While many service organizations may be required to issue SOC reports to meet the needs of their users and also to attract new customers, completing a SOC report examination can be a time-consuming and complex process. Part of that complexity comes during the fact-gathering process, which requires coordination among various business units and departments. And if your organization issues multiple SOC reports, it can intensify the process.
But don't worry; ways to streamline and simplify the SOC examination process exist. Here are some suggestions from our SOC specialists:
A SOC report examination is a large undertaking, and you need coordinated communication among all departments to identify the scope, controls, milestones, and deadlines. Has anything changed from previous years? What have you learned from previous examinations, both from findings and from the overall process? Knowing what’s changed – or what you’d like to see changed – and communicating that information internally and with the auditors is essential to building a smooth examination process.
Clarify roles and define individual responsibilities and deadlines. Once the process is defined, communicate it broadly, early, and often. Make it happen with established internal and auditor touch points during planning, fieldwork, and completion of the examination process.
Keeping the SOC-related roles, responsibilities, and deadlines straight and on track is a difficult task. If everyone is responsible (you might have 50 people contributing different parts and pieces), then really no one is responsible. Naming a point person to oversee the allocation and collection of the relevant information, track timelines, and escalate questions is essential.
But that point person also needs backup – an executive-level sponsor who can set the “tone at the top” that the SOC report examination is a priority for the entire organization and make it a point to understand each department’s role and expected responsiveness. Once the project owner and sponsor are in place and the roles defined, you can communicate that information to the broader team.
Every company has its own internal language for roles, processes, and procedures, which might not be fully known to the auditors and can slow the examination process. Your translator can identify what the auditors are asking for and communicate that in terms your organization uses, which can save time during the fact-gathering process. SOC examinations are time-consuming, but making sure everyone shares a common understanding of terminology can help cut down on rework.
Whether you’re managing one SOC report or multiple, prioritization is crucial. Map out a timeline for each step in the examination process as well as the overall due date. You might find report A is due before report B, yet report B requires more extensive internal work. If your timeline is bumping up against a busy time in your organization (month-end closing or the holidays, for example), proactively make adjustments to the timelines and expectations to accommodate demands on your team, while striking a balance with other key priorities.
Moving your timeline isn’t the only way to be proactive. It is also important to manage change. For example, if any of your subservice organizations change, it’s essential to communicate report deadlines and any information you might need from them as soon as possible. (Conversely, it’s important to understand any information they might need from you.) Also, evaluate the results of the examination process while it’s fresh. Once the process is completed, immediately use your findings to make improvements across the organization and the process, so the next examination cycle will be that much smoother.
While the SOC examination process can introduce complexities, it is possible to streamline the process. These steps can help you now and as your SOC reporting needs continue to grow.
Our team of SOC specialists is here to help