What to Think About When Shopping for a GRC Solution: A Primer for Those New to Compliance


Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) is a necessary, and often complex, aspect of many industries. Businesses operating in healthcare, government, financial services, retail, and others know that compliance is a cost of doing business. At the same time, more companies have begun to understand that a GRC solution can contribute to their business success, rather than just being another hurdle to jump over. 

Here, we’ll open the doors for what it means for a company just beginning their compliance journey’s to think about GRC tools. It’s a lot of planning and organizing, but with that comes new security partnerships and a modicum of control over how your organization handles security and risk in almost any industry. 

Understand What GRC Software Actually Is

When discussing a GRC solution, it’s important to understand that it isn’t a product that your IT department will use. It’s a business tool, which means you or your leadership will have at least some type of engagement with it. 

Accordingly, it will be critical for you and your leadership team to have a grasp of what plays a part in the software, and how it plugs into your compliance requirements:

  1. Governance: Managing your organization and its activities so that they align with business goals… and this includes security, compliance, and IT.
  2. Risk: Understanding and planning around the amount of risk and opportunity your organization is willing to take as part of its compliance and business goals. In short, if you’re looking at risk, you’re looking at any potential security or compliance hazards and try to understand what would happen were they to occur. Through understanding these hazards and their potential outcomes, you can understand the risks you are willing to take based on your business goals. 
  3. Compliance: Speaking of compliance, this aspect is about shaping your reporting, security, and data collection around relevant regulations in your industry. Compliance with regulations defines what companies can work with specific types of data or in specific industries. 

A GRC solution is going to be the platform you use to coordinate your business operations across these three categories. Likewise, it will have to fit in your business model and outlook, and not the other way around. 


Audit Your Existing Tools and See Where You Can Improve

This is where you need to take a hard look at your operations, what works, and what you think works. Chances are that if you are on the market for a GRC solution, your tools aren’t actually working for you. 

For example, there are some businesses in critical and regulated industries that still rely on tools like Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and emails. Furthermore, these documents are all fully manual… meaning that managing them is a full-time job on its own. 

Currently, there are three major trends in GRC solutions that are helping businesses like yours solve their GRC issues:

  1. Cloud and digital technology. Using cloud and SaaS platforms will give you the power to manage GRC across your entire organization. Security, transparency, and access are all benefits of cloud computing, and they can make your life a lot easier. 
  2. Automation through machine learning and AI. Automation is clearly a benefit for most operations, as automation tools can help make complex and repetitive tasks (document production, reporting, file sharing) easier. But modern automation powered with AI can support decision-makers working on risk management by analyzing GRC data in real-time. AI can also provide intelligence to not only help you stay compliant but build effective strategies for compliance that serve your business, rather than just being a cost of doing business. 
  3. Regular security. A modern GRC solution on the cloud are most likely built by security firms, which means that they are, or should be, using the best in security for your GRC platform. Likewise, since they should know your industry, they should also have a clear vision for security regulations and how you can stay compliant within their boundaries. 


Establish What Your Goals Are, and What They Will Be

GRC tools are about integrating compliance into your business processes, and therefore it’s critical that you understand your business goals and processes to understand what security policies you’ll want in place. 

When selecting a solution, plan ahead by thinking of what you need in a compliance tool:

  1. What regulations do we need to meet right now for the success of our business? Depending on what those regulations are, you may find more or less stringent demands on controls or reporting. FedRAMP, FISMA, and HIPAA are all examples of industry regulations with concrete requirements. 
  2. What regulations will you need to meet in the future? Planning on branching out to additional industries with their own regulations? It doesn’t serve you or your business to try and meet those regulations “when you need them”. Start planning now to be ready for the future.
  3. What are your maturity goals? If you are a young company just getting their feet wet within an industry, look at what mature companies in that industry do. Consult with security partners to help you understand what a mature GRC plan and platform looks like and how you achieve it.
  4. How does your business operation handle risk? Are you adopting new technologies, new frameworks, or new people? Are you going to work in other countries or with different kinds of user data? What is acceptable risk now may not be one, three, or five years from now.

    By building an understanding of what your goals are, you can typically identify the kinds of tools and expertise your organization will need to be successful. 

    If you are a younger company just establishing yourself, you don’t have to know all the answers right now. It could help you to consult with peers in your field, or consult with security and compliance experts to help you understand what it is your company needs from a GRC tool. 


    Craft a Comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP)

    Once you’ve established your needs and goals, you could publish an RFP for a GRC tool. Since these tools are often complex to design and take some time and effort to implement, many providers will be excited to respond to a well-crafted RFP with information and support. 

    When writing out an RFP for a GRC solution, make sure to include the following items:

    • What are your specific business requirements (compliance requirements, business goals, etc.)? These might include industry frameworks but could potentially expand into new areas if you plan on expanding your business.
    • What are your interface and access requirements? That is, are you looking for a cloud solution with a web interface (most likely) or something more unique or niche?
    • What are the specific security controls, compliance frameworks, and governance tasks that you need addressed with this tool? While you don’t need to list out every single document you need to be created here, having at least a general understanding of what the tool should do is key.
    • What are your requirements for workflow and administration? This may tie in to your security and reporting needs, but outline needs like credentials and authorization, portal layout and security, branding, dashboards, managed secure file transfers, and any required application integrations.
    • What are your needs for reporting and document management–is it robust, automated, or neither? To be fair most modern GRC tools will include some form of automated reporting. 
    • What additional tools will support your work? Are you looking for a platform that can help with insights and risk assessment? Maybe managing a chain of evidence? GRC tools with AI and blockchain tech can fit these demands if you ask for them. 
    • Case studies and examples. Does the company have any clear stories of success, particularly in the fields outlined in your RFP?


    Don’t Settle For an Incomplete GRC Solution

    The bottom line is that there are GRC tools, and there are solutions. The latter will come from a company that will fit their product to your needs so that you can not only stay compliant, but competitive, in whatever space your business operates in. 

    To learn more about how Continuum GRC can help you with HIPAA, FedRAMP, FISMA, NIST, SOC 2, GDPR, and PCI DSS compliance in the wake of the SolarWinds breach, call 1-888-896-6207 to talk more with the experts.

    Continuum GRC