Making the most of Regulatory Compliance

Most businesses need to comply with a myriad of regulations, often within their operating nations – sometimes with more than a few countries globally.

Why?

Privacy, security – you name it, there is a reason for some legal regulation to exist and for the business to comply. In many cases those rules dictate where and how data generated within each geographical divide can be collected, stored and used.

Is it Required?

Depending on the business model. Most places that have a wide scope or has privacy-scope information usually have some requirements. If there is a person/team that handles compliance in the company, that’s the first contact to find out how much work would be needed.

What happens if we fail to Comply?

Again, the effect of a regulatory compliance breach depends on the business model and existing (of course) regulations in the business scope. It can range from some nominal penalties and warnings (with a promise to do better next year) to blocking a business operation or even more severe.

1. Participate in an audit of vulnerabilities

Are you given instructions from the Compliance team/person in the business? Follow those first. But go in with an understanding of what’s really being achieved, shared among the participants of the process. Otherwise, it can feel like it’s just something that HAS TO BE DONE without a real benefit. In reality, it’s a few people’s jobs and/or a risk-management scenario – which is always a good thing. If you feel angry about it, talk to people about why, so a constructive dialogue can be had – not just boil in the background about how it’s ridiculous, etc..

1a. Find out the big picture scope of work

Some participants can focus on smaller scopes of regulatory compliance. Many techies have rather large scopes to know – and to comply with. If a C-level needs to step in to properly align priorities and schedules, then so be it. It’s about time they got their feet dirty 🙂

1b. Compile a list of what falls in that “big” scope

If you’re DevOps, this means resources. If you’re a developer, then it’s the applications that are potentially exposed to. For an integrator-level, this means almost everything. 🙂 But use a bucket approach or otherwise categorize the risk factors – so you don’t take up (or even think about) too much.

1c. Compile a backup list of what should NOT be in that scope

If you’re:

  • DevOps: anything beyond code-branching and pathways to a build, deployment to live environment, and feedback system might be recommended not to be in your scope
  • Developer: from work-stream to code-merging make sense to be in the scope for this role. talk to the compliance team regarding any specific concerns outside the initial scope.
  • Integrator: start by identifying points throughout system that are (or may be) of compliance (data privacy and security, etc.) concerns. work with compliance team as SPOC for tech.

The actual work needs to be the focus, not what ‘should’ or ‘should not be’ – meaning team should not follow dogma, but the utility of the compliance rule, that it can meaningfully report via technological means.

2. Plan how to maximize information

The most frustrating part of the audit process is not the volume of the questions, most of the time. As one might expect, volume of questions are linearly correlated with complexities of a business and/or scope of the audit. There is almost no way to circumvent this – other than to delegate in a costly manner. But there are ways to plan around whatever reality one needs to deal with.

2a. Agree on the data points truly necessary

Not to knock on anybody, but there are times when a compliance officer, either internal or not, who is eager to make an exhaustive list of data needed to be compliant. Whether driven by rigor or a desire to make a name for oneself, while such effort is commendable to a degree, if it serves zero value outside the compliance audit scope, there is probably room for reduction in the list. The important thing is to be compliant, which by definition is driven by rules and appended by interpretation.

2b. Reduce repetitive processes

Being asked the same question over and over? Maybe you forgot to agree on what parts of the audit process might be duplicitous. There are ways to achieve checks and balances during an audit, and some of those include confirmation of a collected information. If there are reports of numerous channels that are regurgitating sane information, it would be prudent to curtail that flow with a properly scoped hold & review of the process at issue.

The easiest way to prevent sucha situation is to create a cross-functional map of audit process vs. necessary information – but expects to see more compliance audits are about checkpoints than planning.

2c. Allocate resources efficiently