Do Compliance Automation Tools Actually Save Time In Your Audit? 

by Tori Thurmond / May 2nd, 2023

Automation may seem like a simple solution to your cybersecurity needs, but at the end of the day, is it actually saving you as much time as you think it is?

Many automated compliance tools claim to save you hundreds of hours in work, making your audit easy. They claim to eliminate checklists and spreadsheets, having moved everything online. Virtually, all you have to do to meet your compliance goals is upload a few documents making your audit faster than ever before. But are these claims true? We aren’t so sure.  

When you’re finished uploading documents to these completely automated tools, most of the time, your auditor will then have to download a copy of the work you’ve done to review and then finish the rest of the audit manually, erasing any automation and time saved.  

When you upload your compliance information to a completely automated tool, nothing is truly reviewed or tested by the tool. The tool is simply confirming that you have all of the policies, procedures, and processes you would need to complete your audit, but the tool cannot review the content or the evidence associated with your documents to verify if your controls are designed well or operating as you intended. The documents that are uploaded to these compliance tools cannot serve as evidence of your compliance efforts. 

Using a completely automated tool can result in one of two things: 

1. After using the tool, you’ll work with an auditor who will then have to check the tool’s work which virtually erases any automation the compliance tool claimed. In this case, no time is actually saved.  

You may be asking why identifying the existence of your policies and procedures isn’t enough. The problem is that your policies should outline how your organization protects its data, but an auditor needs to test and verify that the methods used to protect your data are actually working. Not only do your policies need to describe how you’re complying with industry standards but evidence is also needed to ensure that your organization is actually implementing the processes and controls described. What’s the point of having policies and procedures if you’re not following them?  

Our president and founder, Joseph Kirkpatrick, once worked with an organization whose policies claimed that they were destroying the physical copies of client data after a certain time frame. During the onsite visit to the organization’s facilities, he asked to see where and how these documents were destroyed only to find overflowing filing cabinets and stacks of client information that hadn’t been destroyed as indicated in their policies and procedures. The member of the organization that Joseph was working with was also surprised to see that their procedures were not being followed. The piles of client information were creating an unnecessary vulnerability that an automated tool would not have had the ability to discover.  

An audit ensures that the people in your organization are taking the steps to make sure your organization is secure. The only way to make sure your organization reaches its compliance goals is to have an expert read your documents and confirm, through a thorough audit and an onsite visit, that the proper steps are being taken to reach those goals. Automation alone cannot ensure the quality testing you deserve.  

2. After using the automated tool, you’ll work with an auditor who will not do the work to confirm what the compliance tool claimed to do, leaving your organization open to unnecessary risk.  

Think about the organization in the above example. What would have happened if no one had discovered that the files were not being destroyed and unauthorized personnel had gained access to the room where all of the client files were? If the organization had not been working with a quality auditing firm and had relied mainly on the tool’s automation, this oversight could have ended up costing the organization millions of dollars in damages and hours in manual effort aiming to remediate issues, not to mention the reputational damage the organization would have experienced. 

We get it, mistakes and oversights can happen, but choosing the right auditing firm to conduct your audit and discover those findings is essential to the success and security of your organization. If you choose to receive your audit from a firm that does not take the extra time to thoroughly test your controls, how can you be confident that your controls are keeping your organization safe? Other firms promise that your audit can be easy because they accept the automated evidence without further testing.  While that may be easier in the moment, it doesn’t prove that your organization is actually secure or compliant.   

While the first option is the better of the two, both instances show that relying solely on automation does not save time in the end. If anything, double checking the work of the automated tool will take up more time than starting your audit with a firm who can guide you through a quality audit from beginning to end.  

We know that choosing an audit firm who requires quality testing can be more difficult at the front end, but we promise that it’s worth it when you leave your audit engagement confident that your security program is designed to keep your valuable data safe.  

The Buyer’s Guide to Compliance Tools.

Looking for the right compliance tool is overwhelming. With so many options, it’s hard to know that you’re making the right choice for you. This guide will prepare you for the compliance journey ahead.

Get the Guide

How can you leverage automation for a better audit? 

Although it’s clear that you can’t trust your organization’s compliance to automation alone, there is a way you can leverage the convenience of automation to make your audits less overwhelming.  

KirkpatrickPrice’s compliance tool, the Online Audit Manager (OAM), combines the convenience of automation with expert help. The OAM allows you to start and complete an audit with a licensed firm, saving you time, and, in the end, money by only needing to work with one firm.  

With the OAM, you can still upload your compliance documents to an easy-to-use platform that helps you keep track of your progress and goals, but industry experts will be able to review and leave feedback on your documents within the application. Audits should never be easy, but the OAM can make them less overwhelming. The OAM is the best of both worlds and can actually save you time as you work to complete your next audit.   

Create your free OAM account to start saving time the right way and get the assurance you deserve.  

About the Author

Tori Thurmond

Tori Thurmond has degrees in both professional and creative writing. She has over five years of copywriting experience and enjoys making difficult topics, like cybersecurity compliance, accessible to all. Since starting at KirkpatrickPrice in 2022, she's earned her CC certification from (ISC)2 which has aided her ability to contribute to the company culture of educating, empowering, and inspiring KirkpatrickPrice's clients and team members.