Business leaders ready to obtain ISO 270001 certification may be unsure of how to begin the process, wondering if they should start compiling documents right away and if they can handle it on their own. It can be challenging to determine the best way to approach this project.

Optimize Your ISMS and Get Ready for ISO Certification

Here are some key steps that will get businesses up, running and on the way toward ISO 27001 certification:

1. Decide on the Right Time for Compliance.

Whether a business has experienced a recent data breach, or is simply considering the risks facing their organization, committing to ISO 27001 certification is the first, and most important step.

2. Document Everything.

Documentation is an essential factor in ISO 27001 certification. Remember that the review of documentation comprises the first stage of auditing, so keeping records of all issues, concerns, and risks, as well as individual controls, is vital.

3. Familiarize Employees with the Process.

It is important to include employees in the process as early as possible to highlight the value of ISO certification. Set the tone for the organization by explaining its commitment to data security, protecting customer privacy, and improving the health of the business.

4. Set Policies and Assign Responsibilities.

Your ISMS team should be comprised of dedicated staff who understand the system’s risks and vulnerabilities. Setting policies is an important way to formalize employee expectations; policies should be strong enough to protect sensitive information, yet flexible enough for staff to do their work efficiently.

Building up from policies, assigning roles based on ISO 27001 best practices, the information security manager can oversee the entire ISMS team. Work across departments to ensure that everyone understands the reasons for policies and what is needed from them for proper implementation. Create clear documentation and train staff on the proper procedures so that not threat or mitigation step will come as a surprise.

5. Hire or Appoint an ISO Manager or Representative.

This specialized role requires someone with specific know-how. It can be filled by an internal IT manager who has experience with ISO and ISMS procedures, or an external advisor whose focus is ISO risk assessments and certification. It’s imperative that this ongoing project be led by someone dedicated to overseeing it through to success.

6. Determine the Scope of Your Organization’s ISMS.

Determining what your organization’s ISMS will ultimately contain and cover is the first step in eliminating any semblance of chaos in your system. The scope focuses on dependencies and interfaces. Dependencies are essentially outside of the organization; they include third-party services for accounting, cleaning, and legal support. Once dependencies are identified and eliminated, you can focus on interfaces. Interfaces include all endpoints within your network, such as the router, and high-level interfaces like employees, processes, and technology.

7. Perform a Gap Analysis and a Risk Assessment.

Creating a better system begins with assessing your current risks and where your current practices fall short. Pinpointing your system’s risks and vulnerabilities is a crucial step in designing your ISMS and becoming ISO 27001 certified.

Performing a gap analysis, then a risk assessment, guides organizations in identifying threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to data assets. It involve analyzing current information security practices and processes against what is required under ISO 27001 standards. The results of these testing processes validate the scope of the implementation and the functional and operational boundaries, while outlining the resources needed to bridge the gaps.

Gap analysis and risk assessment should be performed during the early stages of compliance. These work as internal benchmarks to help the organization understand where there is room for improvement as it develops and begins to implement a quality management system.

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8. Request an Internal ISO 27001 Audit.

An ISO 27001 internal audit involves an auditor reviewing the risk, controls, security vulnerabilities of a fully developed quality management system. The goal is to identify and remediate any serious non-conformity issues prior to beginning the external audit. It also gives personnel the opportunity to go over the ISO 27001 internal audit questions and prepare for interviews conducted during the ISO assessment.

Although an in-house auditor can do this, a trusted external auditing firm ensures that the process is clear, smooth, and managed efficiently. He or she can also provide experience-based insights to help the business achieve a better outcome at each step in the certification process and save time on future assessments.

9. Address the Gaps.

After determining your organization’s risk level, your team should develop a corrective action plans. Take the time to ensure that each step is followed through to fix any recurring non-conformity problems. If these issues are addressed before the external audit, it could delay the certification process and require last-minute solutions to be developed and implemented.

Controls will need to be implemented to effectively cut the risk of incursions. Formalize your decisions into a Statement of Applicability (SoA). This document lays out the security procedures that will be applied and how they’ll be implemented. This should be done whether you are creating your procedures for your organization’s internal benefit or if you are seeking ISO certification. This can be an internal document used to make your procedures clear.

10. Review Performance and Track Progress.

A good place to start when planning for ISO certification is with your organization’s yearly review of the quality management system. Top management should be involved in looking over the polices, updating the objectives, reviewing any new potential risks, and recent regulation changes, as well as highlighting critical points for remediation. At this point, they can also determine a schedule for performing more in-depth gap analysis, risk assessment, and internal auditing.

At each point, progress reports should be provided for the top management involved. Keep them informed on the security team’s progress toward objectives and findings from gap analysis, risk assessments, and internal audit procedures. Documenting progress is also important because auditors expect to see improvement over time.

Related article: What Are the Benefits of ISO Certification for U.S. Companies?

Want Help Preparing for Your ISO 27001 Risk Assessment?

ISO 27001 certification does take a good deal of dedication and hard work from you and your team, but the results are worth it. If you are wondering where to start, the ISO 27001/27002 experts at I.S. Partners, LLC. are here to help.

We ensure that you are ready for the process and that your audit is stress-free. Our experts can work with you to make sure that you understand what is required to obtain certification and to keep your enterprise’s information safe.

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