Reliably ensuring segregation of duties
Segregation of Duty (SoD) refers to a combination of authorizations and decision-making powers that prevent excessive conflicts of interest from arising within an organization or individuals from causing major damage if left unsupervised. In other words, it is a principle of division of labor that is primarily intended to minimize economic risks in any business process.
It is also referred to as the separation of functions or the avoidance of an audit conflict; sometimes the term "separation of duties" is also used.
Why is Segregation of Duties important?
A segregation of duties conflict can arise, for example, if a user has too many rights in an SAP system - this happens frequently, but can cause greater costs for the company.
An example would be an employee in accounting who can manage customer and supplier data as well as oversee the creation and payment of invoices. Theoretically, this employee would be able to create a fictitious supplier and instruct them to pay for invoices they have created themselves.
To minimize the risk that this behavior is possible at all, and to prevent suspicion from arising in the first place, the tasks and duties described here are distributed among several people (segregation). The management of authorizations should always be organized in such a way that compliance guidelines are observed.
Segregation of Duties also plays a role in separating, for example, warehousing, ordering and control over the company's stock (inventory) of materials or products - again, to avoid errors and misuse of assigned authorizations.
Systems like SAP ensure control
In systems such as SAP, it is possible to assign (and restrict) specific authorizations, thus minimizing segregation of duties conflicts to a large extent.
A central principle for SoD is Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), which is designed to prevent conflicts of interest and fraudulent actions, but above all to prevent simple errors. Its core principle is that certain changes and actions require the approval of more than one user.
Within an IT system, such an authorization model can be implemented, maintained and monitored, for example, by a centrally maintained Identity & Access Management (IAM).
An audit checks for possible conflicts
In most IT systems, automated audits are possible, which can automatically detect whether the assigned authorizations may trigger SoD conflicts. If a conflict is identified, a proposal is then usually developed to resolve the conflict.
Typically, the conflict is resolved by revoking certain authorizations from individual users. However, not every conflict is always avoidable for all processes - for example, in very small teams, roles and thus tasks can only really be divided up to a certain extent. This is then justified and logged in the interests of compliance - and decisions that are made despite a known conflict may have to be examined separately during an audit.
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If you use SAP, there is the option of using SAP's GRC solutions directly; GRC stands for "Governance, Risk & Compliance". These offer automatic and continuous control monitoring in real time. However, the implementation is very time-consuming, complex and cost-intensive.
A question of compliance
Compliance violations are always an important issue for auditors and internal and external auditors - and can then quickly become a problem. It is therefore important to use suitable software to proactively ensure that compliance with existing compliance guidelines and other regulations is guaranteed through sensible segregation of duties in your system.