How to Create a Plan for Regulatory Compliance

by Nov 25, 2020

Many reasons may make it important for an organization that collects and stores digital information to be concerned with regulatory compliance. Data privacy regulations are probably the first things that spring to mind when hearing the word compliance, but other standards affect aspects of specific market sectors. In addition to protecting the privacy of data, there may be regulations that govern how an enterprise needs to handle and process the information they use to conduct business. 

For example, corporations are required to follow data retention guidelines spelled out in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to guard against destroying information that could potentially be used to coverup fraudulent reporting practices. When facing a SOX audit, an organization must be able to verify its data retention policies and provide proof that records can only be accessed by authorized personnel. A company can fail an audit even though no data breach of personal or sensitive data has occurred. 

Data privacy regulations, like the GDPR and CCPA, are designed to force companies to take the protection of sensitive and personal information seriously. Substantial financial penalties can be levied against an enterprise that does not do enough to protect the personal data of individuals living in certain jurisdictions. Companies that do business in multiple locations can be faced with negotiating numerous and sometimes conflicting regulatory requirements. 

The inconsistent nature of these regulations can make it difficult to implement the required levels of protection. Without a viable plan, it is virtually impossible to maintain compliance with the various regulations that may affect how your enterprise needs to store and use the information in its databases. 

Steps to Developing a Compliance Program

A systematic approach is required when implementing a regulatory compliance program. Regulatory standards may change and organizations need to regularly review and update the processes they have in place. Identifying the regulations that pertain to an enterprise is a necessary preliminary step in becoming compliant. When new standards are introduced or existing ones are modified, the changes need to be reflected in enterprise compliance efforts. 

The global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte identifies three lines of defense that need to be incorporated into regulatory compliance management (RCM) initiatives. Taken together, these three elements provide a strategy that can keep an organization compliant with the regulations that affect their business.

Management Assurance

 A robust compliance program requires the involvement of upper management in a variety of ways. C-suite executives need to promote a strong corporate culture of compliance and risk management. They need to work with technical resources and provide oversight in the development and execution of compliance strategies throughout the organization. The emphasis on compliance needs to be a consistent theme that does not fade into the background once an initial strategy is implemented.

Risk Management

The risk management line of defense is where the organization’s policies and minimum requirements are defined. Teams need to interpret the guidelines in play and identify the areas within the enterprise that pose a risk of noncompliance. Oversight and continual monitoring of risk mitigation initiatives is required to ensure that compliance is maintained. Individuals responsible for overseeing risk management need to have a deep understanding of the potential penalties for noncompliance. Communicating this information to upper management may be needed to obtain the necessary funding to fully implement the compliance strategy. 

Internal Audit

The role of internal audits is to link business risks with the processes designed to provide compliance and to mitigate any potential negative effects on the organization. An internal audit should test the procedures currently in place and identify gaps that need to be addressed. Additionally, an internal audit should point out new processes that need to be put in place to satisfy compliance standards. 

The results of an internal audit should be able to identify the processes, systems, and policies that currently implement organizational regulatory compliance and any exposure to the business. Outstanding risks need to be determined so the responsible systems or controls can be reviewed to strengthen compliance efforts. Corrective actions taken based on the information provided by internal audits will minimize the chances of failing an external audit. Regularly performing internal audits is the best way to avoid the pain of a failed external one. 

Tools for Maintaining Compliance

The most important tools for maintaining compliance are those that can be used to identify risks, conduct internal audits, and furnish the necessary documentation to address the requests of external auditors. With the right tools, you can maintain the compliance necessary to protect your data assets and satisfy the requirements of any regulatory agency that may want to put your company through an audit.

SQL Compliance Manager checks all those boxes for enterprises that have a SQL Server environment that is subject to regulatory requirements. The tool is customizable so you can apply the right audit setting to your servers and databases for a variety of regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, and PCI DSS. Compare customized settings to regulation guidelines to identify potential gaps that need to be closed. 

Powerful audit capabilities enable your team to discover where in your SQL Server environment sensitive data resides so it can be protected. Keep track of privileged user activity and other SQL Server event types that may be required as evidence of regulatory compliance. The integrity of audit data is guaranteed by the use of an immutable repository that detects any attempt to tamper with its contents. 

SQL Compliance Manager is a valuable component of a regulatory compliance strategy that will help keep your SQL Servers in step with all applicable guidelines. Add it to the list of software tools that are necessary to handle the compliance landscape as it continues to evolve and becomes harder to ignore.