Kezia Farnham Image
Kezia Farnham
Senior Manager

How to automate governance, risk and compliance (GRC)

November 24, 2021
0 min read
Person uses desktop computer to automate GRC processes

Organizations are starting to recognize the need to move away from siloed GRC efforts and towards a modern approach that unifies GRC efforts across all departments. They also recognize the core role that GRC automation plays in this. Automating GRC facilitates good GRC practice and, crucially, good governance. Good governance is imperative to successful GRC programs and underpins a robust approach, helping you meet your regulatory, legislative and internally-mandated obligations.

Why Automate GRC?

When governance, risk and compliance were nascent, managing GRC requirements manually, using spreadsheets or other manual data-capture processes was sufficient for many organizations. As businesses face a growing plethora of obligations and reporting requirements in today’s regulation-heavy world, a homemade approach will no longer cut it. Automating governance, risk and compliance makes for a more reliable and comprehensive approach. As risks multiply and change, organizations are finding that “it’s no longer an option to just continue to do the same thing.” A robust, enterprise-wide approach to GRC is non-negotiable today. Suppose you need assurance that you are relying on best practice GRC reporting and bringing together your risk, audit and compliance teams for a collaborative approach. In that case, GRC automation can underpin your success. Alongside the right people and processes, having the right tools in place is vital for good governance. Adopting automation or machine learning for governance can provide this structure. With GRC data playing a crucial role in helping your board master risk, you need a highly-reliable strategy for data gathering. Automation can also help businesses integrate a top-down board-level view of GRC with a bottom-up operational view by providing the “integrated process and information architecture” that enables an organization to identify, analyze, manage and monitor the ever-changing risks it faces. Creating a structured framework for your GRC reporting is a no-brainer at a time when the risk landscape is evolving and growing, with issues like cybersecurity taxing chief risk officers and their teams. The impact of automating GRC shouldn’t be under-estimated.

Benefits of Automating GRC

There are many benefits of automating GRC, including that it:

  • Delivers a more robust approach. Continuous monitoring and automated data collection gives assurance to the risk and audit teams, board and organization overall that your GRC strategy is rigorous.
  • Quickly mitigates risk. Capturing data accurately and automatically enables potential out-of-tolerance measures to be spotted swiftly and rectified.
  • Reduces workload and costs. For instance, it minimizes the need for manual or labor-intensive data gathering and administration, increasing efficiency and cutting operating costs.
  • Helps inform you. Automation can help you keep pace with changing regulations, enabling you to pivot your approach in response.
  • Reduces the risk of non-compliance. This helps save you money in fines and minimize the risk of the reputational damage that can follow.
  • Minimizes the costs of remedial activity and audits. Enables cross-functional collaboration with consistent approaches, metrics and reporting.
  • Helps you better communicate risk. It delivers risk and compliance data in a way that can be easily rolled up to the board and senior leadership.
  • Provides visibility. It supports informed, data-driven decisions made with a holistic view of the organization’s risk profile.

Challenges of Automating GRC

Automating GRC clearly has numerous benefits. But when exploring a new approach, we can’t just focus on the positives. Are there any obstacles or negatives when implementing GRC automation?

  • Cost — or, more accurately, perceived cost — may be a stumbling block for some organizations. It can be easy to assume that automating GRC is a costly exercise. However, some of the best systems are fully scalable to align with the organization’s size and profile and can be introduced for less expenditure than you might imagine.
  • GRC automation without a supportive culture won’t achieve its aims. Automating GRC must be done in tandem with a culture of compliance that reinforces the need for good governance, risk and compliance.
  • Like any transition project, automating GRC is a major undertaking. If your company is going through broader digital transformation or other significant change projects, overlaying that with GRC automation tools must not be an afterthought. GRC automation is a significant project in its own right, requiring the proper resources to ensure effective implementation.
  • Senior leaders may not be on board with the idea of automating GRC. Getting buy-in for automation projects; their business-wide nature can paralyze organizations into indecision. And the wealth of systems springing up promising to deliver GRC automation can be overwhelming.

Reminding your board and leadership team of the benefits we’ve listed above can help while drawing up a shortlist of market-leading providers that can overcome the paralysis of choice.

How Do You Automate GRC?

GRC automation, as we’ve alluded to, is a significant change project. But one that can be tackled with success if you follow some simple steps.

6 Steps to Automating Governance Risk and Compliance

  1. Set your objectives. Clear aims for the automation project are essential — both as a general transition risk best practice and specifically to ensure that you choose the best GRC software solution for your needs.
  2. Identify your key risks. Which are most material, serious and frequently occurring? What matters most to your organization? What risks do you need to prioritize, and how can GRC automation support this?
  3. Review — and streamline, if needed — your measures and controls. What do you currently measure, and why? Are there controls that aren’t core to your business and not worth transitioning into GRC automation tools? Conversely, is there data you don’t gather but should? Ensure you are putting the best parameters in place for your new GRC system.
  4. Pinpoint areas for rationalization. The metrics used for a range of regulatory frameworks are very similar. Whether you report under SOX or other external regulations or are just aiming to comply with internal controls, the overlap between different reporting structures can be significant. Can automation be an impetus for capitalizing on this by implementing measures that can be applied across several obligations?
  5. Bring your best practice change experts to bear on the project. Any change is fraught with potential pitfalls and barriers, but these can be minimized or even eradicated by involving the right people and taking the right approach. Consider whether a pilot project could help to iron out any bumps in the road.
  6. Focus on easy wins. Especially if you still need to convince some leaders of the benefits of automating GRC, identify and prioritize some quick wins that can be tangibly measured. There’s no better way to demonstrate the advantages of GRC automation.

Best Practice GRC Automation

If you need to move from siloed, disjointed governance, risk and compliance attitudes that stifle your attempts to prioritize and rationalize your approach. Suppose you want to reduce the manual work and risk of human error in your GRC processes. If you need to implement a more robust GRC strategy: GRC automation can make the difference. Effective modern governancerisk and compliance are predicated on focused controls and continuous monitoring that deliver the robust data you need. Find out more about the ways Diligent’s GRC Solutions can support your governance, risk and compliance strategy.


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