Once upon a time, three little pigs decided to venture out into the big wide world. With the housing market in disarray, these enterprising porkers knew their best move was to D-I-Y – and thus, they set out to build their own digs.
Piggy # 1 was a “here-and-now” type of pig; he wanted a roof over his head, a rug under his hooves – something to serve his immediate needs. Never one to think about events down the road, his (very humble) abode was thrown together in haphazard fashion, using tape, glue, and the random blanket here and there.
A bit more future-oriented, little pig # 2 assembled her home from plywood and PVC piping, with hammer, nails, and saw. This setup served her decently for the first few years. But as time went on, her once-sufficient home began to seem limited, incapable of supporting her growing needs.
Piggy # 3 built her home from steel and wood, aided by engineers and blueprints. This piggy was serious about expansion, dedicated to success, and deeply understood that one day, if she wanted to grow, she’d need the right technology and tools to aid that growth. So she got herself a power drill, a bunch of levels, a few high-quality electrical testers, and some other cutting-edge machinery which would enable her to easily add on to her home according to her needs, as they would arise.
Ensuring you’ve got what you need to succeed isn't just for our porcine friends. Fairy tales aside, in this post, we’ll show you how the Compliance technology and tools you use, whether spreadsheets, evidence collection tools, or even GRC tools, can define how well – or how poorly – you’ll be suited to grow in the future. As the pigs learned in the parable above, it pays to think about the future, it pays to think about growth, and it pays to think about the tech and tools you’ll need to have in your arsenal as your Compliance posture advances.
Recently, we completed our (seriously epic, if we do say so ourselves) Security Compliance Maturity Model. The goal of the model is to help companies understand where they currently stand in their Compliance maturity – and more importantly, what measures they can take to level up.
Over the course of interviews with countless Compliance leaders at companies of all stages and sizes, we saw certain patterns in approaches to Compliance-awareness emerge. Early-stage companies TEND to think of Compliance as a burden, a series of tasks to get through as painlessly as possible. But as companies grow, and seek to establish new partnerships, close new deals, and enter new markets and verticals, their tune begins to change – they begin to see that when leveraged properly, and supported by the right accouterments, Compliance can become a vehicle for even greater growth and expansion. And so, as companies grow, it becomes clear that the tape, glue, hammer, and nails (okay, the spreadsheets, screenshots, and binary test results) that worked once upon a time are no longer the answer.
Here is a look at the stages of Compliance technology and tools companies use as they become increasingly Compliance-aware.
Stage 1 - Manual methods - At the earliest stages of a company’s Compliance awareness, they often rely on manual and time- and resource-consuming methods, like screenshots and spreadsheets to document their procedures. They may also incorporate tools such as Jira and Monday to request evidence from stakeholders.
One surprising fact we discovered is that this approach isn’t limited to early-stage companies; we came across numerous enterprises which are still stuck in the proverbial manual mud, and continue to manage Compliance using little more than screenshots and shared Excel files.
Stage 2 - Third-party applications - Slightly higher up in maturity level are reporting modules available from tools like AWS, Wiz, etc. These reports are valuable but can only report on what's relevant to their own tool. This leaves the Compliance team (if there is one at this stage) to attempt to understand whether, when put all together, that patchwork equals a compliant environment.
True, a company at this stage is showing greater awareness, but the limited capabilities and stunted view make this “approach” a far cry from a holistic, integrated approach to understanding Compliance posture.
Stage 3 - Prescriptive audit automation tools - As companies mature and their Compliance needs grow, prescriptive audit automation tools come into the picture. These tools collect evidence from stakeholders and may be appropriate for the budding Compliance needs of small companies.
But by their technical nature, prescriptive tools are limited to collecting evidence from a simple tech stack and therefore they can only support the needs of startups with relatively simple processes and Compliance needs. Moreover, they often need to be complemented by screenshots and spreadsheets.
Stage 4 - GRC tools - Implementing a Governance, Risk, and Compliance or GRC tool represents a shift in perspective; companies willing to undertake the work and expense that come along with setting up and using GRC tools clearly understand that the “C” part of GRC, i.e., Compliance, is an important task and needs to be supported with a strong foundation. But while GRC tools are great at tasks such as calendar-driven alerting and reminding, these tools lack the ability to automatically collect the data needed to fulfill requirements. They also lack the ability to give real data insights.
Moreover, GRC tools tend to be rigid in nature, as they were built to provide a structured work environment built on the basis of best practices. That might help create a workflow, but if the organization has developed its own unique workflows, or needs to present reports in a certain way, or merge, change, or even invent new frameworks and controls, these tools have limited, if any, customization capabilities.
Stage 5 - A data-oriented (and -powered) Compliance workspace - There are some companies that deeply understand that when harnessed properly, Compliance can become a growth strategy; by being well-positioned to take on new frameworks, they can enter new markets and verticals with ease and create trust-based relationships with customers and partners.
With a central workspace for all Compliance activities, teams can collaborate seamlessly and address any Compliance needs or requirements, from daily activities to audit-related tasks. Compliance challenges can be fully and accurately addressed, and the increasing complexity involved with meeting and maintaining Compliance frameworks and requirements at growing companies can be handled seamlessly.
But how can companies level up and work toward meeting new heights?
Well, to invoke yet a bit more imagery, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Reaching an ideal Compliance posture is not an overnight thing, to say the very least. It takes loads of planning, collaboration, and convincing. If you're really set on the idea of leveling up your compliance posture, check out our Maturity Model eBook, where you’ll find in-depth insights and best practices to help you move from one level to the next.
One thing you can start to do right now though – regardless of your current maturity level – is to look toward the future and think about the Compliance tech and tools that will serve your efforts as you move along the journey.
Just like little pig # 3, if you're serious about growth, if you care about future expansion, the right Compliance technology and tools will enable you to easily scale your Compliance program, according to your needs, as they become relevant.