What is Continuous Compliance and Assurance?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jon Long


Ask any audit professional and they are likely to be familiar with the phrase “continuous compliance.” On the surface, it’s an easy concept. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a lot of disagreement about what it means or how it should be applied in a complex regulatory environment.  

To me, the phrase is almost meaningless without an additional reference of assurance. Compliance refers to the application of specific mandated internal controls while assurance is concerned with comfort that risk has been adequately managed. Either one, without the other, is inefficient and likely to fail.   That’s why I define continuous compliance and assurance as an ongoing process of proactive risk management that delivers predictable, transparent, and cost-effective results to meet information security goals.   It’s the future of risk management, and is best applied through a mix of technology tools, outsourced expertise, and independent auditor involvement.   That’s because many companies face the same compliance challenges and issues:

  • They have difficulty coordinating compliance efforts across multiple divisions
  • They waste time and resources when multiple compliance requirements share common internal controls
  • They are overwhelmed by the time and costs it takes to complete the daunting number of tasks associated with each regulatory requirement
  • They struggle to align their documents against hundreds of security controls for audit inquiries
  • They are surprised by external audit findings that are outside of the scope of their internal audit frameworks

imageContinuous compliance and assurance should alleviate these pain points by increasing internal transparency and control while simultaneously decreasing day-to-day responsibilities and overhead.   Continuous assurance gives peace of mind that the state of compliance is ongoing rather than just an expired snapshot. By implementing continuous compliance and assurance, organizations can rest assured that their information assets are protected at all times.     Ultimately, operational costs will be lowered and compliance processes will be simplified. Continuous compliance and assurance streamlines the audit process by removing the need for internal audit staff to spend countless hours gathering evidence to present to external auditors. By enabling workflow automation that monitors and tracks security risks, and their response to those risks, organizations know they are in compliance in real-time rather than waiting to find out whether they pass or fail their external audits.   The security of company data and personal information must be monitored at all times in order to satisfy the assurance needs of customers and clients. Continuous compliance and assurance does this by allowing organizations to proactively regulate and manage secure data through a predictable, transparent, and cost-effective process.   I’ll be writing a lot more about the specifics of continuous compliance and assurance – how it is planned and implemented, the necessary technology that powers it and the expertise that ensures its success.    

Cross Posted from the Compliance Point Information Security blog. 

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