3 Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Compliance Vendor 

Organizations are strapped for time and working with limited resources. That’s why many have turned to compliance automation software to streamline processes. 

But software vendors are only one type of compliance vendor you’ll encounter in the market, and they can’t solve all of your compliance needs. Generally speaking, you can classify compliance vendors into three categories: 

  • Compliance Software Vendors: Vendors that offer software products to assist with aspects of cybersecurity and compliance audits (such as evidence collection and review).  
  • Auditors: Experts licensed or approved by certification/authorization bodies to assess an organization’s capabilities against the certification’s standards and practices. Some auditors focus on specialized industries or types of audits, while other larger audit companies provide a suite of services.   
  • Technology-Enabled Auditors: These providers (like A-LIGN) offer the best of both worlds — certified experts who can complete audits and issue final reports, and proprietary technology to automate and streamline the audit process.  

Selecting the wrong partner for your needs can strap you with hidden costs, lead to reputational damage, and create inefficiencies as your business and cybersecurity posture mature. 

To find the best compliance partner, ask these three questions before you sign a contract.

1. Can the vendor produce reports/certifications?

There’s a common misconception in the world of compliance — software is all I need. While audit software can help streamline audit processes and evidence collection, technology providers cannot provide the actual audits or grant certifications themselves. 

Compliance certifications require specialized assessors trained to evaluate a company against specific standards (see definition of “auditors” above). 

For example, only Third Party Assessment Organizations (3PAOs) grant FedRAMP Authorization, and only accredited ISO certification bodies assess ISO Certification. Similarly, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) regulates SOC 2 assessments. An external auditor from a licensed CPA firm must complete these examinations. 

If you sign on to use a compliance software solution alone, you risk incurring additional costs when it’s time to call in an auditor. This can also lead to a lack of efficiency and an extended project timeline. Instead, the best thing to do is to work with an audit firm that also offers compliance software to streamline processes and assist with data collection.  

2. What is the compliance vendor’s suite of services?

There are a lot of cybersecurity certifications and audits out there — for different types of companies, industries, and more. As your company grows, you may be required to complete more audits and certifications than you originally planned for. 

For example, you may be focused on SOC 2 right now. But, if you want to expand your business into the Federal government in a few years, you will need FedRAMP Authorization. As you continue to grow your business, services, and tech stack, you also may want to start completing regular penetration tests to check up on your systems and processes.  

Select a vendor with your future in mind. It’s helpful to build a relationship with a compliance vendor who can scale with you. Switching vendors for individual audits can lead to a lack of efficiency, as you’ll have to re-do the extensive evidence collection and systems documentation processes. 

3. Is this a credible compliance vendor?  

Cybersecurity audits and certifications are a great way to gain the trust of potential customers and investors. Just like how organizations go through the audit process, auditors go through an audit process themselves. Auditors must be trained and assessed in their ability to evaluate companies properly against industry standards.  

With that in mind, you’ll want to select an auditor with a track record of success and longstanding relationships with certification and authorization bodies like ISO, HITRUST, and the AICPA, among others. Otherwise, you risk working with an auditor who loses their status — and the reputational damage that may trickle down to you as a result. Opting for a traditional software compliance vendor leaves you most vulnerable to this scenario, as they may choose your auditor for you.  

Complete Compliance with A-LIGN 

A-LIGN is a technology-enabled security and compliance partner that can assist with various audits, reports, and certifications. 

A-LIGN’s services include: 

  • Leading cybersecurity certifications like ISO 27001 or SOC 2 attestation  
  • Industry-specific certifications like FedRAMP, StateRAMP, PCI DSS, HITRUST, HIPAA, and more 
  • Cybersecurity services like Ransomware Assessments and Penetration Testing 
  • Assessments for compliance against privacy laws like GDPR  

Our A-SCEND technology complements the expertise of our auditors by streamlining extensive evidence-collection processes and storing information in a single system of record that can be used across multiple audits and certifications.