The Role of Compliance in Operational Resiliency
“Resiliency” is a word that gets thrown around a lot by professionals interested in the continuity of business in times of disruption. The fact is that depending on the industry and business model, resiliency is more akin to a science than anything else. Professionals measure things like logistics, statistics, risk and operational effectiveness to balance preparedness and operational efficiency.
Here, we’ll talk about how compliance can play a role in resilience. While some assume that compliance may just play a secondary role in infrastructure, we see regulatory compliance as a key feature in questions of operational resiliency.
What is Operational Resiliency?
Widespread threats, disasters or shifts in the economy can challenge how a company does business. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2008 Financial Crisis put pressure to bear on even the simplest of day-to-day operations. Disruptions in cash flow, difficulties of customers to reach a market or even natural disasters can significantly impact logistics and operations.
That’s why many companies invest in what is known as “operational resiliency”. On the surface of it, the name is rather self-explanatory. Operational resiliency is the ability of an organization to continue operating under extreme or adverse conditions without breaking critical infrastructure.
Digging deeper, however, shows that managing resiliency is a full-time job. That’s because resiliency calls for a diverse and comprehensive set of approaches, including:
- Managing risk. Organizations approaching resiliency must understand the challenges they face, or may face, in the future and assess effective and efficient infrastructure to meet those challenges. The balancing act of how much to prepare for a situation that could happen (or may never happen) is a complex skill that businesses are still mastering.
- Managing vendor relationships. More and more organizations are working with third-party vendors to support their operations. These vendors often serve as lynchpins for a company’s operations, including their role in handling critical operational data.
- Managing infrastructure. One of the key principles of operational resiliency is fielding an infrastructure that can withstand certain conditions. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, many businesses were tested as workers by and large went remote. Online collaboration tools were pushed to their limits, and businesses who were able to pivot to more connected, cloud-oriented infrastructure (if they hadn’t already) were better able to maintain business continuity in difficult times.
Resiliency as professional practice is much more complicated than this, and its enactment often depends on the specific industry a business operates in. Most organizations across multiple industries do rely on digital technology and IT infrastructure, however, which suggests that there are several aspects of technical resiliency that they share–aspects like management, connectivity/access, and security.
Compliance as a Factor in Operational Resiliency
It’s important to note that several factors play into IT resiliency, and cybersecurity is only one of them. But in regulated industries, an organization cannot simply forego compliance if their technical infrastructure cannot meet demand during hardship.
That’s why, in many cases, compliance and resiliency are closely linked. Consider the following:
- Compliance usually points to a specific security posture. Companies that adhere to FedRAMP or HIPAA regulations will necessarily have required security controls in place to manage data and system access. A loss of compliance standards could open an organization’s data up to attack, or open that organization to an audit and loss of certification.
- Compliance is complex, and hard to track. Many compliance frameworks call for extensive and thorough documentation and auditing, if not continuous monitoring. A loss of critical IT infrastructure can hamper re-certification or maintenance and cost your company thousands of dollars in work hours to replace.
- Hacking increases with disaster. According to research, hacking and social engineering efforts have only increased during COVID-19. Hackers play on disruption, fear and lack of knowledge to target vulnerable systems and infrastructure when they are potentially at their weakest. Non-compliant systems could be vulnerable to these attacks.
- Organizations may increase reliance on vendors. Working with vendors can promote resiliency by providing organizations with flexibility in difficult times. But vendors can also be a liability if they are not compliant or secure in their own right.
These problems alone will not derail your operations… until it’s time to account for a data breach that could cost your organization hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in penalties while damaging the well-being of your customers.
In these cases, it would normally be up to the IT security team (or a third-party security partner) to help manage overall cybersecurity. But a competent compliance officer or partner can connect straightforward security issues with bigger-picture issues related to industry standards, legal ramifications, and interoperability.
Likewise, partners who are well-versed in compliance frameworks can provide additional layers of support, including risk management and automation to make compliance and security more responsive to ever-changing needs.
Compliance is not Cybersecurity
Be forewarned, though, that just being compliant doesn’t make you secure. That’s why resiliency, in this scenario, calls for a focus on both compliance and cybersecurity:
- Compliance will help you maintain contracts and clients and guarantee a certain level of security based on the controls implemented. However, in maintaining compliance you are more likely than not simply looking to fulfill obligations that speak to industry standards more broadly rather than the demands of your specific business and client base.
- Robust cybersecurity can, and often does, go beyond compliance standards to meet the unique challenges that you face. While not necessary, cybersecurity goes a long way in promoting resiliency.
It’s important for businesses looking to develop resiliency to consider both compliance and cybersecurity as pillars of that effort.
How to Streamline Governance, Risk Management, and Cybersecurity
Many businesses are looking to security and compliance experts to provide continuing services to support their compliance strategies and cybersecurity infrastructure. The truth is that both compliance and security are no longer the realms of enterprise-level businesses. Even SMBs must contend with regulations and security threats daily.
Organizations large and small can streamline their GRC efforts with an expert partner that is dedicated to building the tools and processes that relieve the burden of IT management. Experienced IT security partners often provide platforms to empower businesses to meet compliance requirements while also maintaining a comprehensive security posture to keep them compliant and safe even in bad situations. More importantly, these partners can provide support in the necessary governance and risk management needed to properly make decisions and implement solutions that meet the needs of your business.
Partner with an organization that can automate compliance and security to protect your valuable infrastructure, meet your regulatory obligations and ensure high-level security. Call Continuum GRC at 1-888-896-6207 or contact us with the form below to learn about our ITAMs auditing and compliance tools.