How AI will help SMEs transform approach to compliance in 2024

By Paulo Rodriguez, Head of EMEA, Vanta

In an uncertain and volatile business environment, SMEs are increasingly turning to AI and automation to make quicker work of painstaking tasks. AI empowers organisations to reduce the amount of time they’re spending on lower value actions and focus on more meaningful, strategic work.

One area where businesses can make significant time savings is compliance. Globally, businesses are spending 7.5 hours each week on staying compliant, according to new data from Vanta’s State of Trust Report. That’s more than nine working weeks a year. Exacerbating this time-suck, more than half of respondents say that remaining compliant with different national regulations is becoming increasingly difficult.

UK businesses are particularly feeling this with the implications of Brexit rumbling on. Due to the time drain and pressures businesses are facing from continued economic headwinds, compliance isn’t always prioritised. In fact, nearly half (43%) of businesses have deprioritised compliance due to the time it takes.

This is making SMEs vulnerable, however. The expansion of attack surfaces in a post-pandemic, hybrid world as well as shrinking IT budgets and resources, are fuelling an urgent need for companies to improve — and prove — their security posture.

Better security helps SMEs boost their bottom line

Compliance has traditionally been viewed as tick box exercise, rather than as an integral growth lever. But our data shows that there is a connection between a compliance strategy and business growth.

Seven out of ten leaders say that a better security and compliance strategy positively impacts their business, thanks to stronger customer trust. While nearly three in four (72%) respondents say that a better security and compliance strategy would make them more efficient.

With many companies abandoning compliance altogether, it’s clear that leaders aren’t making that connection between compliance and business growth, particularly as the time and effort that it takes to become and stay compliant, can often feel like it is at odds with the efficiencies it stands to create.

But AI can help!

Why AI is essential for better security

According to the State of Trust Report, global security leaders believe that AI will be transformational for the security and compliance process. The greatest potential for AI will be seen in improving the accuracy of security questionnaire responses (44%), eliminating manual work (42%), streamlining vendor risk reviews and onboarding (37%).

And businesses worldwide are starting to recognise the opportunity: 77% already or plan to use AI/ML to detect high risk actions, unsecured cloud storage, unassigned compliance responsibilities, or unrevoked access privileges.

However, over half (54%) are concerned that secure data management is becoming more challenging with AI adoption. And more than half (51%) say that using Generative AI could erode customer trust.

Without proper guardrails, the industry recognizes the inherent risk to using Generative AI, including limited transparency into decision-making due to the vast number of weighted data points that large language models (LLMs) use.

Enter trust management

It’s for that reason that AI alone doesn’t provide a silver bullet. There are multiple tools, important processes, legal requirements, and all must be updated regularly as novel situations and risks emerge.

Trust management, a holistic approach to defining, managing and providing security and compliance commitments, must react in real-time and offer clear visibility over all these elements. Ideally, it surfaces contextual insights so that the status and any risks can be quantified. Then, a workflow leading to remediation should be offered.

The combination of AI and trust management together is a game changer for businesses. Supercharged by AI, trust management can be critical to reducing the tedious and repetitive security tasks that pull teams away from their most strategic work. For companies at the forefront of this disruption, centralising security processes, automating compliance, and accelerating security reviews can turn trust into a marketable advantage. By closing the loop on the security lifecycle from compliance through continuous monitoring and communication, businesses can transform how they build trust and ultimately unlock growth.