A GRC tool can provide many benefits to your GRC program, as we’ve discussed before. However, before you go chasing shiny objects, you must understand what a GRC program is and how a GRC tool fits into the program.

Defining a GRC Program

A Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) program is a strategic initiative within an organization that works to ensure enterprise risks are addressed, compliance obligations are met, and the governance structure is set up to address these objectives. An effective GRC program allows an organization to operate with certainty in an uncertain environment.

Tactically, a GRC program consists of the people, processes, recurring activities, and technologies that enable these objectives.

Defining a GRC Tool

A GRC tool is one example of a technology that may exist within a GRC program. These tools allow you to gain visibility into your security program and assign ownership to controls. They also provide a central repository to keep track of risks and recurring activities over time.

Managing a GRC Program without a GRC Tool

It’s important to keep in mind that all GRC program objectives can be met without using a GRC tool. Researching frameworks is easy with the vast amounts of information available online.

Recurring activities can be tracked in your calendar and logged in a shared drive. Internal audits can be conducted using ticketing tools and file-sharing services. Risks can be logged and ranked in spreadsheets, with action plans attached. Any company can leverage pre-existing tools to stand up a rudimentary GRC program, provided that qualified individuals are assigned to operate it.

But as the GRC landscape becomes more complex, items may get lost in the shuffle.

Access control and task management become harder to keep track of. Year-over-year audits shift from being a proactive GRC activity to an administrative burden. As these issues become more prevalent, it could be time to consider a GRC tool.

Limitations of a GRC Tool

GRC tools can be a powerful addition to your GRC program, helping to centralize all of the above workflows. However, they have limitations.

First and foremost, a tool is only as effective as the environment it exists in. You wouldn’t depend on your accounting software to balance your budget and make financial predictions if you never tracked this information and put it into the software. In the same way, a GRC tool can only use the information you give it, and this information must be generated from regular reviews, external tools, and other GRC activities.

Continuing the above analogy, you wouldn’t expect your accounting software to tell you what business line will be the most profitable in five years or where you should invest capital. All it can do is give you insights based on current data. It’s up to you to take these insights and turn them into actionable plans. In much the same way, a GRC tool cannot make you compliant or solve your biggest risks.

Its role is to provide valuable insight into these topics.

Finally, you must have a qualified person using the tool to draw effective conclusions. Governance, risk, and compliance are nuanced topics and require experienced individuals to interpret the data. A GRC tool will allow you to speak more intelligently on GRC topics, but it is not a replacement for an expert.

Conclusion

A GRC tool can be a critical part of a GRC program, but it is not the whole program. If your organization lacks qualified people to run a GRC program or holds the belief that security “doesn’t matter,” a GRC tool cannot fix these issues. What a GRC tool can do is give you insights into your current GRC program and help you clearly see what needs to be done, both in the short term and in the long term.