Let’s continue our examination of the benefits of automating your NERC operations and planning processes with a topic that every compliance team and professional is familiar with: data submittals.
Challenges with periodic data submittals
NERC and its regional entities require that utilities submit certain data at certain time intervals to demonstrate compliance. This requirement sounds like more of a hassle than a serious business challenge until you get into the weeds. The type and amount of data varies for NERC and the regional entities. While NERC and its subsidiaries are working towards standardizing data submittals (we’ll take a closer look at the new NERC CIP v5 evidence request process in an upcoming blog), the requirements for smaller, incremental reports are still very specific to your region.
The schedules vary as well, not only by which entity is requesting the data, but by which standard or requirement the data relates to. Data submittals typically occur on a predetermined schedule, but can also be required on an as-needed basis to determine compliance. You may need to submit your data monthly, quarterly, annually, and/or somewhere in between.
These circumstances add up to a daunting task. To meet their data submittal requirements, registered entities face a variety of challenges:
- Manage the schedule for different standards and requirements and know what information to collect for each requirement
- Identify who has the requested information in order to collect it
- Determine the appropriate evidentiary information, know where it is stored, or find someone who can provide it in order to gather the information that adequately proves that the process was followed
- Organize all the information in the prescribed format
- Ensure that all activities are performed within NERC or the regional entity’s prescribed time frame
Without an automated compliance management solution, addressing these issues is not easy. All of the information that you need to submit is never in a single location. When you get the data request, the registered entity have to spend a significant amount of time tracking down the required data. These data submittals include finding compliance evidence that proved the entity is meeting their requirements through their program documentation, proper log keeping, and other compliance evidence that is spread across the organization. There is usually one single group pulling this information together. By having it in a centralized compliance solution saves time, prevents mistakes and duplication, missing deadlines, and provides a robust audit trail.
How an automated solution streamlines the data submittal process
Automated compliance management software like SigmaFlow addresses all of this complexity. It takes a messy set of requirements and puts repeatable, measurable processes around it to ensure stronger compliance, but more importantly, to help your business run more efficiently and productively.
The SigmaFlow system streamlines data submittals in multiple ways:
- It triggers the appropriate tasks at the correctly scheduled time and assigns them to the right individual(s) or team.
- It automatically collects evidentiary or audit information to prove adherence, then packages that information in the required, pre-determined format.
- It sends automatic reminders & escalations when tasks are delayed or schedules impacted for optimal managerial oversight into the process.
- It serves up drill-down charts and dashboards for greater visibility and clarity.
- It enables compliance teams to run data submittal processes on a scheduled or as-needed basis to manage event-driven and on-demand requests.
These capabilities take the headache out of data submittal and make a once-painful process an effective, automated workflow. As a result, NERC and its regional entities get the information they need, on time and as required, so you face fewer audits and fees. The more critical benefit to an automated approach to data submittals, however, is opportunity gained. Instead of spending their time chasing information and evidence for data submittals, your people can focus on adding value to the business.
SigmaFlow is a leading provider of Process Execution solutions. The company’s NERC Compliance Solution is a real-time, evidentiary based software solution that solves the challenges of CIP & 693 Compliance. The SigmaFlow Compliance Solution manages all documents, data, and work activities while automatically collecting and building the evidence for NERC compliance in a real-time repository. SigmaFlow products place a strong emphasis on embedding domain knowledge through a process-driven template-based-architecture. Contact us at email@example.com to learn more.