What You Need to Know About Governance, Risk & Compliance

Perhaps you’ve heard of governance, risk, and compliance, also known as GRC, before, but you aren’t sure how important it is to you or your business. How will GRC benefit your company? What challenges might you face? How do you successfully implement GRC, and what should you look for in a software system?

We have answers to all of your burning questions around what GRC is, how it benefits enterprise-level organizations, and what to look for in GRC software. 

What is governance risk and compliance (GRC)?

What exactly is governance, risk, and compliance, or GRC for short? Put simply, GRC refers to an organization’s overall strategy and approach for managing governance, risk management, and compliance within industry regulations. 

To put it as simply as possible, think of it as a refined process for keeping your business above board. 

The acronym GRC was initially coined by the Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG) and is defined by OCEG as “the integrated collection of capabilities that enable an organization to reliably achieve objectives, address uncertainty, and act with integrity.” 

GRC isn’t a new concept. Organizations have been governed, managing risks, and striving to meet compliance standards for a long time. The difference is that GRC provides a more mature framework and integrated approach to support an organization’s business goals in a meaningful way.

How could GRC benefit your company?

If you’re tempted to write off GRC as an overly complex or academic topic, we get it. However, GRC offers a number of benefits, including:

  • A holistic GRC strategy can reduce data silos within your business: Shared data and strategies between your IT, legal, financial, and other related departments enable visibility and cross-functional collaboration. Siloed data can lead to incorrect sources of truth, contribute to potential risk, and breed duplicative efforts. Shared data highlights dependencies and streamlines oversight for leadership.
  • Effective risk mitigation often leads to cost-savings: Identifying risks before they happen or mitigating them when they occur can save your company from unnecessary spending on compliance issues like fines and audit costs. In short, getting ahead of threats will benefit your bank account later.
  • Improved operational efficiencies create smoother business processes: Creating a GRC framework contributes to a unified operational strategy and consistent operations across the organization. Improved quality, the ability to quickly locate information, and repeatable processes can help your teams work better together.

What are the challenges of GRC?

GRC offers a number of benefits, but it isn’t without its hurdles. Here are a few that you can expect to come up against:

  • Lack of a comprehensive GRC framework can exacerbate data silos: Integration is key to an effective GRC strategy. Without a comprehensive framework for your organization, departments may operate toward their own goals without considering the whole. The GRC strategy needs to bring insightful data insights together to enable the enterprise to make well-informed decisions. A flexible and ever-evolving GRC framework can help with that.
  • Manual processes leave room for human error and wasted time: Without automation, some GRC processes may be manual. That leads to inefficiencies, potential human error, and difficulty digging up needed documentation. These manual processes can also make it difficult to provide overall visibility into data collection and monitoring.
  • Company culture can be a barrier: Even with a GRC framework mapped out, sometimes a company transformation is needed to improve governance, reduce risks, and ensure compliance. Mitigating risks and remaining compliant is an organization-wide initiative requiring buy-in from all employees. It’s crucial to ensure your organization is along for the ride and support the GRC strategy to set processes in motion. 

What is the governance, risk, and compliance framework? 

Let’s look at how GRC enables organizations to achieve their objectives by further defining each piece in the GRC framework in order.

Governance

Governance refers to the policies, processes, and procedures that an organization implements to achieve its business goals. Governance provides direction and control for stakeholders within a business. Leaders, managers, and employees alike use the policies and procedures to make decisions in their work that align with the company’s overall strategy. 

Elements to consider within the governance piece include statutory and regulatory laws, industry or business standards, organizational policies, legal contracts, and controls.

Risk

Risk management at its most basic level is about identifying and mitigating threats to an organization. These could be financial, legal, security-related, or any other type of risks that hinder an organization’s ability to operate successfully. 

Effective risk management happens when risks get addressed in a timely, appropriate, and cost-effective manner, which is why risk management is an ongoing process rather than a single task to be checked off.

Compliance

Compliance confirms that an organization’s activities and operating methods meet all legal and regulatory requirements. 

These requirements may vary by industry, so it’s essential to stay on top of industry-specific regulations in addition to non-industry-specific regulations, such as those defined around employee safety. Internal and external audits are crucial for your organization to maintain continuous compliance.

Does your company need GRC?

Not sure if your company needs GRC or not? “Yes” is your best default answer. 

Deloitte suggests the ultimate business case for GRC highlights improved efficiencies, reduces risk events, and leads to better strategic decision-making and business performance. 

Still not convinced? Recent research showed that 61% of respondents in a survey had experienced at least one compliance violation in the last three years, contributing to organizations incurring losses between $100,000 and $20 million for a single incident.

All organizations, regardless of size, are affected by governance, risk management, and compliance. Implementing GRC will support and improve your business, save your business thousands of dollars lost to compliance issues, and help keep risks at bay. 

How do you successfully implement GRC?

Successfully implementing a GRC strategy might sound overwhelming, but rest assured, you can craft and carry out your strategy if you break it down into these steps.

Step #1: Identify the who and what

Start by identifying key stakeholders who will help develop the GRC strategy and define what GRC will look like within the organization. 

An effective GRC strategy isn’t built overnight, but you can start building yours by identifying key stakeholders who know and understand the organization’s vision and strategy. Keep in mind that GRC should align with the overall business strategy. 

Once you’ve identified all key stakeholders, clearly articulate the objectives of the GRC strategy, the success criteria, roles and responsibilities, and critical milestones for success along the way, just like you would in a project management charter. Because GRC looks different across industries and sizes of organizations, it’s necessary to clearly define what it will look like for your organization before diving in.

Step #2: Get the lay of the land

Next, you need to understand what you’re working with. Gather information about your organization’s current landscape, as well as all compliance measures that your organization needs to abide by.

Even without a comprehensive GRC strategy, it’s likely that your organization has elements of governance, risk management, and compliance spread throughout the enterprise already. Understand what data and controls are already being managed and where information is housed. 

Determine the top risks facing the organization currently, in addition to any industry-specific compliance rules that need to be followed to better understand the needs and potential prioritization of the GRC strategy.

Step #3: Create a phased approach for your implementation 

It might be tempting to address as many gaps in your current operations as it relates to GRC as possible. Instead, try a focused approach and phase your implementation to reduce the potential for failure. 

Consider working with key stakeholders to prioritize which weaknesses should be addressed to determine a starting point. To break this down even further, you can treat each phase as its own project, but keep in mind that the overall goal is to build an integrated approach to GRC over time.

Step #4: Expand and evolve the program

Maintaining your GRC program requires consistent work. As you move forward, you’ll expand it, continue to communicate its importance, and revise and modify as the business changes.

Once the business begins to see the value and outcomes from the newly implemented GRC program, keep building upon it and reemphasizing its value across the organization.

Communicate milestones and successes and keep continuous improvements top of mind. A solid GRC strategy won’t remain the same. It will evolve as the business evolves, so be sure to designate stakeholders to own and modify the strategy for the long term.

Implementing a GRC strategy will be an ongoing process, so you must manage, update, and maintain your strategy and associated plans over time. Sound like a lot of manual work? Consider using GRC software to save your business and your team some time.

What is GRC software?

Previously, GRC documentation might have consisted of a mix of spreadsheets, storage rooms piled full of paper, and handwritten audit requirements. Fortunately, GRC software now exists to centralize governance, risk management, and compliance within one central hub.

So, what is governance risk and compliance software, and how can it help? GRC software streamlines and automates the processes and strategies associated with your GRC framework. 

GRC platforms and solutions are designed to help businesses integrate all components of governance, risk management, and compliance enterprise-wide. GRC software eliminates individual, manual monitoring and instead enables continuous monitoring and automated solutions to better support your business strategy. 

GRC software can allow you to track and mitigate internal and external risks, apply your GRC framework, communicate your compliance policies, and perform audits to ensure your business is abiding by the rules set in place. Different components of GRC software might include policy management, audit operations, enterprise risk management, security risk management, and incident management. 

What GRC platform, tools, and software features should you look for?

The right GRC platform can save you a lot of manual work and headaches. But, what should you look for in a solution? Here’s a helpful list to refer to.

  • User-friendly interface: Is the interface easy to use, straightforward, enjoyable, and efficient? Enable your users to get the most out of the GRC platform by providing them with a tool that’s user-friendly and easy to read.
  • Usability and scalability features: Is the tool easy to learn, use, and master? Will your current team members be able to train future team members on how to use the tool? What additional training and support components are offered? Your team needs to be able to focus on the GRC strategy without a steep software learning curve, so look for a system that will continue to be easy to use as your team and GRC strategy scales over time.
  • Fully automated processes and workflows: Look for a GRC system that’s robust enough to capture all of your processes and workflows. Remember, the point is to eliminate as much manual work as possible, so be sure to find a system that can easily duplicate your processes.
  • Customizable reporting to fit your needs: The ability to produce in-depth, customizable reports will help your organization remain agile in the fast-moving business world. Choose a system that will allow you to run the type of reports you need to make the best strategy-guided decisions for your organization.
  • Specific feature considerations: Clearly define what types of features are important and necessary for your organization to make the best business decisions. How extensive of risk analysis are you looking for? How does the software manage compliance initiatives? Do you want to be able to manage user access and privileges to maintain compliance through the system?
  • Integration capabilities: Third-party data integration with the GRC software through an API or other connection may be critical for different types of data. Before selecting a GRC software, determine which of your current data sources you’d like to use in your GRC software to understand what integrations are available.
  • Pricing: Robust GRC tools come at a price. Determine your budget and keep it in mind when searching for a system. Consider building an effective business case to invest in GRC software if you need to get all stakeholders on board. 

How can Wrike help with governance risk and compliance? 

GRC is one of those things you probably don’t want to deal with — but managing it appropriately is far better than the alternative of dealing with headaches from the inevitable fallout. 

Fortunately, when it comes to managing GRC, you don’t need to go it alone. Wrike offers all of the features you need, including: 

  • Templates and automations to reduce manual work.
  • Centralized communication to keep the entire organization on the same page.
  • Clear task assignments so everybody knows who’s responsible for what.
  • Integrations with many of the tools your team is already using.

Plus, Wrike is easy and intuitive to use. That means you can spend less time training departments on how to use the software and more time on what matters: pursuing your business goals with the peace of mind that you’ve checked all the right boxes. 

Ready to simplify GRC with Wrike? Start your free trial today.

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