In this article, we condense unbiased, expert research from Fractional CISO highlighting:
- Three core SOC 2 challenges that software can help solve
- Nine key points to consider when evaluating SOC 2 software vendors
Few people know more about SOC 2 compliance software than Rob Black. As the founder of Fractional CISO, he has fielded countless questions from small to midsized SaaS companies who want to know if a platform-enabled compliance process is right for them. And, if so, which vendor they should choose.
Rob created a resource to help these companies navigate their options and make the right choice. He and his team spent many months and hundreds of hours talking to vendors, testing software and developing a decision framework.
Why Should a SaaS Company Invest in SOC 2 Software?
Most SaaS companies begin as lean, bootstrapping organizations, questioning the need for often costly, specialized SOC 2 compliance software. So what’s wrong with managing the process with spreadsheets and Google docs?
Well, Rob identifies three areas where a SOC 2 platform can deliver substantial value to SaaS startups.
Protecting Time for High-Dollar Employees
The average SOC 2 involves collecting and delivering 150 or more pieces of evidence. Even if the process goes smoothly, that represents a lot of time and effort. In addition, Rob points out that the people assigned to manage the process are usually high-dollar employees. Especially true of smaller organizations where the CTO, CIO or VP of Engineering may be the only person qualified to lead the charge. SOC 2 software reduces time by up to 30% and enables these valuable team members to return to their revenue-generating endeavors sooner.
Controlling and Documenting Changes
When it comes to production systems and software updates, most companies have conquered change controls. But few have mastered control management for compliance-related changes, like AWS configurations or administrative privileges. As a result, change control management is one of the most challenging aspects of SOC 2 for many SaaS companies. And this is where SOC 2 software can alleviate compliance confusion by automating the change management process.
Supporting Organization-Wide Culture Change
On the surface, SOC 2 is a collection of new policies and processes that your organization needs to follow. But underneath it all, it’s a profound culture change. Within a few weeks or months, companies need to commit to pen tests, incident response tabletop exercises, periodic internal audits—the list goes on and on.
Each task is simple enough on its own. But remembering to do all required tasks at the right time and the right way is a lot to juggle. It takes time for organizations to adopt a compliance mindset. By providing structure, pacing and best practices that prompt and guide these activities, SOC 2 software helps organizations follow a proven playbook until it’s just a business as usual philosophy.
The 9-Point Framework for Evaluating SOC 2 Software From Fractional CISO
While investigating and analyzing SOC 2 software, Rob and his team discovered a complicated landscape where each vendor offered different features, specialties and approaches. As a result, it took them several tries before landing on a structure to guide the vendor evaluation process. However, these nine key considerations Rob identified will help organizations narrow down SOC 2 vendors, helping companies reach their SOC 2 compliance goals faster.
1. Expert Guidance
Unless you’re a cybersecurity expert, compliance isn’t easy. Software that directs you through each step of the SOC 2 process, is user-friendly, provides information in simple terms and answers basic questions will save you lots of time. It’ll also make the process far less intimidating.
2. Control-Set Tiebacks
Some platforms don’t identify the underlying control that each policy or process supports. On the surface, less context means more simplicity. But don’t be fooled. Tying deliverables back to the controls they support provides valuable context that helps avoid unnecessary work. For example, while there are five trust service criteria (privacy, security, availability, processing integrity, and confidentiality), passing a SOC 2 audit only requires a company to demonstrate “security.” With each deliverable tied back to a corresponding control, you ensure that you’re only completing relevant tasks related to your specific trust service criteria.
3. Pre-Built Templates
Documented policies and procedures for areas such as business continuity, disaster recovery and incident response are the heart of all security programs. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the most labor-intensive deliverables, taking up the time of the high-dollar experts on your team. This makes pre-built templates for policies and procedures one of the most valuable elements in a SOC 2 platform.
4. Auditor Workflows
Collaborating with auditors about hundreds of pieces of evidence is complicated. And it’s made even more complex because most organizations want to filter evidence collection and share only a subset with the auditor. Rob found that few companies see the value of robust auditor workflow tools upfront. But in the end, it’s one of the most valuable features. Streamlining the audit workflow process for internal teams minimizes an auditor’s time sifting through files.
5. Evidence Management
Automating the process of versioning, dating and archiving evidence gives organizations a chunk of time back. In addition to functionality that automatically surfaces outdated evidence, it reminds you when to perform updates. It’s not the sexiest feature but its practicality saves time—time returned to high-value activities.
6. Evidence Collection
You’ll collect evidence from wide-ranging platforms, including Microsoft 365, AWS, Azure, GitHub and Jira. Automating logging in, assembling evidence, taking relevant screenshots and so on saves considerable time. However, keep in mind that not everything can be automated. For example, collecting minutes from board meetings is a manual process, but automating the bulk of evidence collection tasks will save days of effort.
7. Risk Management
Risk management is mandatory for a SOC 2 audit and many other security frameworks, so you’ll want a tool that facilitates risk assessments. With a rigorous and thorough assessment process, the content produced is compelling enough to become a management resource, giving management visibility into the risks that have the potential to jeopardize organizational goals. Look for risk management features beyond compliance box-checking and treat risk management as a core part of the organization’s resilience and security profile.
8. Vendor Management
Smaller organizations can have hundreds of vendors in their ecosystem, making vendor risk management and evaluation functionality extremely important. Rob advises companies to look for platforms with a centralized area for organizing and managing vendor data. Ideally, the platform will help you facilitate interaction with the vendors long term and not just during the audit process.
9. Re-Usable Content
Looking beyond the SOC 2 audit, customers may ask if you follow other frameworks. Most frameworks overlap to a varying degree with SOC 2. Therefore, it’s invaluable to have a tool that enables users to re-use the work already performed and evidence collected for SOC 2 and re-apply it to other frameworks.
More Expert Tips on SOC 2 Software Evaluation
For more tips on evaluating and selecting a SOC 2 software partner, watch Secrets to Selecting the Right SOC 2 Vendor, an on-demand webinar featuring Rob Black of Fractional CISO.