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Between its system integrations and ever-evolving cache of apps, Salesforce’s reach is expanding. It’s not uncommon for teams like finance and procurement to use or rely on its data and processes. This extended reach means that Salesforce can fall under the scope of industry regulations and laws for data integrity, security, and management. 

SOX compliance is one of those regulations. Read on to learn what SOX is and why it matters to ops teams. 

What is SOX compliance?

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, better known as SOX, was passed in 2002 after several high-profile corporate financial scandals in the early 2000s. Under the law, public companies must adhere to strict guidelines for financial recordkeeping and reporting. It also imposed higher fines and penalties for fraud and violations of securities regulations.

Certain aspects of SOX also apply to private companies. For example, privately-held businesses must comply with federal and state securities laws. And they also face stiff penalties for destroying and manipulating documents to impede investigations or bankruptcy proceedings, and retaliating against whistleblowers.

Aside from the regulatory requirements, private companies interested in being acquired or pursuing an IPO should adhere to SOX compliance to maintain the standards that investors and regulators expect. 

Why SOX compliance is challenging

The most well-known and difficult portion of SOX compliance is Section 404. Section 404 requires managers and auditors to implement internal controls for financial reporting and regularly document, test, and maintain those controls. These requirements apply to any software involved in collecting or transmitting financial data. Companies must have controls for access management, data integrity and security, and change management. 

Achieving and maintaining compliance is a large undertaking, even for some of the largest companies:

  • It must be comprehensive. You need to know which systems and processes are within the scope of Section 404. 
  • It requires year-round planning and attention. Many teams find themselves scrambling to compile the documentation their auditors need during their yearly audit. But if you think about compliance year-round, the audit goes more smoothly.
  • It’s resource-intensive. Although SOX is a financial regulation, compliance requires input from departments throughout the company. 

Why ops teams should care

As you use Salesforce for more complex tasks beyond housing leads and opportunities — like managing contracts, billing schedules, and other items used to create accurate financial accounting of your business and contracts — it’s more likely to impact financial data. And that can put it within the scope of SOX. Auditors are growing more aware of Salesforce apps like Revenue Cloud, CPQ, and Billing. Ops teams must have controls in place to maintain data integrity for those applications. And those controls must be documented and tested regularly.

Auditors will want to know who has access to Salesforce, what tasks they can perform, and how that access is managed. They will also want to know how you store and manage data for products, pricing, approval, and discount rules. 

How SOX compliance impacts change management

Auditors will want to know whether you have policies outlining how you make changes in Salesforce and if you follow those policies. Managing change is one of the most challenging aspects of operations. Revenue-generating teams rely on a complex network of systems and tools, many of which interact with Salesforce. 

Changing a single form field or implementing a new system can create errors and break processes elsewhere, leading to material errors in financial reporting. Change management — the process of planning, documenting, and evaluating the impacts of change — is vital to preventing and fixing these unplanned errors.

How you can ensure compliance

SOX compliance can be a resource-intensive burden, but incorporating strong controls in your systems and processes makes it much more manageable. If change management is baked into your regular routines, it becomes another part of your daily workflows instead of a project you have to carve out time for. 

Here’s how you can ensure compliance:

Use a Change Intelligence tool 

A Change Intelligence tool like Sonar automates some of the most time-consuming aspects of managing change. It shows you which fields and automations will be impacted by a change before you make it, allowing you to prevent errors. And it also documents the changes you make, who made them, and when. 

In Sonar, you can see all of the changes made to your Salesforce org using the Change Timelines feature. It gives you visibility into what was added, modified, or deleted. By automating the documentation of change, you save time and prevent the mistakes that come with manual data entry. 

Implement the right processes and plan proactively

While tools like Sonar can help you satisfy the requirements of SOX compliance, it’s important to have the right processes in place as well. And those processes must be documented, communicated, and followed. The planning stage is critical to understanding the downstream impacts of change and preparing for them. Read What is a Change Management Plan, and How Do I Get Started? for more guidance on how to create a comprehensive change management process.

Unsure of what those processes should be? Although audits occur yearly, most companies have a relationship with their auditors year-round. Work closely with your accounting and finance departments to make sure you understand which processes and apps auditors will be interested in, as well as the documentation they’ll need.

The right solutions simplify SOX compliance

Although SOX compliance can be a burden, it does come with a silver lining. Having the right systems and processes for maintaining data integrity and managing change also leads to better data governance overall. With Sonar, you can prevent mistakes — whether they impact financial reporting or any other aspect of your data — and troubleshoot errors when they do occur. Try it for yourself for free