Data Protection and Vendor Compliance: How to Keep Your Business Safe

With increasing cyber threats, data breaches, and privacy violations worldwide, businesses must protect their confidential data. Unfortunately, the truth is that most organisations are not aware of the various laws and regulations that apply to keeping their data secure — this is especially true when working with outside vendors.

To successfully keep your business safe and compliant, all vendors you work with must apply the right level of data protection and vendor compliance measures. While many different standards and regulations must be adhered to, there are some fundamental steps that all organisations should consider when taking control of their vendor compliance programs.

Data Protection: Whose Responsibility Is It, Really?

When considering data protection and vendor compliance, it is crucial to identify who is responsible for protecting confidential client data. Often, organisations make the mistake of assuming that it is only up to their vendor or service provider to ensure that all security measures are in place. In reality, both parties have a role to play regarding data protection.

Businesses must ultimately manage their customers’ privacy and security risks, regardless of their arrangements with their vendors. At the same time, while companies may be able to reduce liability if they contractually obligate their vendors to oversee certain activities related to data security, they cannot outsource their responsibility for customer privacy and security altogether.

Businesses need to stay abreast of all regulatory changes to avoid potential noncompliance issues down the line — having IT personnel dedicated solely to monitoring changes can facilitate this process. This also includes the industry specific requirements, like CJIS compliance for law enforcement agencies or HIPAA compliance for medical facilities. Without a clear understanding of the security and privacy laws that apply to customer data, businesses may be exposing themselves to fines or even legal action.

Risks Involved with Third-Party Relationships

Third-party relationships may come with various risks that organisations should consider when entering into business agreements. These risks include potential violations of regulatory compliance standards, legal complications, and difficulties maintaining the necessary financial resources to support the relationship.

Organisations must be aware of all applicable laws and regulations for their industry before entering into third-party relationships. And these can vary quite differently. Standards for data privacy are vastly different for academic institutions as opposed to businesses who retain customer and financial data and must follow GDPR or KYC. Failing to meet specific compliance requirements can result in fines or sanctions.

Since legal issues often arise during complex business negotiations, organisations need to determine what potential conflicts could occur before entering a relationship with a third-party partner. This includes assessing both parties’ ownership rights, contract conditions, and liabilities and ensuring appropriate dispute resolution methods if matters become contentious.

Financial considerations should also be taken into account when forming third-party relationships. Organisations must ensure they have enough cash flow and adequate funding sources to support the relationship over its intended duration. Furthermore, it is important for organisations to understand how changes in economic or market conditions might affect their ability to maintain their side of any agreement.

Lastly, reputational damage is a key risk of engaging in third-party relationships since an organisation’s public image can easily be tarnished if something goes wrong during such interactions. Therefore, organisations must only engage in partnerships that align with their core values and adhere to ethical standards while avoiding any activities that could lead them toward scandal or negative public opinion.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Selecting Vendors

When selecting a vendor, it’s important to be aware of common pitfalls to ensure you make the best decision for your business. Here are some of the most important ones to avoid:

Lack of Adequate Research

If you don’t take the time to research your vendor properly, you could end up regretting it later. Failing to do adequate research can lead to a mismatch between a company’s needs and its vendor’s offerings, or even hidden costs that come with a particular service.

For example, some organisations prize speed. Some prize accuracy.

In an academic institution’s case, most end users are researchers. In these cases obtaining data isn’t just getting numbers. It can very much be qualitative, where researchers need to understand the human side of the equation. One little thing could be the reason the subject answered the questions the way they did.

In this case, vendor match for ensuring compliance but also end user needs is imperative.

Not Getting Written Contracts

The most effective way to protect yourself when dealing with vendors is to put the details of your relationship in writing. This will help ensure that each party understands their rights, responsibilities, and liabilities in the relationship. Without a written agreement, you could be left with an unenforceable dispute if something goes wrong.

Reference Checks

Before signing a contract, it’s vital that you check references to gain insight into the quality of a vendor’s services. Talking to existing customers can help identify potential problems or issues they may have experienced with the vendor. This will give you valuable information that could save you time and money.

Transparency Around Data Security Policies

If a vendor deals with any type of data, it’s essential that you understand their security policies and statements about how they handle confidential information. Ask for proof that the vendor is taking appropriate measures to protect your company’s data from unauthorised access or misuse.

Tips for Managing Vendor Compliance Long-Term

When it comes to vendor compliance, developing a long-term management plan is essential for businesses. Here are five tips that can help you maintain consistent compliance:

Develop Clear Procedures

Clear and concise policies and procedures must be in place to ensure that vendors understand their obligations and responsibilities. It’s important to develop robust processes to ensure vendors comply with contractual obligations and industry regulations.

Enforce Accountability

Accountable practices should be enforced throughout your organisation regarding vendor management. This means holding both vendors and internal teams accountable for any breaches of contractual or regulatory requirements.

Conduct Regular Audits

Conducting regular audits of suppliers effectively checks whether they are adhering to the expected standards. For example, those in the criminal justice and legal industry must use transcriptionists who are US citizens and have passed criminal background checks. It’s a good practice to check with vendors to ensure all those who have access to your data have passed the criminal background checks and are US citizens.

Audits should include checks on business operations, financials, products/services provided, certifications, licenses, and other relevant areas.

Educate Employees

Ensure your internal staff has the right knowledge and understanding of managing vendor relationships effectively by providing them with training programs or courses related to vendor compliance.

Establish Incident Response Plans

Establish a clear plan of action in case of any incidents related to vendor compliance, such as data privacy breaches or technical issues caused by suppliers’ malpractice or negligence. This will ensure appropriate remedies are put into place quickly if required, reducing potential damage from lapses in performance or security threats.

Taking Action to Ensure Long-Term Compliance

Vendor compliance is essential to running any business, and the risks involved can be costly if not properly managed. Taking proactive steps to protect your company from potential problems associated with vendors can help you avoid legal issues and financial losses.

By conducting proper research, getting written contracts, checking references, understanding data security policies, and establishing a long-term compliance plan, you can ensure that your company is fully prepared to manage vendor relationships.

Author Bio: Ben Walker

Ben Walker is a CEO, entrepreneur, and visionary leader that enjoys helping others become successful in business and in life. Ben’s company, Ditto Transcripts, provides user-friendly and cost-effective transcription services for the medical, legal, law enforcement, and financial industries for organisations all over the world. Ben is a sought after thought leader and has made contributions to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc, Forbes, and the Associated Press. Follow Ben’s Tweets: @benjaminkwalker