Automation Is Key To Compliance, Advises Spring Conference Panel

The heavily regulated financial services industry can offer some of the best advice on automating compliance. Stephen Rycroft of Citigroup shares what worked for his company at the InformationWeek Spring Conference.

Now that many businesses have defined policies and processes around compliance, automation is the next step. Such was the buzz at InformationWeek's Spring Conference in Amelia Island, Fla., where IT managers and company executives came together to outline the best and worst practices for compliance automation.

Businesses face tremendous pressure to comply with regulations like HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel II, and the PATRIOT Act. Everything that's not automated is audited, and the growing army of auditors puts a strain on company budgets. "Automation is becoming extremely important, especially with laws being mandated by the government," said James Watson, Doculabs Inc.'s CEO and founder, who moderated Tuesday's roundtable discussion.

Some of the best practices can be learned from the heavily regulated financial services industry. Creating an internal policy that worked globally and with individual business units, and putting a funding mechanism in place so that money is allocated to projects that ensure applications comply with policies and procedures, are practices that worked for Citigroup, said Citigroup Director Stephen Rycroft.

Other best practices for automating compliance, not specific to Citigroup, include:

• Developing centralized, defined, and automated access to information, dictated by the jobs and roles of people within an organization.

• Using content monitoring as a compliance tool.

• Having the ability to archive not only E-mail, but other information exchanged within an IT system as well.

• Even emphasizing the "fear factor" associated with the effects of not meeting the government's requirements.

There are several pitfalls that businesses should avoid, such as leaving laptops not protected by passwords out in the open, which can expose personal information, said Steve Korn, managing consultant of enterprise risk management at EDS. "You have to put in clear policies for securing and encrypting customer data," he said.

The roundtable's participants noted other warnings and problems, such as:

• Poorly administered policies around software support. Too many companies struggle to get an upgrade before the deadline a vendor has set for supporting an older version of software. Procrastination can be a problem considering there's often a 24- to 30-month lead time for an upgrade.

• False alarms when monitoring E-mail. It can expose people who violate company policies, but it can also generate a lot of false positives.

• Lack of funding in IT.

• A reactive approach to planning. Not complying and dealing with the consequences later is a huge business risk.

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