Better together: How GRC tech integration delivers value-added efficiency

Ross Pounds

“Tightening up” is the universal theme across the business world right now. Between ongoing recession worries and an economy that defies norms and forecasts, every organization feels pressure to streamline and rationalize. But smart leaders know they can’t slow down. In fact, a recent Gartner report concludes that businesses that take calculated risks to drive tech innovation outperform those that take the conservative, cost-cutting path.

In the first blog in this series, we detailed why tech vendor consolidation provides a proven strategy for achieving cost efficiencies while accelerating through a downturn. The second blog provided a simple framework for evaluating vendor consolidation opportunities across your enterprise. Here, we’ll focus on why governance, risk and compliance (GRC) systems present a prime target for cost-effective and value-added tech consolidation.

Reigning in GRC tech proliferation

The last few years completely transformed the role and scope of GRC in the modern enterprise. ESG went from a fringe concept to a core business tenet. Shifting work paradigms and a labor market that won’t loosen pushed human capital management to the forefront of business strategy discussions. The rise of stakeholder capitalism injected new demands and expectations for boards and business executives. In short, GRC became more central, more visible — and a lot more complex.

Unsurprisingly, most organizations have developed an assortment of individual solutions and specialty technologies to cover rapidly evolving and expanding GRC needs. On paper, this makes GRC technologies an ideal target for consolidation strategies. Looking at the number of tools and vendors in the typical GRC stack, it’s easy to find quick-win opportunities to eliminate redundancies and realize cost savings.

But the bigger opportunity lies in looking beyond upfront cost savings. Instead, businesses should approach GRC integration as a critical strategy to deliver key business outcomes, including:

Enabling integrated risk management (IRM)

Complexity is the enemy of risk management. To make a mechanical analogy: More moving pieces = more things that can break. From a security and risk standpoint, more connection points mean more potential points of failure. More “doors” where sensitive data can leak or bad actors can gain entry. And greater potential for blind spots and information gaps.

By integrating GRC systems and moving toward a consolidated platform for all GRC activities, organizations can ensure there are no blind spots where risk goes undetected — and no gaps where information isn’t effectively shared across systems, tools or teams. Creating an integrated pool of risk management data also enables more effective analytics-driven risk management (because when it comes to analytics, the bigger the data, the better the insights).

Ultimately, this tech integration allows organizations to move toward the leading model of integrated risk management (IRM): Building a single view of risk across internal audit, internal controls, compliance, risk management and ESG teams to enable a comprehensive and proactive approach to identify, assess and mitigate risks across the organization.

Standardizing and automating compliance adherence & visibility

In the typical enterprise today, different GRC stakeholders use disparate tools — and each tool has its own specific workflows. This again presents the opportunity for gaps in risk monitoring and inconsistencies in risk information.

Integrating GRC technologies allows an organization to move toward consistent workflows and standardization of data fields across all teams and GRC reporting activities. This standardization provides the foundation for creating a centralized, single source of truth for GRC activities. It also enables teams to more effectively leverage automation to pull together standardized data, eliminating manual, time-consuming data integration and data hygiene/assimilation processes.

Integrated, consistent workflows also enable an organization to implement regulatory adherence and compliance monitoring consistently from the top down, rather than on several disparate fronts — even leveraging automated compliance monitoring capabilities to further accelerate and streamline these functions.

This more standardized, centralized and automated model of compliance monitoring allows GRC teams to gain real-time visibility and provide on-demand compliance reporting and insights to key stakeholders and leadership.

Achieving continuous assurance & control validation

GRC leaders know their risk management programs need to become more proactive. They’re already looking for earlier warning signs of emerging risks. But they need the ability to proactively monitor, test and validate GRC controls to ensure these controls are functioning properly and catching what they’re intended to catch.

This kind of continuous assurance process by definition cannot be ad hoc — and it’s challenging to execute across siloed systems. Integrating GRC systems provides the needed visibility and control to operationalize a continuous assurance methodology. GRC leaders can monitor and assess controls across all GRC functions, gaining real-time insights into the effectiveness of risk mitigation efforts and compliance measures to guide continuous refinement and improvement.

Surfacing better insights for functional leaders

Integrating GRC systems to bring all data and information together in one place goes a long way to eliminating gaps and blind spots and providing a full and accurate picture across all GRC activities. But functional GRC leaders have more on their plates than ever — and they need to act fast, with confidence. They don’t have time to wade through raw centralized data. Moreover, the complexity of that integrated data makes the actionable insights difficult to fully grasp without the help of analytics.

In this context, integrating GRC systems can be thought of as enriching the fuel source for analytics-enhanced, data-driven decision-making. Organizations can apply sophisticated analytics tools, as well as AI and machine learning, to a complete, accurate and rich pool of GRC data. Giving analytics engines better fuel helps to surface the insights that matter most — showing functional leaders where to focus resources to shore up risk and helping them make strategic decisions on remediation and other actions that align with business objectives.

Empowering board & executive decision-making

Today, it’s not just functional GRC leaders looking for faster, better insights on risk and governance. Boards and business executives know they need to bring GRC considerations into every business decision. But they’re already overwhelmed with data and typically are not GRC experts. These insights need to be clear, intuitive and actionable.

As we’ve touched on throughout the points above, integrating GRC systems and centralizing visibility and reporting levels up to a more holistic view of governance. This holistic view gives boards and executives a single source of truth on GRC activities and metrics.

More importantly, functional GRC leaders can create better, more complete and intuitive reports. They can draw on AI-powered, analytics-fueled insights to create board-ready presentations and communications that highlight the “what?” and prescribe the “what now?”

This integrated GRC reporting gives leadership a more comprehensive, more reliable, more up-to-date understanding of the organization's performance, risk and compliance posture. This insight empowers leadership to make confident business decisions to drive growth while mitigating risk.

Driving operational efficiencies

The benefits above represent common goals for nearly every organization today. But undergirding all of these goals is the reality that most organizations are actively looking for how they can achieve more on these fronts — with less from a resource and cost standpoint.

Bringing together GRC systems under a single platform presents an ideal “more with less” opportunity in that the streamlining, simplification and consolidation of operations is the driving force behind each of the benefits above. In other words, operational efficiency is the main feature of this strategy — not a convenient fringe benefit.

The streamlined workflows, standardized processes and seamless coordination between stakeholders that power functional benefits like better risk management and smarter decision-making also deliver significant cost savings. Organizations will cut OpEx by eliminating redundant technologies — and they’ll realize labor efficiencies by minimizing duplication of efforts and automating heavy-handed manual processes.

Those meaningful savings can keep an organization in the black during a lean time. Moreover, they also offer forward-thinking leaders a pool of resources that can be re-allocated to key growth strategies. This re-applied efficiency is how the most successful companies manage to drive business value and build competitive advantage at a time when peers are slowing down.

What does an integrated GRC platform look like?

The case for GRC consolidation is clear. But how can organizations execute on this strategy? Read the final blog in this series to see how enterprises are leveraging the consolidated Diligent GRC platform to save time and money while gaining broader visibility and better, faster insights for confident decision-making.

Related Insights
Ross Pounds
Ross Pounds, a Senior Manager at Diligent and expert in ESG, also has deep experience in governance, risk, audit and compliance. Ross has done extensive work on how organizations can prepare for climate accounting regulations and best achieve sustainability and diversity goals.