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Our approach to ticketing and automation
In this series, you’ll hear directly from Vanta’s own Security, Enterprise Engineering, and Privacy, Risk, and Compliance Teams to learn about the team’s approach to keeping Vanta secure. We’ll also share some guidance for teams of all sizes — whether you’re just getting started or looking to uplevel your operations.
In this post, you’ll hear from Janiece Caldwell, Senior Operations Engineer on our Enterprise Engineering team, and Jess Chang, Staff Technical Program Manager, who led our approach to building the foundation for our ticketing system at Vanta.
What’s a ticketing system?
A ticketing system is software that teams use to intake, triage, route, and respond to customers—in this case, we’re referring to internal customers within a company, including employees and contractors.
At Vanta, our Enterprise Engineering team helped establish our company-wide ticketing system to help uplevel how internal requests are handled as part of improving how employees work every day.
Why ticketing and automation?
Many companies typically start by intaking requests in standard channels such as email and Slack, which is what we used to do at Vanta as well. While email and Slack are familiar channels, they have drawbacks for both requesters and responding teams, including:
For the requester:
- Lack of visibility on the status of the request, which can be challenging and frustrating especially for time-sensitive requests.
- Manual searching to review updates for a request (e.g. through an email inbox or Slack).
- Inability to prioritize multiple issues effectively without a ticketing system.
For agents and responding teams:
- Manual tracking of requests that come in from multiple channels.
- Manual responses from agents for different types of requests.
- Managing conversations that happen in multiple channels to intake, request approval(s) needed, and complete a request.
- Lack of ability to view metrics on requests (e.g. type, volume, SLA).
- Difficult to properly prioritize tickets.
While our Enterprise Engineering team was in its early stages of formation at Vanta, the need to establish a ticketing system quickly became apparent. In fact, it was at the top of our request list from internal stakeholders. But why?
At a high level, using a ticketing system helps our team centralize all requests we receive and holds us accountable as a support team. Other benefits include:
- Defined workflows and automation for different types of request types, reducing manual work needed to loop in different approvers while also documenting approvals in one spot.
- Ability for requester to follow progress of tickets and requests via an end-user portal.
- Clear visibility, centralization, and organization for all request types for our team.
- Ability to capture and report on clear metrics for all activity and requests, including ticket volume, tickets by issue type, top requests, average first response time, average resolution time, and more.
What are some steps to consider when moving to a ticketing system?
As many ticketing platforms exist, it’s important to consider your requirements up front, including defining features that are critical vs. nice to have for your team and business. While it’s typical to optimize for cost and user experience, we found that all platforms we looked at had a thoughtful end-user experience and platform; however, cost tended to vary more across platforms.
One thing that was important to our team at Vanta was the ability to separate the intake, routing, and triage of any tickets with potentially sensitive information, such as tickets for your HR team, to ensure that admins and agents for other portions of your helpdesk portal don’t have access.
Another important consideration for our team was the depth of offerings from a ticketing system, such as automation, a knowledge base, and a service catalog of predetermined services provided. For instance, an internal-facing service catalog allows you to anticipate the potential needs of your employees with a wide range of custom forms and flows for requests such as:
- Access to software licenses
- New hardware or loaner devices
- Review or publishing of content
- Procurement of new software
- Exceptions to specific policies or standards
If you’re wondering where we ended up, our team at Vanta ultimately chose Freshservice as our internal ticketing system for its depth of offerings — and we continue to be happy with our choice!
How does the Enterprise Engineering team approach metrics?
As an Enterprise Engineering team, the ability to aggregate and report upon different metrics drawn from our ticketing platform has allowed us to look ahead and make informed decisions based on usage. Instead of relying on a rough sense of recent requests, deeper analytics have helped our team:
- Project volume to ensure our team is well-resourced and adapts to support the business.
- Aggregate issues to better understand the big picture and investigate root cause, instead of viewing individual incidents as isolated events.
- Make provisioning changes where needed to reduce manual, unnecessary requests.
- Invest additional resources where needed.
For instance, as a team that’s responsible for provisioning software, if we receive a high volume of requests for the same tool from the same team, we can make changes to automatically grant access upon onboarding to eliminate the need for new employees to place manual requests.
How have automations helped uplevel your work?
Even at a small company like Vanta, it can be complex to loop in the right information and approvers at the right time — let alone in one spot! Setting up automation for complex workflows has helped our team streamline and capture approval workflows, including documentation of approvals, and grant automated access once fully approved.
Not only does this eliminate manual work and side conversations (e.g. in Slack or email), but this also reduces chances of error and allows our team to be more productive with automated routing and preset responses.
What other features have been helpful?
While each company varies, we’ve found value in creating an internal knowledge base with articles, guidance, and resources for our employees to allow them to self-service any questions or issues they may run into. As a bonus, lightweight analytics, tagging, and keywords on articles allows us to continue to iterate to make these more useful over time.
As a bonus, we also use a Slackbot at Vanta that surfaces articles and Service Catalog items directly from our knowledge base to help our employees get help more quickly and often resolve issues on their own.
Do you have any tips on how to implement a ticketing system?
Yes! While ticketing systems are often associated with IT help desks and teams, remember that many teams intake questions, requests, and other items from employees — such as your legal, marketing, HR, and workplace/office teams.
At Vanta, we worked to get buy-in across the company by meeting with each team and demonstrating the value of moving to a ticketing system from Slack and email intake. Thankfully this wasn’t a difficult case to make, and we worked with teams to plug in their tools, workflows, and automations in a systematic way.
For team members who would interface with the ticketing platform as “agents,” we worked to help set them up for success by:
- Creating an intake form for any automation and new workflows needed.
- Establishing a dedicated agents-only Slack channel for any agent questions to foster collaboration and cross-functional problem solving.
- Setting up bi-weekly office hours for 1:1 questions.
- Creating a training guide and hosting in-person trainings for new agents on an as-needed basis to familiarize them with the platform.
While every company has unique needs, it’s important to remember that new tooling and workflows will take time to learn before they become part of the company’s standard way of working. Overall, implementing and embracing an internal ticketing system has transformed and upleveled the way our Enterprise Engineering team (and others!) work at Vanta, and we hope our insights can help your team as well.
Determine whether the GDPR applies to you and if so, if you are a processor or controller (or both)
Do you sell goods or service in the EU or UK?
Do you sell goods or services to EU businesses, consumers, or both?
Do you have employees in the EU or UK?
Do persons from the EU or UK visit your website?
Do you monitor the behavior of persons within the EU?
Create a Data Map by taking the following actions
Identify and document every system (i.e. database, application, or vendor) which stores or processes EU or UK based personally identifiable information (PII)
Document the retention periods for PII in each system
Determine whether you collect, store, or process “special categories” of data
Determine whether your Data Map meets the requirements for Records of Processing Activities (Art. 30)
Determine whether your Data Map includes the following information about processing activities carried out by vendors on your behalf
Determine your grounds for processing data
For each category of data and system/application have you determined the lawful basis for processing based on one of the following conditions?
Take inventory of current customer and vendor contracts to confirm new GDPR-required flow-down provisions are included
Review all customer contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Review all in-scope vendor contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed a risk assessment on vendors who are processing your PII?
Determine if you need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment
Is your data processing taking into account the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons?
Review product and service design (including your website or app) to ensure privacy notice links, marketing consents, and other requirements are integrated
Does the notice to the data subject include the following items?
Does the notice also include the following items?
Do you have a mechanism for persons to change or withdraw consent?
Update internal privacy policies to comply with notification obligations
Update internal privacy notices for EU employees
Determine if you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, and appoint one if needed
Have you determined whether or not you must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) based on one of the following conditions (Art. 37)?
If you export data from the EU, consider if you need a compliance mechanism to cover the data transfer, such as model clauses
If you transfer, store, or process data outside the EU or UK, have you identified your legal basis for the data transfer (note: most likely covered by the Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed and documented a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA)?
Confirm you are complying with other data subject rights (i.e. aside from notification)
Do you have a defined process for timely response to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR) (i.e. requests for information, modification or deletion of PII)?
Are you able to provide the subject information in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language?
Do you have a process for correcting or deleting data when requested?
Do you have an internal policy regarding a Compelled Disclosure from Law Enforcement?
Determine if you need to appoint an EU-based representative, and appoint one if needed
Have you appointed an EU Representative or determined that an EU Representative is not needed based on one of the following conditions?
If operating in more than one EU state, identify a lead Data Protection Authority (DPA)
Do you operate in more than one EU state?
If so, have you designated the Supervisory Authority of the main establishment to act as your Lead Supervisory Authority?
Implement Employee Trainings to Demonstrate Compliance with GDPR Principles and Data Subject Rights
Have you provided appropriate Security Awareness and Privacy training to your staff?
Update internal procedures and policies to ensure you can comply with data breach response requirements
Have you created and implemented an Incident Response Plan which included procedures for reporting a breach to EU and UK Data Subjects as well as appropriate Data Authorities?
Do breach reporting policies comply with all prescribed timelines and include all recipients i.e. authorities, controllers, and data subjects?
Implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk
Have you implemented encryption of PII at rest and in transit?
Have you implemented pseudonymization?
Have you implemented appropriate physical security controls?
Have you implemented information security policies and procedures?
Can you access EU or UK PII data in the clear?
Do your technical and organizational measure ensure that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed?
Develop a roadmap for successful implementation of an ISMS and ISO 27001 certification
Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process to recognize challenges and identify gaps for remediation
Consider ISO 27001 certification costs relative to org size and number of employees
Clearly define scope of work to plan certification time to completion
Select an ISO 27001 auditor
Set the scope of your organization’s ISMS
Decide which business areas are covered by the ISMS and which are out of scope
Consider additional security controls for business processes that are required to pass ISMS-protected information across the trust boundary
Inform stakeholders regarding scope of the ISMS
Establish an ISMS governing body
Build a governance team with management oversight
Incorporate key members of top management, e.g. senior leadership and executive management with responsibility for strategy and resource allocation
Conduct an inventory of information assets
Consider all assets where information is stored, processed, and accessible
- Record information assets: data and people
- Record physical assets: laptops, servers, and physical building locations
- Record intangible assets: intellectual property, brand, and reputation
Assign to each asset a classification and owner responsible for ensuring the asset is appropriately inventoried, classified, protected, and handled
Execute a risk assessment
Establish and document a risk-management framework to ensure consistency
Identify scenarios in which information, systems, or services could be compromised
Determine likelihood or frequency with which these scenarios could occur
Evaluate potential impact of each scenario on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information, systems, and services
Rank risk scenarios based on overall risk to the organization’s objectives
Develop a risk register
Record and manage your organization’s risks
Summarize each identified risk
Indicate the impact and likelihood of each risk
Document a risk treatment plan
Design a response for each risk (Risk Treatment)
Assign an accountable owner to each identified risk
Assign risk mitigation activity owners
Establish target dates for completion of risk treatment activities
Complete the Statement of Applicability worksheet
Review 114 controls of Annex A of ISO 27001 standard
Select controls to address identified risks
Complete the Statement of Applicability listing all Annex A controls, justifying inclusion or exclusion of each control in the ISMS implementation
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the ISMS
Include information or references to supporting documentation regarding:
- Information Security Objectives
- Leadership and Commitment
- Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities
- Approach to Assessing and Treating Risk
- Control of Documented Information
- Internal Audit
- Management Review
- Corrective Action and Continual Improvement
- Policy Violations
Assemble required documents and records
Review ISO 27001 Required Documents and Records list
Customize policy templates with organization-specific policies, process, and language
Establish employee training and awareness programs
Conduct regular trainings to ensure awareness of new policies and procedures
Define expectations for personnel regarding their role in ISMS maintenance
Train personnel on common threats facing your organization and how to respond
Establish disciplinary or sanctions policies or processes for personnel found out of compliance with information security requirements
Perform an internal audit
Allocate internal resources with necessary competencies who are independent of ISMS development and maintenance, or engage an independent third party
Verify conformance with requirements from Annex A deemed applicable in your ISMS's Statement of Applicability
Share internal audit results, including nonconformities, with the ISMS governing body and senior management
Address identified issues before proceeding with the external audit
Undergo external audit of ISMS to obtain ISO 27001 certification
Engage an independent ISO 27001 auditor
Conduct Stage 1 Audit consisting of an extensive documentation review; obtain feedback regarding readiness to move to Stage 2 Audit
Conduct Stage 2 Audit consisting of tests performed on the ISMS to ensure proper design, implementation, and ongoing functionality; evaluate fairness, suitability, and effective implementation and operation of controls
Address any nonconformities
Ensure that all requirements of the ISO 27001 standard are being addressed
Ensure org is following processes that it has specified and documented
Ensure org is upholding contractual requirements with third parties
Address specific nonconformities identified by the ISO 27001 auditor
Receive auditor’s formal validation following resolution of nonconformities
Conduct regular management reviews
Plan reviews at least once per year; consider a quarterly review cycle
Ensure the ISMS and its objectives continue to remain appropriate and effective
Ensure that senior management remains informed
Ensure adjustments to address risks or deficiencies can be promptly implemented
Calendar ISO 27001 audit schedule and surveillance audit schedules
Perform a full ISO 27001 audit once every three years
Prepare to perform surveillance audits in the second and third years of the Certification Cycle
Consider streamlining ISO 27001 certification with automation
Transform manual data collection and observation processes into automated and continuous system monitoring
Identify and close any gaps in ISMS implementation in a timely manner
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Determine which annual audits and assessments are required for your company
Perform a readiness assessment and evaluate your security against HIPAA requirements
Review the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Audit Protocol
Conduct required HIPAA compliance audits and assessments
Perform and document ongoing technical and non-technical evaluations, internally or in partnership with a third-party security and compliance team like Vanta
Document your plans and put them into action
Document every step of building, implementing, and assessing your compliance program
Vanta’s automated compliance reporting can streamline planning and documentation
Appoint a security and compliance point person in your company
Designate an employee as your HIPAA Compliance Officer
Schedule annual HIPAA training for all employees
Distribute HIPAA policies and procedures and ensure staff read and attest to their review
Document employee trainings and other compliance activities
Thoroughly document employee training processes, activities, and attestations
Establish and communicate clear breach report processes
to all employees
Ensure that staff understand what constitutes a HIPAA breach, and how to report a breach
Implement systems to track security incidents, and to document and report all breaches
Institute an annual review process
Annually assess compliance activities against theHIPAA Rules and updates to HIPAA
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a year-round risk management program and integrate continuous monitoring
Understand the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance— and the costs of noncompliance
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