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Alleviate Control Environment Effort Through Automation and Monitoring

Weaver’s professionals discuss common manual processes and activities with the greatest potential for automation.
6 minute read
February 8, 2023

Performing manual processes can seem like constantly rolling a boulder uphill. In addition to internal policies and procedures for operational efficiencies, organizations may be required to generate, review, reconcile, approve, and submit reports to conform to an alphabet soup of state, federal, and industry regulations.

These include Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA) for financial reporting, Payment Card Industry (PCI) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) for data privacy and protection, and other applicable regulations.

While not all regulations and requirements overlap in subject matter, each requires organizations to implement and monitor a system of controls and processes to ensure relevant functions are consistently and accurately performed.

This often results in a significant number of manual controls that must be implemented, often with limited overlap.

Automating control performance, completely or partially, can significantly reduce the human labor effort associated with manual, repeatable tasks.

This post highlights key considerations for automating common manual processes. As you plan to automate portions of your control environment, evaluate where the most efficiency can be gained. Prioritize areas where the cost-benefit in both time and effort is most beneficial to your organization.

Common Manual Processes

These are the most common manual processes and activities with the greatest potential for automation:

Getting Started

To begin with, look for opportunities to streamline and to implement automated processes with appropriate monitoring:

Identify components of control execution, or verification steps, that can be automated. Look for tasks that don’t require professional judgement, or where systems are already designed for automation.

Automating these tasks with simple pieces of code or job scheduling tools can free up time for other job functions.

Design and implement automation so that it can be managed through systems rather than by people. There are a number of tools available and several are probably already present within the IT environment. They allow organizations to designate where information comes from, who acts on that information and in what capacity and what triggers the next stage of the process. If you have robust procedures and control narratives, you can save time by extracting this information from those documents.

Monitor processes to verify that automation functions as intended and there is continued process improvement. Continuous monitoring allows you to identify ineffective or inefficient processes earlier, facilitating a process change before it becomes an operational or compliance issue. Depending on the frequency of the process being monitored, this may mean monthly or quarterly validations by an independent group, such as your compliance or internal audit team, to validate a representative sample of control occurrences. There are two main types on monitoring.

If issues or improvement opportunities are identified, the group can facilitate discussion with the control and automation owners to design and implement process modifications, or replacements when necessary. This monitoring may also serve as a secondary, or non-key, control to support compliance efforts in the event of a control failure within the environment.

To find out how Weaver can help you go from pushing boulders to using a conveyor belt for the heavy lifting, please contact us. We are here to help.

Authored by David Friedenberg, CISA, CRISC, CISSP, QSA.