By Alex Bender, Director, eGRC Programs and Strategy, EMC
The other day I saw a car accident. It made me think back to an accident I had years ago, which involved a car appearing so fast I didn’t see it until we were about to collide. The only thing I could do was to swerve wildly to avoid the collision, thereby losing control of my car and crashing — but at least not into the other car.
Thinking back to that accident and the aftermath — the hours spent on a litany of phone calls to my insurance company, getting repair quotes, getting the car to the garage, making alternative arrangements while I was without my car — I couldn’t help but think about the importance of visibility and control in business, as much as in life. The impacts of the lack of visibility and control are extremely apparent in the car accident example – life changing.
See more, act faster, spend less
When you have visibility you can see where you’re headed and plan appropriately to get there. When you have control you don’t have to just react wildly to changes in your environment; you can act with efficient deliberation to avoid situations that are harmful to your organization.
Lack of visibility and control, conversely, can result in a car crash for your organization; and the crash itself is just the beginning of the toll taken on time and resources. If, despite your best efforts, you’ve been unable to avoid an incident, then visibility and control play a vital role in helping you to respond effectively to the aftermath: to minimize the time and money spent identifying what went wrong, fixing the problem and dealing with the legal, operational and financial fallout.
Requirements for visibility and control
In a previous ‘two-part’ blog I wrote about the importance of collaboration across departments for effective eGRC. Well, visibility and control are the fundamental enablers of effective collaboration. So the question becomes: how do you achieve them? You can’t just wave a magic wand. Organizations of all sizes and types are struggling with eGRC issues precisely because they don’t have the visibility and control they need.
I think that for any strategy, approach or tool to give you eGRC visibility and control, it needs to have three attributes:
- Integration. As long as information relating to eGRC is held in disparate and disconnected systems or dealt with through disconnected processes (probably using ad-hoc tools, excel spreadsheets, word docs and many times just quick conversations), you can never get a clear view of what you know, what you’ve don’t know, what’s happening and how it all relates. Conversely, if you can bring everything together in one place, not just as a central dumping ground but in a way that lets you connect it in meaningful ways, then you’re most of the way to having the visibility you need — to be proactive, rather than always firefighting, and to see the big picture that lets you take a strategic approach to solve your business needs.
- Automation. One of the difficulties in achieving integration and in dealing with the results is that there’s just so much to integrate and manage in a manual way. Too much to have a hope of doing it effectively without technological help. With the best will in the world, spreadsheets won’t cut it. Manually pulling data from hundreds and or thousands of systems won’t cut it.
To avoid being swamped by information and actions, to be able to act and respond in a controlled way, you need tools that will help you up the eGRC learning curve and that will automate processes wherever possible. But you do not want to automate a bad process since that will just make bad things happen efficiently. Sometimes it is important to revamp a process while you are implementing your eGRC solutions and strategy. Questions to ask yourself are: Do you have to respond to each new policy or regulatory requirement from scratch or do you have access to eGRC content that prevents you from having to continually reinvent the wheel? Do your processes depend on someone remembering to email someone else or do you have workflow management tools that automatically enforce standard processes? It’s obvious which answers suggest an organization more in control of eGRC.
- Usability. However integrated and automated your eGRC efforts are, it will be of little avail if it’s too hard for people, especially non-experts in eGRC, to understand what’s going on or what they need to do. Usability is a critical requirement because visibility is only valuable if people understand what they’re seeing; and control is only valuable if people are willing to pick up the ball and do something useful with it. So you want the flexibility to be able to adapt automated processes to fit the way you work; you want to be able to present information to busy executives in ways that they understand; you want to make it easy for people to collaborate, not put them off with impenetrable technology.
When you’re looking at approaches to eGRC and assessing tools that might help you develop eGRC strategies and processes, keep these criteria in mind.