helps companies meet SOC 2 requirements. Smart automation, with the right compliance automation solution, removes stakeholder dependencies, reduces human error, prevents repetitive work, and keeps Compliance manageable. It encourages a company to take on SOC 2 without fear and ultimately, turn its vision into tangible reality.
This article was originally posted on toolbox.com on Nov 11, 2021