2023 has been a rough year, with large tech companies worldwide hit by huge fines for violating the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other compliance violations as well. Businesses can bring their best talent and technology to maintain regulatory compliance, but the plain truth is that as a business grows, so does the complexity of that challenge — and many times, that complexity grows faster than your ability to handle it.

One tactic to simplify that workload — and therefore, to increase your chance of a strong  compliance program — is to use consolidated objectives. Such objectives can be rolled out across multiple compliance frameworks, allowing you to “do more with less.” 

This article provides an overview of consolidated objectives: what they are, how to use them, and how they help to reduce complexity even as you juggle multiple regulatory compliance demands. 

What Is a Compliance Framework?

Compliance frameworks are blueprints you can use to assure that your company fulfills its compliance obligations. Some frameworks help with financial reporting goals; others address privacy, cybersecurity, or even ESG-related goals. Frameworks can be required by law or regulation, or a company can adopt a framework voluntarily simply so it can be more rigorous with its risk management efforts. 

For example, all U.S. public companies must comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s requirements for internal control over financial reporting (ICFR). To achieve that compliance, virtually all companies now use the COSO framework for effective internal control — a generalized guide to achieving ICFR, which any company can tailor to its own unique operations and processes. 

The challenge is that as a business grows and its regulatory compliance obligations proliferate, the number of compliance frameworks it must follow keeps growing too. A company might need to use one framework for HIPAA compliance on personal health information, another framework for the PCI DSS standard on security of credit card information, a NIST standard on cybersecurity so the company can bid on federal government contracts, and so forth. 

In other words, the company will soon encounter “compliance overload” — a flood of demands that leaves employees confused, exasperated, and never sure that they’ve implemented the correct policies and procedures. 

Governance risk and compliance (GRC) software tools can alleviate some of that burden through automation. What truly cuts the Gordian knot, however, is the use of consolidated objectives: clear, specific objectives that can meet the demands of numerous frameworks at the same time.

For example, ISO 27001 and PCI compliance both include requirements for password complexity. You can consolidate those demands into a single objective for password complexity that aligns with both frameworks. This cuts down the time employees spend on establishing control requirements. 

What Are the Benefits of Using Consolidated Objectives for Compliance?

When you calculate the time and effort saved by consolidating objectives, including the coordination across teams to implement a consistent set of compliance requirements, the return on investment becomes clear almost immediately. The benefits go beyond saving time and resources, however. You are also able to achieve:

  • A single view of compliance risk across the whole enterprise
  • Better ability to implement compensating controls to address weaknesses
  • More efficient use of company resources

So how does one start implementing consolidated objectives at your enterprise?

Steps to Consolidate Compliance Objectives

Once your organization has decided to consolidate your compliance objectives, the following steps will help you streamline your compliance process. 

1. Compile regulatory compliance requirements

The first step is to compile all the regulatory compliance requirements that apply to your organization. This exercise might need a mix of internal audit team members and external auditors, your IT team, and your enterprise risk management (ERM) team to agree upon a standardized compilation of all the requirements. 

2. Consolidate compliance assessments

The next step is to understand the links between these various sets of compliance or risk requirements. GRC platforms help you find the correct associations between a given risk or regulatory requirement. If there are other teams within your organization enforcing internal controls and compiling documentation for the same risk assessment needs, then identifying the common controls and areas would be time consuming, but crucial in the process. The result is a consolidated map of all requirements across different teams and regulatory areas.

3. Evaluate and verify the completeness of your risk mapping

Once the map is compiled, you can identify the key risks by severity and impact. That, in turn, can help you evaluate whether your risk map is comprehensive enough to cover all the risk-prone areas across the organization. If it isn’t, assess with your ERM and leadership team what other areas are unmapped; then bring them into the risk mapping to assure that you can report across multiple regulatory requirements seamlessly. 

4. Identify the right teams for ownership

There might be multiple teams across your organization scrambling to meet a similar set of regulatory requirements, but working in silos. Bring these teams together to share information assets across groups seamlessly. Rely on senior management to align and mobilize the proper stakeholder support. Leadership can drive decision-making and support the right team to implement the mapped risk requirements and make compliance management much more accessible across the organization.

ZenGRC Tools Make Risk and Compliance Management Easier

Staying abreast of ever-changing regulations and protecting customer assets can be challenging. Documenting and standardizing your compliance requirements does not have to be. The ZenGRC platform can help you create a set of consolidated compliance objectives across your organization. 

With ZenGRC’s content hierarchy, you can understand how to map different frameworks and leverage the efforts across compliance requirements. That helps your teams to overcome audit fatigue through automation and stay compliant without breaking a sweat. 

Curious to know what consolidated objectives could look like for your org? Schedule a ZenGRC demo today to learn more.