A variety of factors impact how long it takes to prepare for a SOC 2 Type II audit. Company size, complexity, and the availability of resources can all influence the timeline. As we’ve said before: preparing for SOC 2 auditing and ongoing compliance is a heap. Knowing how long each phase of the process can help your company prepare. You may find it helpful to think of the process as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Setting up the SOC 2 Project Timeline
Companies generally take one of three approaches to SOC 2 readiness. The first of these is the slow-and-steady approach. In this approach, readiness unfolds over 18 to 24 months. This is generally best suited to start-ups that don’t have customers imposing strict deadlines and companies that want to minimize disruptions to their business later on by laying a solid foundation. The greatest benefit of this approach is that companies are able to slowly implement processes the correct way—they don’t take shortcuts that will show up later in the auditor’s assessment. However, companies that take this path can also risk losing focus and having trouble reaching the finish line.
In the second approach, a break-neck-speed tactic, companies achieve SOC 2 compliance in eight months. This timeline is best used in small, nimble companies that don’t have a lot of existing processes in place. In some ways, creating SOC 2 compliance processes from scratch can be quicker than overhauling prevailing policies. Companies that are motivated, focused, and have the resources to devote to this process may also choose this slightly shortened timeline. Going this pace is necessary in instances when customers are demanding immediate compliance. Not all companies can prepare this quickly. Sometimes speed leads to overlooking steps or cutting corners when it comes to compliance.
The Ideal SOC 2 Timeline
Practical Assurance recommends a Goldilocks approach that falls in the middle of these two timelines. We suggest taking a year to build to SOC 2 compliance. The 12-month timeframe fits most operations; it gives them enough time to prepare properly without losing momentum on the project. For some, this timeline may still seem fast. There’s a lot of work to do! Even for companies in which customers are eager to see SOC 2 compliance, we find that this is a reasonable timeframe to promise.
In broad terms, the timeline allows for six months of preparation and six months of application. The timeline begins with a period of readiness evaluation, gap analysis, and implementing improvements. The pre-audit gap analysis compares your existing environment and identifies where improvements need to be made to reach the SOC 2 requirements. From this, you’ll create a punch list of items that need to be remedied before SOC 2 auditing. Timing to resolve these issues can vary, but the punch list must be complete before moving on to the next phase.
This is followed by a six-month span in which the company operates under the new controls. This gives sufficient time to document and collect evidence that the auditors can verify during that phase. This is also the period in which you’ll select your auditing company. With sufficient data in hand, the audit begins. On average, the auditing process takes two months from when the auditor begins to when you have a report in hand.