The Technology Turning Point for GRC Professionals


People working in governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) have had a challenging time lately, and they told us so in a recent survey.

In April 2021, we surveyed 105 GRC professionals, plus 108 non-GRC professionals who work in a related department, in the United States and Canada. While over half (53%) said that their organizations now perceive them as being more valuable:

  • 58% have seen their workloads increase
  • 62% have seen growth in the scope of their roles
  • 62% find that gaps in time, technology, or human resources prevent their organizations from executing their plans

Given a global pandemic, the sweeping shift to remote work, and other world events, these statistics are no surprise. Managing risk and demonstrating compliance has become more complex, time-consuming, and critical than ever.

Fortunately, a solution exists and has for a long time: cloud-based technology solutions.

GRC professionals have traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies. For example, nearly half (45%) of our survey respondents are still using older Microsoft Office tools (Excel, Word, Outlook) to manage critical programs and documents.

As North America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 could be the turning point. Only 30% of survey respondents said they currently use cloud-based tech, but 41% told us they want to adopt cloud-based technology once the pandemic is over.

They’re looking for greater visibility, assurance, and confidence from cloud-based solutions. The events of 2020 demonstrated the need for reliable technology to support business continuity. Take audits, for example. Normally, audits are conducted in person, checking physical fixed assets and working shoulder to shoulder in conference rooms. But during the pandemic, this approach was out of the question. Instead, auditors turned to tech-enabled automation and machine learning to streamline the process and documentation.

Organizations who had already embraced cloud-based solutions had an easier time transitioning to remote work. Moreover, not using cloud-based solutions could pose risks for organizations if and when another major disruption hits. Among our survey respondents, 38% said their roles have become more risk-focused since the pandemic.

Yet only half (54%) said they have complete visibility into the risks faced by their organization. Status quo tactics and tools can result in lost data, increased errors, and difficulty keeping track of processes and progress.

Here are three ways cloud-based solutions can make a GRC professional’s life easier, even as roles elevate, evolve, and expand.

  1. The cloud consolidates data into a unified view.
    Data is at the heart of GRC activity and success, but 79% of survey respondents found it “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” challenging to get the data they needed to do their job.

    Cloud-powered GRC solutions make data consolidation possible. With this kind of unified platform, GRC professionals can collect and leverage information from across the organization, streamline collaboration, and easily create visualizations, reports, and storyboards. Unified dashboards also deliver up-to-date, quantified pictures of risk, empowering immediate and informed decision-making.

    Integrated, unified GRC solutions also boost productivity. Nearly seven out of 10 (68%) of survey respondents rated integrated GRC software as totally or mostly efficient, compared to only 49% of those using Microsoft Office for GRC purposes.

  2. The cloud enables automation—and cost savings.
    Our survey found that 32% of those working in GRC have fewer resources than they had before the pandemic. They’re also twice as likely as non-GRC professionals (41% to 19%) to have budget restrictions.

    Automating workflows and tasks enable GRC teams to do more with less. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation aren’t new technologies, but they are new to the GRC industry—and they’re delivered and powered by cloud technology.

    By enabling dynamic, automated workflows, cloud-based GRC solutions streamline operations and automate the tedious, time-consuming, manual tasks GRC teams are currently tackling with disparate spreadsheets, emails, and Word documents. This not only addresses the time, budget, and HR constraints holding GRC teams back—it also frees them up to focus on the more strategic aspects of their evolving, expanding, and elevated GRC role.

  3. The cloud and security can go hand in hand.
    Top concerns among our survey respondents include IT compliance, security, and privacy (47%), cybersecurity (43%), and fraud and corruption (29%). Cloud-based GRC solutions focus on these concerns, helping GRC teams strengthen compliance and monitor and mitigate threats through enabling greater visibility, stronger controls, and more.

    Consider, for example, automated controls frameworks. These make it easy to continuously monitor compliance status and risk levels across the organization. When control levels aren’t met, triggers prompt action. Automation, through reducing errors, also reduces the risk of fines and increases assurance.

    And consider the cloud’s ability to accommodate big data and advanced analytics capabilities. For GRC teams, this means real-time risk monitoring: looking across and within multiple business processes for critical trends, indicators, and emerging issues that could turn into major problems if not proactively managed.

    But it’s important to make sure your cloud-based GRC solution is secure. When evaluating options, look for vendors who have domain experience, who understand your industry’s security and compliance requirements and concerns, and who have high levels of security certifications such as Impact Level 5.

In conclusion: The cloud is a powerful solution for governance, risk, and compliance activities, and cloud-based solutions are ready to go for GRC teams who are prepared to start reaping the benefits.

To increase the odds of a successful journey, look for an intuitive and accessible platform, an active customer community, and the ability to scale, grow, and evolve with GRC roles and responsibilities—both during recovery from the pandemic and beyond.

Download the full report: The State of GRC 2021

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