The Compliance Maturity Spectrum

A tool to self-assess the maturity and health of your compliance program, plus guidance on how to evolve and mature your compliance program.

02: Compliance Maturity Spectrum: Overview

Compliance Maturity Spectrum: Levels
Compliance Maturity Scale - Levels
Compliance Maturity Spectrum: Components
Compliance Maturity Scale - Levels


At the highest level, what differentiates one organization from another is their belief and outlook about the role of compliance within their business. Does an organization see compliance as a series of boxes they must check off, or do they see compliance playing a positive role in driving business growth?

There are five distinct beliefs or viewpoints we’ve seen from organizations we’ve talked to:

Compliance Maturity Scale - 5 Level Belief table
Level 1

Organization does not believe that compliance is important to its overall objectives.

Level 2

Organization believes compliance is a series of boxes to check.

Level 3

Organization believes compliance is essential to the business.

Level 4
Continuously Compliant

Organization believes that operating in a mode of continuous compliance is beneficial; strives to make improvements.

Level 5

Organization believes that taking a strategic approach to compliance can drive a competitive advantage.

Based on our interviews, we found that organizations are at various stages of maturity when it comes down to People, Processes (Operations), and their use of Technology.


You can’t have an effective compliance program without investing in your people. People-related investments encompass everything from educating leadership about the role of compliance to hiring staff dedicated to running the compliance program/audits to training employees. Consider how you would answer the following questions on behalf of your organization:

  • Does the leadership team set the tone and believe that compliance matters to the business?
  • Do you have dedicated staff with the right skill sets and experience to plan, design, implement and maintain your compliance program?
  • Does the compliance team have a seat at the table?
  • Are the right people talking to each other at critical junctures?
  • Is there training so that employees know what’s expected of them?
  • Is there alignment between business goals and compliance objectives?
  • Are employees rewarded only for the results they produce, or do the rewards also factor in the means people used to achieve their goals (e.g. getting a sale without bribing government officials or taking other shortcuts)?

Organizations with higher levels of compliance maturity invest much more in their people. That greater investment in people leads to better compliance outcomes, lowered risks and better people outcomes (e.g. greater employee engagement and better morale). However, simply adding people to the compliance team will not automatically result in a more effective compliance program.

Compliance Maturity Scale - Relationship between investment in people and ethical behavior
The relationship between investment in people and ethical behavior


Creating effective processes is a crucial part of a compliance program. Whether you want to enhance security or prevent fraud, developing new compliance measures will require your organization to change the way things are done. Teams with different backgrounds, skills, and mandates will need to work together. New operating procedures will need to be adopted. And as your compliance requirements go up due to new regulations or entering new markets, you will need to update your processes to keep up with requirements.

Organizations at higher levels of compliance maturity have standard processes and operating procedures in place to help them keep up with regulatory changes, respond quickly to threats, handle workloads efficiently, and ensure optimal collaboration among stakeholders across the compliance ecosystem. On the flip side, organizations with lower levels of maturity are reactive: They scramble to meet new regulations and experience a high level of stress every time they need to respond to an event (e.g. an audit or a data loss incident).

Compliance Maturity Scale - Relationship between investment in people and ethical behavior
The relationship between investment in people and ethical behavior


Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) technology is a crucial ingredient for organizations that want to mature their compliance program. Organizations with lower compliance maturity tend to use manual processes and a patchwork of tools to manage their compliance projects, leaving themselves vulnerable to human error, unidentified gaps in controls, and increased risks.

Organizations at higher levels use technology strategically to gain operational efficiencies, greater visibility into their operations, reduce risks, and drive down compliance costs. They use various tools and integrate them in order to gain insights into their compliance program, automate manual processes, and monitor their control environment and processes on a continuous basis.