10 Common ISO 27001 Challenges in Achieving Compliance

Gain a deeper understanding of the ISO 27001 challenges and learn how to tackle them effectively with our comprehensive guide. Explore the 10 common challenges organisations encounter in achieving ISO 27001 compliance and discover practical solutions to ensure a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS).


Importance of ISO 27001 Compliance 

Data breaches and cyber threats are constantly on the rise, with four in ten businesses (39%) and a quarter of charities (26%) having experienced cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. ISO 27001 compliance can fortify your organisation against attacks, build trust with stakeholders and keep you operating within cyber security laws.

Purpose of the Article 

Building on our previous guide, we’ll be diving into the top 10 ISO 27001 challenges organisations may face as they strive for compliance. If you familiarise yourself with common stumbling blocks, you’ll be well-equipped to face them. Similarly, if your organisation is having problems with ISO 27001 (join the club), you’ll likely find a solution on the list below.

Understanding ISO 27001 

Overview of ISO 27001 Certification

Without sounding too dry, ISO 27001 is the international standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) and an important stepping stone for GDPR compliance. It provides a framework for organisations to protect sensitive data by managing security risks, and maintaining ISMS integrity and availability.

Benefits of Implementing ISO 27001 

There are several benefits to implementing ISO 27001 no matter how big or small your organisation, including:

  • Meeting a global benchmark for security
  • Meeting standards for regulatory compliance
  • Addressing your organisation’s security vulnerabilities
  • Continually improving security measures
  • Earning customer trust through dedication to security
  • Setting your organisation apart from its competitors

Common Challenges in ISO 27001 Compliance  

1. Lack of Management Support 

Importance of Leadership Commitment 

Leadership commitment to ISO 27001 compliance is vital. Management support allows you to take advantage of necessary resources, conduct audits, engage staff and inspire a culture of security.

Ways to Gain Management Support 

If management is reluctant to support efforts for ISO 27001 compliance, you can:

  • Communicate the associated benefits clearly
  • Identify and present security risks in your organisation
  • Demonstrate ROI with prospective recovery costs
  • Develop an implementation plan
  • Offer ongoing one-to-one training

2. Limited Resources and Budget Constraints 

Impact of Resource Limitations 

Many organisations do not have the resources, financial or otherwise, necessary for full ISO 27001 compliance. However, with 83% of small and medium-sized businesses not financially prepared to recover from a cyber attack, ISO 27001 compliance is by far the cheapest of the two options.

Strategies to Overcome Budget Constraints 

If you’re operating on a limited budget with few resources, prioritise the most important security measures and utilise secure, open-source tools. Depending on your organisation, you could seek government funding. For a full breakdown of ISO 27001 compliance costs, check out our post here.

3. Complexity of Documentation and Implementation 

Documentation Requirements 

ISO 27001 requires mandatory documentation and thorough records to demonstrate compliance. These include the scope of the ISMS, a risk assessment and risk treatment process, and information security objectives among many others we’ve listed here.

Simplifying Implementation Processes 

Break documentation down into manageable chunks, and leverage external documentation and record-keeping expertise with Compleye’s online compliance platform. It’s worth assigning a dedicated individual to oversee these processes, ensure documentation meets requirements, and detailed records are being kept.

4. Lack of Awareness and Training 

Importance of Employee Awareness 

Ninety-five percent of cyber security breaches are caused by human error. With a lack of general knowledge about cyber security, this can be one of the most time-consuming and detrimental ISO 27001 challenges that organisations come up against. 

Training Programs to Address Knowledge Gaps 

ISO 27001 compliant organisations are required to give employees security awareness training at least once every 12 months. Between these training sessions, store all relevant learning materials in an accessible place. For more info on employee training, we’ve got a handy guide just a click away.

5. Lack of Awareness and Training 

Understanding Evolving Regulations 

Cyber threats are constantly evolving, which means the laws surrounding defences need to evolve too. However, this may mean that, just as you’ve got to grips with a certain regulation, there’s a mountain of other sub-sections and requirements you need to conquer.

Adapting to Regulatory Changes 

Be sure to keep your finger on the pulse of ISMS regulations so you’ll be well aware of any upcoming changes and can adapt in good time. It’s also worth letting employees know of any changes to regulations and internal policies, and how they’ll need to adjust.

6. Engaging Stakeholders and Obtaining Buy-in 

Identifying Key Stakeholders 

Recognising and engaging with key stakeholders brings some much-needed support to the compliance process. But, much like management, key stakeholders may feel that ISO 27001 compliance isn’t worth it. 

Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement 

If stakeholders are reluctant to buy into the ISO 27001 compliance process, you can:

  • Create awareness of the benefits compliance can bring
  • Involve them early and explain the process
  • Listen to and attempt to resolve any concerns
  • Offer training to demonstrate the risks of non-compliance
  • Maintain open and honest communication

7. Integration with Existing Systems and Processes 

Challenges of Integration 

Merging ISO 27001 with your existing systems can sometimes feel like fitting a square peg into a round hole. But, it’s better to integrate than annihilate and start from scratch.

Best Practices for Seamless Integration 

First, assess what you’re already working with, including your ISMS and compliance goals. Find the gaps in your system where ISO 27001 compliance can fit in. Then, involve your crew and other key stakeholders, and get to work on a plan for integration. Document your progress and remember that issues will rear their ugly head now and again – keep going!

8. Managing Third-Party Relationships 

Risks Associated with Third-Party Vendors 

Third-party vendors bring several risks; data breaches, delays and non-compliance being just a few. But, as much as you may want to, you can’t simply kick third-party vendors to the curb. So, let’s explore how you can keep these trusty allies in check.

Effective Vendor Management Strategies 

Inform your vendors of your compliance intentions and keep them in the loop. Request any relevant documentation and information in good time. Be prepared for unforeseen challenges with contingency plans; if compliance isn’t on their agenda, it may be time to search for more reliable suppliers.

9. Maintaining Continuous Improvement 

Importance of Ongoing Monitoring 

Ongoing monitoring ensures there are no cracks in the hull of your tightly-run ship, where threats can seep in and sink the entire operation. ISO 27001 standards and regulations are always evolving, and adaption is part of the process.

Continuous Improvement Methodologies 

When it comes to compliance, it might be beneficial to be a little overbearing at times. Some improvement methodologies you can apply include:

  • Six Sigma
  • Agile
  • Lean
  • PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)
  • Kaizen
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)

10. Ensuring Long-Term Sustainability 

Challenges in Sustaining ISO 27001 Compliance 

If you’ve finally achieved ISO 27001 compliance, congratulations! However, this doesn’t mean the work is done. Sustaining compliance can be a bigger challenge than all those listed above. Evolving threats and regulations, staff turnover, shifting technologies, and diminishing stakeholder engagement can each throw a non-conformance-shaped spanner in the works.

Strategies for Long-Term Sustainability 

As well as keeping a close eye day-to-day on the processes, policies and ISMS you’ve implemented, you should conduct regular audits. Involve employees and stakeholders as often as possible to cultivate a culture of security, and adopt any new and relevant technologies upon release.

Practical Solutions for Effective ISO 27001 Implementation 

Actionable Steps for Addressing Challenges 

Here are some general steps to follow when addressing ISO 27001 compliance challenges:

  • Choose a strong team early on and stick together
  • Communicate regularly with management, stakeholders and other employees
  • Be open to suggestions, comments, questions and critiques
  • Maintain comprehensive records of your compliance journey
  • Stay flexible and be prepared to adjust your approach

Best Practices for a Robust Information Security Management System (ISMS) 

For a robust ISMS, you’ll need:

  • Regular risk assessments
  • Annual employee awareness training
  • Timely regulatory compliance updates
  • Vendor management vigilance
  • Collaboration from key individuals
  • Accurate documentation and superlative record-keeping/storage
  • A keen eye for ISO 27001 KPIs


Recap of Key Points 

Compliance takes time. It isn’t just about ticking boxes; you need to keep those boxes ticked. The intensive nature of compliance means ISO 27001 challenges are not a rarity. Most, if not all, organisations are going to come up against a few. 

Keep the benefits of compliance in mind. With a cool head, dedicated team and strong plan, you’ll be jumping these hurdles before you can say “Information Security Management System certification for data protection, privacy, and peace of mind!”

Importance of Proactive Approach to ISO 27001 Compliance 

A proactive approach to ISO 27001 can save your organisation from attacks and breaches. You’ll be able to identify and protect against security threats long before they evolve into unavoidable issues.

Of course, the most proactive step to take is to get Compleye on board to help see you through! Together, we’ll carve a path to a secure future for your organisation.


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