Once upon a time, organizations could manage their regulatory compliance burdens with manual processes and standard desktop technology tools. Many organizations still try to tackle compliance this way, even as the burdens of compliance grow more complex and voluminous year after year. 

That manual approach can no longer keep up. The longer you use it, the more you run risks such as incomplete documentation, erroneous or duplicative data, or plain old human error in deciding what to do next. Should those risks go the wrong way, your business could face expensive remediation costs, civil litigation, monetary fines from regulators, and other painful consequences. 

There is a smarter way. Organizations that embrace compliance management software have greater success at accountability, accuracy, risk assessment, and efficiency. While compliance management software can be an expensive investment, it’s not nearly as high as the costs of non-compliance.

What Is Compliance Management Software?

Compliance management software automates compliance processes and communication within a business. It helps an organization to mitigate risks, and therefore reduce the chance of an “adverse event” and the regulatory consequences that can follow. Automation won’t be foolproof, but it will generate far more certainty about your compliance posture than a manual approach ever will. 

Compliance management software is crucial for tasks such as compliance audits and compliance assessments.

The Difference Between Audit and Assessment

The terms “audit” and “assessment” are often used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be. The terms refer to different concepts. 

A compliance audit happens when an auditor reviews all your systems, data, and controls to see how well those things do or don’t satisfy compliance obligations. A compliance assessment is more how you interpret those findings, to understand the overall strength of your compliance program (or the lack thereof) and devise any corrective measures that might be necessary. 

Types of Audits

The compliance audits you undertake will depend on the industry in which your business operates. The most common compliance program audits are listed below.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

HIPAA was enacted in 1996 to safeguard personal health information (PHI) and protect patient privacy. Hospital systems, health insurers, medical offices, device makers and any other third parties that handle (PHI) can fall into scope of HIPAA, and audits for HIPAA compliance are a routine event. 

If your business is subject to HIPAA, it’s your responsibility to assure that you’ve taken the proper steps to protect your information systems and the data that you use, transmit, store, and process. 

PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

PCI-DSS compliance was developed to assure that consumers’ credit card data is properly protected during commercial transactions. This standard now applies to any business that processes payments using credit or debit cards.

To achieve compliance, businesses must first execute an internal audit of their business processes, information systems, and financial data. After that, they must assure that any vulnerabilities are mitigated and that the data is safe from a data breach. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines or even loss of credit card transaction processing privileges.

SOC 2 (Systems and Organizational Controls)

SOC 2 is an audit of an organization’s data security controls. It’s meant to demonstrate that a vendor has effective cybersecurity, so that customers can trust the business with their confidential information. SOC 2 is quite strict as to the procedures and requirements expected of service providers. 

To achieve SOC 2 certification, most companies prepare over the course of several months, with audit teams reviewing business processes, developing the appropriate mitigation policies, and implementing the necessary security controls to ensure the business will pass the official audit. 

Certification can be applied for in five areas: security, privacy, confidentiality, availability, and processing integrity. 

SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002)

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires large publicly traded companies to have an annual audit of their internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR). This is separate from the annual financial statement audit that all publicly traded companies must have, regardless of size. The goal of SOX is to protect investors by assuring accurate, reliable financial statements and corporate disclosures. 

ISO (International Organization of Standardization)

ISO 27000 is a set of standards for information security, to help businesses demonstrate their ability to manage the security of IT assets, third-party data, financial records, and any intellectual or proprietary data. Audits of your IT systems are a crucial part of meeting the expectations of ISO 27000 and related standards in the 27000 family.

Like SOC 2, formal ISO certification depends on an independent audit. That said, your business can still be considered “ISO compliant” without a formal certification, if you have no contractual obligation to achieve formal certification.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

The European Union’s GDPR is a comprehensive data privacy law that applies to any business collecting the personal data of EU citizens. GDPR compliance includes an internal audit drive by four steps: planning, gap analysis, remediation, and testing.

GDPR compliance does not require a formal outside audit, but beware: failure to meet GDPR standards can result in fines up to 20 million euros or 4 percent of global annual revenue, whichever is greater.

Audit Automation Software Solutions

Using audit automation software can help you catch discrepancies in real-time. Governance, risk management, and compliance tools can enable you to run audit reports regularly to ensure that you achieve and remain compliant as your organization grows.

More than just an audit management solution, ZenGRC can support audit planning by providing templates that you can use to ensure your audit plan is compliance-ready. 

It can streamline the workflow and audit trail for internal and external controls to ensure they meet all applicable laws, automate follow-up for outstanding remediation tasks and documentation, and provide you with the peace of mind that you’ve done your due diligence. 

ZenGRC software can align your security and compliance teammates with a single, integrated experience that reveals risk across your entire business, allowing you more time to focus on productivity and profitability.

Our GRC solution can centralize your audit management system, covering all required compliance frameworks: SOX, GDPR, ISO, or otherwise. It manages regulatory compliance and runs through an audit checklist with effortless functionality.

See how user-friendly our GRC system is for yourself by following up this read with a ZenGRC demo!