7 Important Considerations for Crafting an IT Compliance Policy

Modern businesses will no doubt agree that technology has become symbiotic for conducting business. It is therefore vital for these businesses to implement and oversee a robust and reliable IT compliance policy, not just for legalities, but as a failsafe against the various security risks that are uniquely presented in the digital world. Without an IT compliance policy, it would be insurmountably difficult to deal with these potential risks efficiently. It is not a matter of ‘If’, but ‘When’ these policies become necessary for companies across all industries. From digital retailers who base their operations on e-commerce platforms, to the traditional physical stores who utilise programs for BOH operations (accounting, payroll, stock management etc.) – like it or not, technological systems are peppered everywhere in our day-to-day. Where there is tech, there are inherent risks associated therein. The lack of adequate security measures can lead to serious consequential ripples for the business. This is why having a solid and foundational IT compliance policy in place is necessary – bolstering against breaches in data security and general systems. This article will cover 7 of the considerations you should have when implementing or planning your IT compliance policy.

The Considerations for IT Compliance Policies

1) Consolidating People, Process, & Technology

While technology plays an important role in IT compliance, it is not the only cog in maintaining an equilibrium. Processes and people are often not as heavily focused upon which can be detrimental to compliance policies which can inevitably lead to issues with audits down the road. Compliance without consideration can be made more complex than it needs to be, so having a logic-based and holistic approach to IT compliance policies will be your best bet.

2) Laws & Regulatory Considerations

Regulation and legislation lead the way when it comes to governing IT compliance policies effectively. Having one eye on the current and relevant stipulations that reside in legislation pertaining to data, privacy, and security is crucial for managing an efficient IT compliance policy. Some of the foundational aspects of current legislation include: • The Health Insurance & Accountability Act • The Gramm-Leach-Bailey Act • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act Understanding these, as well as other relevant regulations in your industry is a necessity before an applicable IT compliance policy can be implemented and created. The controls therein are also vital to a solid policy, they are process-focused and technically based means of adhering to the policies.

3) Bringing The Workers Up To Speed

Human error plays a huge role in a lot of avoidable data breaches and security issues that are covered in any given IT compliance policy. Employees who are unaware of the inherent risks associated with certain protocols can cause more harm than good. Therefore, educating and making implicit awareness of the variables of your IT compliance policy and best practices for digital safety is vitally important. In order for your business to be protected from cyberattacks, there needs to be an understanding of how these can manifest, and the steps taken to encourage secure data transference and storage procedures. A lot of users and employees will favour less secure means of data consolidation and transfer in favour of convenience. This can be ascertained through personal emails, poor password choices, and third-party applications that can leave vulnerabilities in a company’s infrastructure. Encouraging good and logical behaviour is often all that is needed to influence secure decisions and the implementation of a solid training plan in conjunction with the IT compliance policy will likely have a positive effect in the long run.

4) Aligning With The Company-Specific Policies

IT compliance policies and stipulations should be reflective of the manner in which your business conducts itself – as well as the culture it fosters and is borne from. As an example, let’s consider an environment that focuses primarily on conducting through processes and another that is more ad-hoc in its approach. For the ad-hoc environments, it would be wise to consider preventative IT compliance controls. For more process-focused operations, there would likely be a more in-depth policy to assure some level of reliable compliance. It’s important to have distinctions in the IT compliance controls that are more specified and associated with you and your company values. This also serves to assist auditors in understanding the reasons for particular controls.

5) The IT Environmental Context

There are no two ways about it, the IT environments will invariably impact your IT compliance policy. There are two distinct categorical environments: Heterogeneous Environments – Utilises a wide range of compliance applications, security applications, versions, and technologies to facilitate. Homogenous Environments – Very standardised vendors, models, and controls. Typically very consistent with most IT deployment strategies. Compliance costs are usually much lower with homogenous environments thanks to fewer requirements, fewer varieties of vendors, technologies, and as a result – policies. That being said, there should always be specified considerations put forward regarding new technologies (cloud computing, virtual reality etc.).

6) Automation Process

One should always consider the virtues of automation with regards to maintaining and evaluating a cavalcade of IT policy systems. Your internal auditing team can only do so much in the consistently evolving world of IT – especially as your company or business grows in complexity. Automation protocols will allow a greater degree of compliance and surveillance of policy.

7) Accountability Implementation

Finally, you cannot have a worthwhile IT compliance policy without some form of accountability is in place. The definition of responsibilities from the top-down is essential for any IT compliance policy to have any impact and effect on the company. It delegates decision-making and responsibilities (typically encompassing the executive branch of any given business). One way of ensuring this is by framing IT compliance programs in a risk-focused rather than technological-based light. IT providers have a responsibility in this as well, notably in two notable focal points:
  • Data & System Custodians – Can encompass a number of variant duties including system admin, security analytics, internal auditing, legal counselling etc.
  • Data & System Owners – Part of the management team, main responsibilities would be data usage and care. Also accountable for the management of information and protection.
These are necessary for IT policy compliance. Auditors must verify compliance executions effectively to ensure that implementation is occurring as needed.

Ready For A Change?

It may seem like an arduous and elongated process – however a solid IT compliance policy is fundamental and necessary for business security. Not only in the protection of data, information, and reputation – but also in keeping with regulations and avoiding hefty fines and penalties as a result of misconduct or breach. No one wants to have a subpar IT department running the show and risking breaches in your new IT compliance policy which will invariably halt vital operations. Ready for a change? We’re here to help and will endeavour to give you the right advice regarding your current IT predicaments and together, we can find ways of getting the most from your IT provider.