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Agile Compliance Management


Although the need for regulatory compliance may seem to negate the ability to become or remain agile, many organizations have discovered they can adopt and use LEAN and / or agile techniques and sustain their data management and compliance activities successfully.


In the business world, the term agility describes the ability of an organization’s system to quickly respond or adapt to changes in cost-effective and productive ways. Hence, an agile enterprise is any robust, flexible, and fast-moving company that can respond rapidly to unforeseen opportunities, events, and challenges.

Agile entities execute their operations rapidly. When considering the agile component of a lean startup model, the attention is concentrated on continuous improvement, external focus, ruthless prioritization, and quick wins. Agile development fundamentally depends on constant testing, which, in turn, allows sustained improvement. In the cybersecurity space, constant monitoring promotes a responsive, sustainable compliance posture.  Agile has been proven to be an effective approach in many areas of enterprise data management, including those associated with compliance and risk management.

Lean-agile Development Techniques

Lean development encompasses a selection of values designed for:

  1. Eliminating waste
  2. Creating knowledge
  3. Creating quality
  4. Delivering fast results
  5. Optimizing the whole
  6. Respecting people
  7. Deferring commitment

By removing unproductive processes, businesses can deliver software rapidly and meet business requirements, initially and in revision / enhancements.

Agile development that has been based on lean development leads to the establishment of the following principles:

  1. Reflecting and readjusting
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Supporting talent
  4. Delivering effective software regularly
  5. Utilizing a self-organizing team to create the finest architectures, designs, and requirements.
  6. Concentrating on technical excellence
  7. Enhance sustainable development
  8. Assessing progress based on useful software
  9. Relaying information efficiently
  10. Bringing development and business departments together
  11. Leveraging change to gain a competitive edge
  12. Maximizing the work that’s yet to be completed

Both techniques focus on quality, speed, efficiency, sustainability, and communication.

How is Agile Useful in Cybersecurity Activities?

When agile approaches focus on readjustment, reflection, and harnessing change, they become well-aligned with cybersecurity requirements.  At the core of those methods, malicious actors are superstars of agile development. They constantly readjust their methodologies of attack in a bid to retain their software’s “quality,” making sure that they remain a step ahead of the implemented cybersecurity safeguards.

Therefore, for companies to fight the ever-expanding threats from cybersecurity attacks, they must develop a security-first technique that operates similarly to those employed by the nefarious performers (real and automated).

What Does Agile Compliance Mean?

Agile compliance also focuses on the principles of agile and lean software development. Instead of concentrating on the creation of products, it devotes its attention to risk mitigation. Nonetheless, agile compliance, particularly from a security-first approach, considers stakeholder satisfaction and the security of customer data as the product instead of the satisfaction of customers being the defining point.

When focusing on GRC (governance, risk, and compliance), especially in cybersecurity, data availability and integrity serve as the path to customer satisfaction and confidence. By adopting a security-first perspective to compliance, an organization can develop an iterative process with mitigation, review, and monitoring that helps in aligning important controls in a bid to safeguard access to essential data.

Agile Compliance in the Cybersecurity Domain

A security-first approach for safeguarding data often results in the development of a responsive compliance program. Security-first compliance looks at the quality of an organization’s data controls, which makes sure that even when regulations and standards are not current with methodologies and vectors, the organization can still maintain a secure environment for its data.

Bringing IT and Business Departments Together

Risk management starts by ensuring that business objectives are aligned with all the organization’s information technology assets. As the enterprise grows, ensure that the cybersecurity strategy can handle such growth without being compromised. Begin by focusing on the latest technologies that not only promote business but also establish whether additional security and compliance are required, and if it can successfully mitigate the risk posed by extra vendors.

Leverage Self-Organizing Teams to Create a Compliance Strategy

After the IT department is well-aligned with the business objectives, bring together leaders drawn from all the departments, since each business department utilizes supporting technologies. A successful compliance plan calls for the need to develop an inter-departmental team to assess all digital assets and the particular data that they process, transmit and store. This allows the team to get the entire perspective of all the organization’s networks, systems and software, to understand the connections that affect compliance, risks, security, and the data transmissions.

Supporting Talent

Each person in the company should be held accountable for cybersecurity, and each person should be given the training and support to learn and implement the ability to support their duties for cybersecurity and risk management. By developing a culture of cyber-informed individuals in which all workers know how their role is associated with the cybersecurity of an organization, it is easy to maintain a strong profile of information security, and supporting its place in enterprise data management.

Concentrate on Technical Excellence

The CIO, CISO, and IT units should understand how to safeguard the environment. They have the necessary technical expertise to guarantee sustained control effectiveness. Nevertheless, they must be supplied with the right tools to help them do their work, and do it well.

Promote Continuous Organizational Development

For an enterprise to grow, it must get additional business partners. Now more than ever, companies are not only including SaaS systems but also mitigating data in a bid to alleviate any stain on their enterprise operations. Hence, continued organizational development calls for the need to develop a vendor risk management strategy that enables the enterprise to scale accordingly while ensuring that its data ecosystem remains secure.

Measure Security Based on Working Controls

Translate KPIs or key performance indicators into the business language in an attempt to promote a strong compliance plan. For instance, when there is a low percentage of essential systems without security patches, it means that effective controls still operate. Likewise, when there is a high level of network devices that satisfy the standards of configuration, then it means that information security has been maintained.

Leverage Change for a Competitive Cybersecurity Edge

A single ransomware or malware infected device from an employee can affect the company’s security profile instantly. So, be ready to look for new tools to help regularly monitor all software, networks, and systems for weaknesses.

Provide fast remediation solutions

Irrespective of whether it is a data event or weak control, be able to protect information quickly. The 2018 Ponemon’s Cost of a Data Breach Report revealed that the Mean Time to Contain and the Mean Time to Identify rose from 2017 to 2018.

Reflect and Readjust

It is undeniable that data events have ceased to be a matter of “if” but rather “when.” Hence, it is imperative to have a process that enables reflection upon the cause of the breach and, in turn, the ability to readjust the security controls. For this to happen, there must be an audit trail to facilitate an assessment of the organization and its performance in response to any incident.

Relay Information Efficiently

All departments should be in a position to exchange information with one other. Furthermore, both external and internal stakeholders should also be able to share their information efficiently and openly. In the course of managing a compliance strategy, the CIO, CISO, other c-suite members, auditors, and department heads require the ability to access the information needed to do their work. Therefore, it is imperative to have a single information source that manages documentation and tracks communications, reliably and thoroughly.

Maximize the Work not Done

By using digital tools, automating routine tasks is easy. Getting tools that can incorporate document sharing and workflow management can assist in maximizing the amount of work that has yet to be done. Automating the management process of tasks and assigning tasks to the right actors allows for streamlining work (less ”work”) but also saves time in the end.

Stakeholder Satisfaction

Customers should be able to entrust an organization with their data. The Board of Directors and the c-suite must be confident that they know the threats and mitigation plans that safeguard the data. In addition, the external and internal auditors should be satisfied that the organization has complied with all the industry regulatory compliance conditions.

Close the Gap with Continuous Monitoring

Having a continuous monitoring tool that promotes constant auditing and compliance can help in developing an agile compliance strategy. Some GRC (Governance, Risk, Compliance) solutions on the market have features that can simplify continuous auditing and reporting. They also feature a unified control management capability that helps businesses in mapping controls across different regulations, standards, and frameworks in a bid to determine whether there are any existing compliance gaps.


Although the steps for Agile Compliance Management may seem long, developing and implementing them will allow any organization to create and sustain a lean and responsive approach to regulatory and compliance management. Doing so will enable the organization to manage and mitigate its risks from data breaches with increased confidence and protect its data assets and availability.


Kenneth Lynch

As an enterprise software startup veteran, Kenneth Lynch has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. He founded Reciprocity Labs to pursue his mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance needs of their company to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.

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