Ensuring that your organization is compliant with NERC regulations starts with defining your policies and procedures. This may happen internally, within your IT or compliance department, or you may work with a consulting firm to help get all of the required tasks and workflows identified, defined, and literally and figuratively down on paper. This policy and procedure definition process is critical to NERC compliance – but it’s also just the beginning.
The real challenge comes with implementing that documentation. Now that you’ve defined the precise “what” of your NERC compliance program, you need to put it into action. This involves both people and tools. You need a system that streamlines and manages all of those workflows and tasks and a way to enable and encourage your employees to use it effectively.
When it comes to the “how” of compliance, NERC leaves it up to you. They specify what you need to do, but don’t particularly care how you do it. As a result, solutions range from homegrown spreadsheets to basic ticketing systems to advanced automation options. The latter obviously delivers the most technical capability, but it also adds a less tangible but incredibly crucial component to your compliance program: a culture of compliance.
An automated NERC compliance solution ensures that your employees follow your defined policies and procedures so that you’re always audit-ready. It creates a culture of compliance automatically by removing guesswork and human error from the equation. Unlike manual efforts, or tools designed for a different (and less complex) purpose, automated compliance solutions add significant value by guaranteeing that all of those policies and procedures that you’ve defined actually get followed on a consistent and measurable basis.
With an automated compliance solution, you can:
- Ensure that everyone is following the same (predefined) processes. No room for variance, no room for error, no room for interpretation: with an automated solution, the system dictates the process so that it always works as defined.
- Avoid duplicate data entry. Implementing an automated compliance solution begins with identifying existing workflows, including parallel work, then builds duplication and redundancy out of the process. This is a boon to your compliance program – better, cleaner data – and your employees, who can spend less time on routine tasks like data entry and more time on value-add activities.
- Identify evidence that can be automatically generated. The initial evaluation process also flags existing compliance reports and evidence required by the system and identifies where they can be automatically generated. This saves users time and increases audit readiness.
- Identify key dates. An automated solution for NERC compliance knows the dates for key activities like submittal deadlines, reviews, training, assessments, maintenance work, etc. and kicks off reminders, alerts, and/or workflow triggers accordingly. It’s no longer up to people to remember and track all of those dates; the system does it for you.
- Identify data conditions. Leading solutions aren’t just automated, they’re also smart. When calibrated with the right data conditions, the system can intelligently present the user with the relevant data fields necessary for the compliance work being performed. If baseline anomalies are identified, for instance, it can prompt the user to create a mitigation plan, or if a change request is not approved, it can force the user to provide feedback as to why.
- Create a central repository. With an automated compliance solution, all evidence and documents get saved to a central repository for straightforward access during both day-to-day activities and an audit.
- Dynamically assign tasks. Instead of passing the buck manually from person to person, an automated system dynamically assigns tasks to the appropriate owner and routes the workflow based on that information. This ensures that the approval process is followed and makes it easier for your team members to know what’s required of them, when.
An automated solution for NERC compliance reduces your risk, fosters a culture of compliance, and guarantees that you’re always ready for an audit. By putting your defined policies and procedures into action, it streamlines the compliance process and saves your employees serious time and energy. You’ve got your compliance program down on paper. With the right automated solution, it’s easy to put it into practice.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.