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What is Data Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC)?

The latest rules from the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) show just how much things have changed for organizations defending themselves against cyberattacks. While businesses have historically underestimated their cybersecurity risks, today it’s seen as a non-negotiable priority, as neglecting to adequately protect sensitive data can damage operations, reputations, and bottom lines.

With the goal of enhancing accounting and transparency, the SEC’s rules now require regulated companies to disclose cybersecurity incidents within four business days. They must also periodically disclose the organization's data governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) management and strategies. More specifically, the SEC requires companies to define their process for “assessing, identifying, and managing materials risks from cybersecurity threats.” This is a significant departure from previous regulations, which didn’t require a written record of a business’s cybersecurity program.

Data Governance: An Overview

Enterprises now depend on data for unprecedented purposes, collecting, analyzing, and using it for everything from decision-making to operations and customer engagement. This growing data reliance, combined with increased adoption of AI and machine learning (ML), has made data governance more critical than ever.

Data governance is the processes, policies, standards, and metrics companies use to ensure information or data is effectively and efficiently managed while helping them achieve their business goals. While it’s crucial for successful digital transformations, data governance does come with challenges and risks, including:

  • Concerns about data privacy and security.
  • Increasingly stringent data handling requirements.
  • Non-compliance penalties, fines, and reputational harm.

And that doesn’t take into account the sheer volume and complexity of data organizations must manage, with many finding it nearly impossible to keep track of what data they have, where it is, and how it’s being used. A well-crafted governance policy makes it easier, eliminating issues like inconsistent data quality, data silos, and data integration issues that impede decision-making and operational efficiency.

While the conversation is typically framed as one about governance, risk, and compliance, data governance should not be seen as merely a way to manage risk. It’s also about unlocking data’s value and ensuring it’s accurate, accessible, consistent, and secure. Put another way, it’s a way for businesses to use their data as the strategic asset it is.

New Approaches to Data Governance

Data governance policies have typically relied on a central team or department using manual processes for data auditing, quality checks, and compliance monitoring. And they tend to be reactive rather than proactive methods.

Today, the focus has switched to a more versatile and agile approach that considers the complexities of a modern data environment. These novel policies use a tailored, community-centric process where everyone, not just the IT team, is involved with data governance. By encouraging insight and input from all organizational levels, companies create a more flexible, scalable, and effective policy for managing data. Features generally include:

  • Universal data accessibility ensures data is available and accessible to all relevant parties, regardless of location, technical expertise, or resources. Key aspects include ease of access, technical compatibility, inclusivity, affordability, security, and privacy.
  • Clear definition of roles and responsibilities. Modern roles in data governance are much more than titles. They play a crucial role in forming an organization’s data culture. By being assigned specific roles, individuals better understand their responsibility in maintaining and improving data’s integrity, security, and privacy.
  • Automation. Advanced tools can continuously monitor data quality, automatically detecting and correcting errors and inconsistencies. Automated compliance monitoring ensures compliance with data protection laws like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA. Automation also streamlines data governance workflows and aids in the effective management of metadata, making it easier to categorize, search, and manage large data volumes.

Adopting an advanced data governance framework can be challenging. Yet it can also yield significant benefits, fostering ethical data sharing, facilitating access to top-tier data, and ensuring responsible data usage.

Governance, Risk, and Compliance Explained

Just as sophisticated railway networks rely on meticulous planning, precise maneuvering, and sophisticated technologies for the safe and timely transit of trains, data governance helps organizations manage extensive data flows, directing each “train” of information to its proper destination while ensuring data security and compliance.

And in the same way rail traffic control systems ensure trains leave and arrive safely on designated tracks, GRC software provides oversight and direction that guarantees each piece of data moves from its origin to its endpoint efficiently and without disruption.

In today’s data-driven landscape, GRC is a central framework crucial for most organization’s operational integrity and success. It’s an integrated strategy that prioritizes:

  • Adhering to regulations (compliance)
  • Managing threats (risk)
  • Maintaining ethical and effective data management (governance)

This trio of components is fundamental in aligning organizational objectives with operational tactics, ensuring profitability, trustworthiness, and long-term sustainability.

How important is it for companies to develop solid GRC practices? Millions upon millions of data records are exposed worldwide through data breaches each year. The consequences of non-compliance with strict data security regulations can be catastrophic for businesses. In other words, there’s never been a more pressing need for advanced systems to manage, safeguard, and regulate data.

GRC cybersecurity focuses on the protection of digital information and assets from cyber threats, ensuring data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability. It’s key to successfully navigating the complex web of cyber threats while adhering to an ever-growing body of data protection laws and regulations.

By implementing a GRC platform, businesses can break down departmental data silos so that risk management and compliance activities align with and drive business strategies. Akin to a central nervous system for GRC processes, it provides an integrated environment for organizing, managing, and analyzing GRC-related activities. This centralized approach streamlines GRC processes and provides actionable insights, leading to more informed decision-making.

A GRC platform also facilitates regulatory compliance by automating and standardizing processes like audits, compliance checks, and risk assessments. And it helps maintain a consistent approach to GRC across the organization, something that’s essential for complying with regulations that vary significantly across regions and industries.

GRC is now an indispensable factor in how modern companies operate. In a world where data is both a powerful asset and a potential liability, GRC frameworks, bolstered by strong GRC cybersecurity measures and empowered by advanced GRC platforms, are essential for any company to thrive. They enable organizations to turn governance, risk management, and compliance challenges into opportunities for growth, stability, and competitive advantage.

Why Data Governance Often Misses the Mark

When data governance fails or is poorly implemented, the consequences can be swift and severe. While most companies know good data governance is critical, many struggle to effectively implement it. Knowing why so many governance strategies miss their mark can help an organization avoid common pitfalls.

  • Unclear objectives. Data governance initiatives that lack specific, well-defined goals can result in a misalignment between governance activities and business objectives. Without clear goals, measuring success and progress is challenging and ineffective.
  • Low stakeholder engagement. Data governance requires buy-in from all levels of the organization. Insufficient stakeholder engagement leads to resistance and poor implementation. Effective governance calls for active participation from everyone, including executives to end-users.
  • Underestimating the required cultural change. Data governance is a technical challenge and a cultural one. Many companies overlook the need for cultural shifts to support new data practices. Successful governance requires changing mindsets and habits related to data usage and management.
  • Over-reliance on technology. While technology is a critical enabler, over-reliance can be detrimental, as focusing too much on tools often overshadows the importance of processes and people. Governance isn’t just about having the right GRC software; it's also about how it's used within the organizational context.
  • Poor data quality. Data governance programs often struggle due to pre-existing poor data quality, with inaccurate, incomplete, and outdated data undermining governance efforts. Ensuring high data quality makes for reliable analysis, decision-making, and compliance.
  • Non-adapting governance structures. Rigid governance structures fail to keep pace with evolving business needs. Their inability to adapt to new data sources, regulations, or business models can render governance efforts obsolete. Flexibility and scalability are essential to sustainable data governance.
  • Inadequate training and resources. Data governance initiatives can suffer from a lack of proper training and resource allocation. Employees need adequate training to understand governance policies and their role in implementation. Insufficient resources, whether time, budget, or personnel, can impede governance strategy effectiveness.

Addressing these challenges while building a data governance policy ensures companies develop more effective, sustainable, and adaptable GRC strategies that align with their business goals.

Governance, Risk, and Compliance Benefits and Challenges

Every organizational strategy comes with benefits and challenges, and it’s no different with GRC. Two significant hurdles companies face are capturing and securely storing data. In the age of big data, the volume, velocity, and variety of data organizations must manage have grown rapidly. While valuable on multiple levels, there’s a distinct risk of non-compliance and legal issues if this vast amount of data is incorrectly handled.

Leveraging big data analytics for strategic insights while maintaining compliance and managing risks is a complex task, with privacy and security oversights posing significant compliance risks. To overcome these challenges, organizations can adopt several strategies:

  • Invest in robust GRC technologies. Adopting advanced GRC platforms and software can help automate compliance processes and risk assessments, making it easier to securely manage large volumes of data.
  • Implement comprehensive data management policies. Clear policies for data capture, storage, and usage ensure consistency and help maintain compliance.
  • Regular training and awareness programs. Educating everyone in the organization on compliance requirements and data management best practices helps mitigate risks associated with human error.
  • Conduct routine audits and risk assessments. Frequent GRC process evaluations help identify potential issues and areas for improvement.
  • Encourage a culture of compliance. Fostering an organizational culture that values compliance is essential for successful GRC implementation.
  • Appoint a dedicated data governance team. This group oversees the company’s data assets, ensuring they’re used effectively and responsibly. It plays a crucial role in enforcing data policies, managing data-related risks, and ensuring regulatory compliance while keeping up with legal changes and implementing necessary changes in data handling practices.

A Word About GRC and the Cloud

It’s estimated that over 90% of global businesses use the cloud for data storage, taking advantage of its cost benefits and scalability. As they have embraced the technology, the focus on data privacy and security has intensified.

Risks associated with cloud data storage range from data breaches to unauthorized access. To ensure data integrity, companies should use a multi-faceted approach to GRC by:

  • Implementing end-to-end encryption to significantly enhance data security.
  • Adopting strong access controls and regular security audits to further protect data.

How to Create an Effective GRC Strategy?

GRC strategies are comprehensive plans that:

  • Define and outline a company’s data governance goals and direction
  • Lay out how data assets are managed, utilized, and protected.

Successful GRC strategies are those that emphasize data quality and ensure data is accurate, consistent, and reliable. To succeed, companies must set stringent data quality policies and employ processes that maintain data integrity throughout its lifecycle. Risk management tasks that identify, assess, and mitigate data risks are critical components of these strategies, as are compliance efforts that align with internal and external policies and regulatory requirements.

Innovative data governance strategies companies are now using include:

  • Common data platforms. The use of common data platforms is gaining traction as a method for consolidating siloed data into a unified system. The practice eases access, analysis, and data management while ensuring consistency and improving efficiency in data-driven decision-making.
  • Enablement. Businesses are adopting enablement strategies that focus on empowering people with the tools and knowledge to use data responsibly and effectively. This approach emphasizes extensive training and development programs to ensure employees can handle data in a way that aligns with a company’s governance policies.
  • AI and machine learning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly being used in data governance to automate complex tasks like data classification, pattern recognition, and anomaly detection. They enable more proactive and predictive governance models while enhancing data management and compliance efforts.

These and other pioneering strategies help companies control data better and use it more effectively in their digital transformations.

GRC Best Practices

Good data governance carefully balances strategy, technology, and people management. These best practices can help ensure your data is secure, compliant, and accessible, making it a powerful tool for insightful analytics and strategic development.

  • Develop transparent governance policies and standards. Develop universal data governance policies that define how data should be managed, stored, and shared. Set data privacy, security, and compliance standards that align with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, and make sure they’re clearly communicated and accessible to all employees.
  • Ensure data quality. High-quality data is critical for making informed decisions and securing stakeholder trust. Implement processes that maintain data accuracy, completeness, and reliability. Regularly clean and validate data to prevent errors and inconsistencies.
  • Promote company-wide data literacy. Data literacy empowers employees to use data effectively while understanding the importance of compliance and security. Encourage a culture of data literacy where data is valued and used correctly. Provide training and resources to help people interpret data correctly and make data-driven decisions.
  • Implement access control. Use advanced access control mechanisms like RBAC (role-based access control) to ensure only authorized personnel have access to sensitive data and minimize data breach risks. Regularly review and update access permissions to reflect changes in roles and responsibilities.
  • Invest in automation technology. Automation increases efficiency and reduces the likelihood of human error in data management. Leverage technology to automate repetitive, time-consuming governance tasks like data classification, compliance monitoring, and reporting. Invest in GRC tools and platforms that enhance data analysis and management capabilities.
  • Encourage cooperation. Collaboration enhances the understanding of how data impacts various areas of the organization. Foster a collaborative environment where departments and teams share data insights and best practices. Break down silos and encourage cross-departmental communication to ensure a unified approach to data governance.
  • Monitor and audit. Routine auditing and monitoring help identify and address data risk issues. Conduct regular audits to assess the effectiveness of GRC policies and practices. Use monitoring tools to track data usage, access patterns, and potential security threats.

By implementing these best practices, companies can create robust frameworks for managing their data. Clear policies and standards provide a strong foundation while ensuring data quality and promoting data literacy enhance the effectiveness of data use. Advanced access control policies and automation contribute to data security and efficiency, while regular monitoring and auditing guarantee continuous improvement and compliance. And encouraging company-wide collaboration ensures a holistic approach to data governance. When combined, these practices form a comprehensive strategy for secure, compliant, and accessible data management.

GRC: A Delicate Balancing Act of Agility and Precision

Recalibrating a GRC strategy is no easy task, but it’s what organizations are being asked to do yet again. Understanding how emerging threats put your company at risk and learning how to build a more resilient cybersecurity strategy is an ongoing process that requires adaptability, foresight, and a deep understanding of the internal and external landscapes of business operations.

Emerging and increasingly sophisticated data security threats necessitate an agile and precise approach to GRC. Companies must truly understand the nature of the threats they face, be they tech-related, like new forms of malware or cyber-attacks, or regulatory, like the introduction of new data protection laws. They must then integrate this knowledge into a broad, encompassing, and proactive GRC framework by:

  • Revising risk management protocols to address new vulnerabilities.
  • Updating compliance policies to reflect the latest regulations.
  • Ensuring governance processes are agile enough to respond to these changes.

Technology, of course, is essential to a resilient GRC strategy. Leveraging advanced tools, including AI and ML, for predictive analytics provides early warnings of potential security breaches and allows for quick response. Strong data encryption and robust access controls further fortify sensitive information’s security.

Clearly, technology alone isn't the solution. The human factor also plays a critical GRC role. Fostering a culture of security awareness and compliance is vital. Regular training sessions, simulations, and drills instill a vigilant and responsible mindset that transforms employees into active participants in the company’s cybersecurity efforts.

Last but not least is inspiring collaboration within and outside the organization. Internally, it’s essential to break down silos and encourage open communication between departments to ensure a unified GRC approach. Externally, companies can partner with other businesses, regulatory bodies, and cybersecurity experts to share valuable insights and resources.

GRC is indeed one of the most delicate balancing acts companies must now engage in. It requires constant vigilance, adaptation, and integration of various elements. Governance, risk management, and compliance must work as one, protecting the organization and its data in a world where cybersecurity threats are an ever-present challenge.

Does Your Organization Need a New Data Governance Strategy?

Ultimately, your organization’s data security and compliance are only as strong as the elements and people that support them. By investing in proven solutions, you ensure your data remains secure from start to finish, and you’re able to keep pace with an ever-changing data governance landscape.

At Veritas, we understand data governance is complicated. That’s why we offer an integrated portfolio of compliance and governance solutions that consolidate intelligence across data sources to surface relevant information, deliver actionable insights, and reduce the risk of costly regulatory fines. We’re proud to be named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving, as it recognizes our commitment to delivering market-leading, cloud-centric solutions that address data and regulatory complexity for our customers.

Veritas offers an integrated portfolio of GRC solutions that help companies consolidate intelligence across data sources to surface relevant information, deliver actionable insights, and reduce the risk of non-compliance fines. Contact us today to see how we can help you take a holistic approach to mitigating cybersecurity risk and remaining compliant.


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